From 1967 to the early 2000s, the display of Chinese literature, tradition, and culture was banned throughout Indonesia. This ban also prohibited the teaching and learning of Mandarin, and it was during this period that Chinese Indonesians were strongly encouraged to change their Chinese names into more Indonesian-sounding ones.
- Read more about "The Chinese Ban" here: Do Chinese Indonesians Speak Chinese?
However, at the time, names were probably one of the last few pieces that formed the Chinese identity that Chinese Indonesians could hold onto, and they had to let that go. Turns out some of them did not let it go completely—like how Chinese Indonesians had to hide in the shadows, their names began to reflect it too.
Let's begin with an overview of Chinese Indonesian naming conventions to get a more complete picture of the identity struggle many Chinese Indonesians have to face. Note that these naming conventions are ordered based on their perceived trends from the least to the most recent.
Here are the 7 types of Chinese Indonesian naming conventions:
1. Chinese influences
Presidential Instruction 14 of 1967 did not explicitly forbid anyone from having a Chinese-sounding name, and although many felt the pressure to change their names, there were indeed Chinese Indonesians who retain their romanized Chinese names to this day. These names are often Hokkien, Teochew, or Hakka names, such as Lim Ong Huat, Eng Sim Yin. Normally, these names are owned by older generations of Chinese Indonesians who did not change their names in the 1960s.
2. Indonesian influences
Chinese Indonesians who did adopt full Indonesian names usually have names like Mariati, Sugiarto. Adopting this type of naming convention was most likely done in the attempt to conceal as much Chinese identity as possible. More recent generations of Chinese Indonesians nowadays are no longer usually named with only Indonesian names.
3. Western–Chinese influences
This naming convention is widely adopted all around the world, especially in Singapore, Malaysia, and people of Chinese descent in Commonwealth countries. Examples: Jessica Tjoe, Tommy Tjong. Not many Chinese Indonesians are named this way, but they do exist.
Chinese Indonesians who possess these names tend to have a rather unique spelling on their Chinese family names, for instance, Tjoe instead of Chu, Tjong instead of Chong. This is a spelling influence from the Dutch, as Indonesia was recorded to be a colony of the Netherlands for over 300 years. During this period, Chinese names were sometimes recorded by Dutch administration and it was romanized based on Dutch spellings. In Dutch, /tj/ is pronounced as a [c] and /oe/ is pronounced as a [u].
4. Western–Indonesian influences
This naming convention involves a Western name paired together with an Indonesian name. Some examples of Western–Indonesian names are Winny Putri, Philbert Antono.
5. Western influences
Recent generations of Chinese Indonesians often have Westernized names. This is interesting because it shows the somewhat unique position Chinese Indonesians have in terms of their identity. If it's a struggle to have a Chinese name, and they are not ethnically Indonesian, then what should they do? They opted for Westernized names instead.
Some Chinese Indonesians went full-on and named their children in complete Westernized names. A few examples are Jesslyn Lydia, Albert Thomas. This naming type is typically found amongst Chinese Indonesians born after the 1990s.
6. Chinese–Indonesian influences
Here is where it gets a little more interesting. This naming convention illustrates the idea of how Chinese Indonesians had to hide in the shadows, and their names reflected that too. This naming convention merges a Chinese family name with a seemingly Indonesian name. Example: Chinese surname Lim merged into the seemingly Indonesian name Susanti Salim.
7. Western–Chinese–Indonesian influences
This is the most common form of Chinese Indonesian names nowadays and it sort of combines the best of three worlds. Typically a Western name is used as the first name, and a combination of Chinese–Indonesian name is used as the last name. Example: William Hartanto—William (Western name) with Chinese surname Tan merged with Indonesian-sounding name Hartanto. Notice again how the Chinese surname Tan is merged into Hartanto, making the last name seemingly Indonesian although it signifies a Chinese surname.
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