Authors: Abraham SY POON
Capping Ceremony (冠禮) is an important ritual in traditional Chinese culture. The Chinese have been referred to as the “Nation of Courtesy” by others. Since the musical ceremonies began in the Zhou Dynasty, the “Ceremonial Music Education” was the main axis of the educational system that taught etiquettes in social interactions to help maintain orderliness in family and society. With a period of almost 800 years, the Zhou Dynasty is the longest dynasty in Chinese history (a combination of Western Zhou Dynasty – 257years – and Eastern Zhou Dynasty – 514 years – totalling 771 years). A passage from Liji Qu Li ( 禮記٠ 曲禮) describes the ritual of appellation: “A son must be capped at twenty to receive his title. A son should name his own first name in the father’s presence. A servant must announce his name in the ruler’s presence. When a daughter is engaged, she assumes the hair-pin and receives her marital name.” During the ritual of appellation or “Zhi Zi”, a “Name” (字) is given to both men and women (or hair-pin rite, in the female context). As opposed to one’s birth name (名), the chosen “Name” is an expression of a person’s future aspirations (志願) and thus the terminology “Zhi Zi” (志字) is used.
Since November 2008, I promoted the “Adulthood Capping Ceremony” activities in secondary schools in Hong Kong. I brought awareness to grade 12 students, who were approaching the modern legal age of 18, that they should have an independent spirit with full ownership and responsibility for their lives as contemporary law abiding citizens. Since 2010, participating students were selecting “Names” for themselves; the meaning of their “Names” would represent their life motto. At any point in their lives, they can use their “Name” as a guide in introspection, as a valuable moral compass and as a tool to map out their lives. It would clear away the feeling of emptiness, rootlessness and helplessness that result from having no aspirations in life.
Keywords: Aspire to create appellation; culture; life; introspection