Monday, March 08, 2010

Why Esther?

Esther was born one week ago, ten days before her due date, immediately after the two-week celebration of Chinese New Year for the Year of the Tiger and, coincidentally, immediately after the Jewish holiday Purim in honor of her namesake, who saved her people on the brink of genocide.

You'd be right if you guessed that Ken and I are not Jewish, but we like the Old Testament story.  It may not be obvious at first, but persons of Chinese descent are similar to the Jewish diaspora the world over.  Many of us had been merchants historically, settling far away from our original homeland.  And like the Jews, the Chinese have been distrusted by other peoples they lived amongst.

Like American Jews, who consider themselves American and Jewish, we are American as well as Chinese, retaining our cultural identities while assimilating as Americans.

We kept Esther's name a secret until she was born.  My mother-in-law, being a chemist at a major pharmaceutical firm, thought of ester and ether when we told her the name.

Our daughter's Chinese name is 界悠 (Jieyou), a very unusual Chinese name.  Ken's reason for choosing the characters is twofold: (1) because they mean "flexible between worlds or boundaries," which also embodies our hope that she will be a good mediator and ambassador like Queen Esther; (2) because the characters are atonal homonyms for the name of the princess 解憂 from the Han Dynasty, who was married off to form a political alliance with a western state in what is now Xinjiang Province.  Princess Jieyou, like Queen Esther, was a great diplomat who assimilated herself to the culture of her husband and introduced Chinese customs and foods to them. 

So, to those who say that Esther is an old lady's name, I roll my eyes at you.

2 comments:

Simone said...

I love your blog! It's so thoughtful and well written!
CONGRATULATIONS on the beautiful wee one! May she grow up to be as perfect as her mommy! xoxo
That's so funny, my kind of peeps (Sindhi from India) were nomadic merchants as well and I've always felt that same closeness to my Jewish friends.
Hope you and Esther are sleeping well and getting tons of cuddle time in. xoxo

Pigmentia said...

Thank you, Simone :)