Monday, October 06, 2014

A New Addition to the Family

Mama and William with the new baby.

William has a little sister! Ming's cousin's wife, Meng Meng, gave birth to a little girl on October 1st, which, coincidently, was the Chinese National Day. Several babies were born at the hospital that day (the same one where I gave birth), which is more than the usual one or two a day they average, indicting that some mother's chose the first of October as a lucky day for their cesarean birth. Meng Meng gave birth naturally, 22 days early, to a healthy daughter weighing in at just under 6 pounds.

While the little one, who is yet to be named, is technically William and Ping's second cousin, they both will refer to her as mèimei (little sister). William has already been dethroned as the youngest and has now earned the title of the baby's gēge (elder brother) while Ping, as the oldest of her generation, continues as jiějie (elder sister).

Learning all the Chinese names for familial relations is complicated. In fact, in Mandarin, there are eight words (or more?) for cousin depending on if said cousin is male or female, elder or younger, paternal or maternal. Perhaps knowing the word for cousin doesn't really matter, however, since many cousins are considered brothers and sisters. When I first came to China I found this very confusing. All my students would tell me about their numerous “brothers” and “sisters;” I didn't understand how so many people could have siblings in a country with a one child policy. Turns out, most of them were talking about their cousins.

looks like they like each other

At first, I didn't know what to call Ming's cousins, but since I'm married to the eldest male cousin, I simply call them by name. They, on the other hand, respectfully call me sister-in-law (sǎozi). All of Ming's relations are on his mom's side. We refer to his mom's older brother as big uncle (dàjiù) and his wife is big uncle mother (dàjiùmā). We call her younger brother second uncle (èrjiù) and his wife is. . . you guessed it. . . second uncle mother (èrjiùmā). There are several words for aunt in Mandarin, but Ming's aunt goes by lǎo yí (which, literally translated, means “old maternal aunt”). There would be completely different terms for his aunts and uncles if Ming had paternal relatives.

Is your head spinning yet? Well, don't worry. Here is a good post about common vocabulary for Chinese family with a "Chinese family tree" link to download. When in doubt, it's probably best to check what to call people. There are a lot of variations.


Nemameido said...

OMG your blog is fabulous! I am starting at the beginning and it will take me a little while to get back to the present, but I am really enjoying it. Seems we were in Beijing at the same time!

rosieinbj said...

Thanks so much. I went back and read some of the old posts awhile ago. I can't believe how long I've been in China and how much has changed! I only wish I would have written more consistently.