Here’s the email about Solomon’s birth and name.
I am privileged to introduce you to Solomon John Hollins.
He was born on March 7, 2013 at 5:41pm, weighing 8.25lbs and with a height of 52cm.
Of course there’s a story too. I was supposed to have some important meetings with the school yesterday, but Mary’s water broke 15 minutes before it was to start. Thankfully I’m not so important, so the meetings could go on without me. My son, of course, had to pick the most dramatic time to enter the world. We were able to get to the hospital quickly and without incident. We were worried because of how fast Annie came, but Solomon decided not to be as rude and take a little more time. Mother and baby are both resting and recuperating well.
As many of you know, I highly value the meaning behind my children’s names. Great care is needed since they have both English and Chinese names. Solomon John’s Chinese name is 周乐盟, which in pinyin is Zhōulèméng. I think I might be more excited about his Chinese name than his English name, and you’ll find out why in just a moment.
Sometimes in China, the grandparents name the child and they make a big deal about it. The goal is always to make the name match the child and this is sometimes done through fortune telling. If the child is perceived to have certain qualities then it is named with respect to those qualities. While we want to respect and listen to our elders, it’s important for us to follow the command to leave our father and mother and form a new family under the headship of the father of the house. The grandparents don’t lead this family, but they are very important and we honor them because they are a primary source and symbol of wisdom for us. On top of that, our identity is not primarily derived from who we are, our physical attributes, the season or circumstances surrounding our birth, and not even from what qualities, talents, or job we have. The individualistic culture of the west on the other hand would tell us that we can choose our own identity. I’m surprised I don’t see more children named by placing a randomized list of names in front of the child and seeing which one his hand touches first. Solomon didn’t get to choose his name, I did. And likewise for all of us, our identities ought to be derived from our Father as he tells us who we are.
One of my hopes for my son is that his life will be infused with meaning. I hope that you too from now on will think of so much more than an ancient king when you think of the name Solomon, just as those of you who know Jacob are slower to think of Isaac’s son than you are to think of mine. Let me explain briefly how I came to name him周乐盟 Solomon John Hollins.
Several months ago when we were first thinking about names for our new baby, we did not know the gender. It seems to be typical when naming children that we can easily come up with names for the opposite gender but have a harder time finding a name for the gender that the child actually is. Maybe you haven’t experienced this, but this was the case for us this time. We didn’t know the gender and we didn’t think we were going to know the gender until the birth. Chinese law states that hospitals should not reveal the gender of the baby. I fully support this policy because it is an attempt to reduce the number of gender selection abortions. So, I was extremely hesitant to push this policy because I don’t want to see it repealed. I personally don’t have a preference either way for if we know the gender or not. I knew we would be surprised at some point and it didn’t make a difference for us when the surprise would come. After Mary was about five months along, we knew there was an opportunity to know the child’s gender, but the ultrasound doctor was not going to give a hint. It was shortly after this time that we settled on the name Sophia Joy if our baby would be a girl. Mary quickly found several cute Chinese names like 周慧雅(zhou hui ya) and others which could incorporate the complementary character qualities of wisdom and joy. This was the basis for us in choosing the name for our child. We hoped that our child would be wise and joyful; wisdom to know and do what is right and joy to be filled to the utmost with eternal blessings. Our Father wants us to know him and live like him and to enjoy him supremely. A few months later, in stead of being left in the dark, a gracious doctor decided to drop some rather obvious hints, like pointing to the ultrasound but not saying anything or talking about turtles or how today was very blue.
So, Solomon clearly expresses the hope for wisdom, as I’m sure you’ve already deduced, but why John and why 乐盟? Well, the Chinese name came next. First, Solomon sounds similar to周乐盟(Zhōulèméng) and I like the two names to sound somewhat similar. 周(Zhōu) is my Chinese family name, so he takes that from me. 乐(lè) means joy, which is what I was hoping to have in my child’s name. 盟(méng) is the most interesting character though. Méng is often a word that is used in association with covenants. The top left part of the character is a sun and the top right one is a moon. The bottom part is blood or a container for blood. The meaning then is that the sun and moon are witnesses to the shedding of blood that is needed for a covenant. That’s a pretty good picture of a covenant and one that is painted elsewhere for us too. Those of you who know Chinese really well will also be able to guess one of the reasons why John was chosen as his English middle name. John is translated as约翰(Yuēhàn) and yuē is the word that is used to denote the old and new halves of my favorite book. Put the two characters together and you get盟约 (méngyuē) which means covenant. His Chinese name then is “a joyful covenant”. Most importantly though the middle name John was chosen because my father’s name is John. I hope to honor grandpa Hollins as the symbol of wisdom for my family.
Last and certainly least important of all, since John in Chinese is Yuēhàn, it obviously fits well with an abbreviated version of his first name. You don’t have to know what a parsec is to figure that one out.
Thank you for welcoming my son into the world with me. I’m glad that you can share in his joy and that you can be a part of infusing his life with meaning. Enjoy the pictures.
Joel, Mary, Jacob, Annie and Solomon