November 27 is Bruce Lee’s birthday

2009-11-22 — Good Characters (Leave a message)

Bruce Lee was born November 27, 1940, in San Francisco.

His birth name was Lee Jun Fan (李振藩), where the surname Lee is placed first according to the Chinese custom. The name Jun Fan (振藩) could mean “to invigorate San Francisco” because Jun (振) means to raise, to give life, or to cause to prosper and Fan (藩) means the frontier and could also imply San Fan Si (三藩市), the Cantonese transliteration of San Francisco, where the same Fan (藩) character is in the name.

There was a saying that the Jun Fan name was originally written in Chinese as 震藩, pronounced exactly the same as the Jun Fan above. However this Jun (震) was identical to part of Lee’s grandfather’s name, Lee Jun Biao (李震彪), which was considered taboo in Chinese tradition. As one of our previous articles explained, in Western society it’s an honor to have people named after you, but in the Chinese culture it is taboo. One of our ancestors had to change his surname only because the king at the time used the same character in his name. Anyway, Bruce Lee's name was changed to 振 (Jun), which had the identical pronunciation as 震 (Jun).

Bruce Lee’s nickname, known as an infant name, was a quite feminine Xi Feng (細鳳), pronounced ssee fung in Mandarin, literally meaning “little phoenix.” Although in Chinese Feng (鳳) is really the male phoenix and Huang (凰) the female phoenix, both characters are often used in female names. There was an unconfirmed story that Bruce Lee was not born the healthiest boy so the family nicknamed him with a female name to hide him from evil spirits. In Taiwan where I grew up, a few people practiced the custom of giving their infant boys female names as well. I heard more than once when a mom lost her infant boy, family or neighbors comforted her by saying the child died because he was extremely bright and destined to become great but the gods turned jealous and took the boy’s life before he could grow up. Therefore, some parents called their boys by female names believing they could somehow fool the gods and ensure the boys a chance to grow up without interruption from jealous gods.

Chinese: 11/27 今天是李小龍 (Bruce Lee) 的生日 (1940-1973)。原名李振藩,乳名細鳳,祖籍廣東省佛山市,出生於美國加州舊金山。建議您這個週末不妨到舊金山走走。