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What's in a Name? Geling Yan

Geling is the given name; Yan is the surname.  Yan is pronounced “yen.” The G in Geling is hard as in “golf” and the “e” is a “shwa” vowel [ə], pronounced as the unstressed “e” in “the.”  The author gives her name in English in the usual Western fashion, with given name proceeding surname:  Geling Yan.  Her name in Chinese is given with surname first: Yan Geling. 

Geling is the given name; Yan is the surname.  Yan is pronounced “yen.” The G in Geling is hard as in “golf” and the “e” is a “shwa” vowel [ə], pronounced as the unstressed “e” in “the.”  The author gives her name in English in the usual Western fashion, with given name proceeding surname:  Geling Yan.  Her name in Chinese is given with surname first: Yan Geling.  In Hanyu Pinyin with tone marks, it is pronounced Yán Gēlíng.  In International Phonetic Alphabet (without tone marks) her name is written /jɛn gə liŋ/.

The surname Yan means "serious."  The first given name character Ge means "song," or in classical Chinese, also "to sing."  The second given name character Ling is a type of rare medicinal plant. Her name is written in Traditional Chinese Characters as 嚴歌苓. In Simplified Chinese Characters, it is written 严歌苓. To complicate matters further, the Library of Congress originally listed her under her name in the Wade-Giles Romanization system, so many of her works and copyrights are listed under the name Yen Ko-ling. 

Authorized Vietnamese translations of her works use the Vietnamese pronunciation of the Chinese characters in her name; thus she is known in Vietnam as Nghiêm Ca Linh. In the (unauthorized and uncompensated) translation of her book The Ninth Widow, the publisher misread her third name character and gave her name as Nghiêm Ca Cầm. Further, the Koreans use the Korean readings of the Chinese characters and give her name as Yeon Ka-ring, or in Hangul옌거링.

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