06 October 2007

Our Founder Has A Change Of Name

We all know that our founder is Sir Stamford Raffles.


He founded Singapore in 1819.


Therefore, I am surprised to read in today's Zao Bao that he has a change of name. But relax, only his Chinese name will be changed - from 莱佛士 to 来福士.

CapitaLand, which owns Raffles City Singapore, is behind the name change. The reason why Raffles City Singapore is named as such is because it stands on the original Raffles Institution (RI) site. (RI was demolished to make way for Raffles City.) Sir Stamford Raffles had personally chosen this RI site in 1823. So the name Raffles City was adopted in commemoration of him.

This name change came about mainly because of CapitaLand's expansion overseas, particularly in Shanghai. Shanghai's regulations do not allow a building to have the Chinese character 佛 (Buddha) as part of its name. Neither are foreigners' names allowed.

As if in support of the change, the newspaper article mentioned that places in Singapore like Lavender and Bendemeer had their names changed some time ago as well. It further mentioned that Colonel William Farquhar (Sir Stamford Raffles' right-hand man) had his name translated into different Chinese versions which sounded similar as well. The CEO of CapitaLand, Mr Liew Mun Leong said that the two Chinese versions of Raffles' name were only slightly different. He further mentioned that the new name had a more modern and auspicious meaning, as it meant "bringing in prosperity". The old name was deemed to belong to history and obsolescence.

What do you think of the name change? Do you think that it is justified because of commercial reasons? Will we lose part of our Singaporean identity because of this name change?

What if one day, someone decided to change Raffles to Rapheus for the same reasons? They sound alike too.

The Zao Bao article is reproduced below:

“莱佛士”过时了?

● 洪艺菁angyc@sph.com.sg

龙国雄(摄)

  你能够从“来福士”三个字,联想到新加坡历史吗?

  本地的东南亚最大房地产开发商嘉德置地公司为了统一国际品牌,连同新加坡的“莱佛士城”也一并改名为“来福士城”,是要让人知道它同中国的“来福士广场”、“来福士中心”等都是血脉相承的亲兄弟。

  在嘉德置地总裁廖文良眼里,这两者只是“稍微不同而已”。可是,差别就在于“莱佛士”三个字是新加坡开埠者史丹福·莱佛士的名字,具有非凡的历史意义,而来福士城所坐落的地点,也是百年学堂莱佛士书院让出来的。“来福士”这三个字,却不能让人联想到什么。

  这座地标建筑物的历史与“莱佛士”这名字有着不解之缘。1823年,莱佛士亲自选择在这块地上为新加坡第一所学校莱佛士书院奠下基石,它现在也成了新加坡的一流学府。当政府要重新发展市中心时,在那里伫立了150年的书院于是“让位”,因此把这座商业城取名为“莱佛士城”,以纪念这段历史。

  然而,对于是否该保持这座建筑和历史人物莱佛士之间的渊源,嘉德置地公司的看法却很不同,认为来福士这个名称有更好的现代意义,而“莱佛士那个名称则属于历史,已经过时了”。

  究竟是“莱佛士”这三个字缺乏现代意义,还是这段历史渊源不够重要呢?只要英文名称保持不变,华文名称是否保留,真的没关系吗?

改名是在撕裂历史

  在新加坡,历史地标被改名,已经不是第一次了。例如Bendemeer早期原称为“明丽园”。明丽园是19世纪潮州华侨领袖佘连城的私人大庄园,当年暹罗王国(今泰国)的国王拉玛五世到新加坡观光访问时,佘连城还在明丽园设宴“恭候圣驾”。如今把路名音译改为“明地迷亚路”,根本无法让人跟“明丽园”这段历史联想在一起,实际上是割裂历史。

  劳明达街一带本是沼泽地,臭气熏天,殖民地政府给它取了个美丽的名字叫Lavender,乃“薰衣草”之意,希望借此名“压住异味”,但是现在的华文街名却完全没反映出这个意思,当然也错失了让这个背景故事留芳百世的机会。
  这些只是新加坡人失掉历史记忆的许许多多例子中的小部分。

  当英文名称翻译成华文的过程中,出现数个版本并不稀奇。莱佛士的助理William Farquhar的译名就曾先后出现“法古哈、法奇尔、法夸尔”等不同版本。此君于1819年至1823年间是首任英国驻扎行政官,代表莱佛士实际管理新加坡,贡献不在他之下,可惜多数新加坡人对新加坡开埠初期历史的记忆,似乎只停留在一个莱佛士身上。若说起Farquhar,一些人也许还有印象,但如果提起他的华文译名,这位名字被改来改去的先驱人物,更是没在许多人脑海中留下印象。

  Stamford Raffles比他的助理幸运多了。记忆中,他的译名始终只有“莱佛士”,从未出现其他版本。反而是国家名称“新加坡”,殖民地时代曾有人写为“星加坡”、“星嘉坡”、“新嘉坡”等,国家独立后,政府成立了统一译名委员会,才将国名统一为“新加坡”。

  “莱佛士”三个字在国际上响当当,以它命名的包括了著名学府、商业集团、医院、酒店等等。这三个字如今已经几乎等同于新加坡的优良品质保证。因此,一些机构即使跟它没什么历史渊源,也爱套上“莱佛士”三个字,以沾一份光。虽然莱佛士逝世已有两个世纪,但他的名字在现代社会的“重量”和“价值”却未减弱。

  全球懂得华文的人越来越多,许多人已能够直接阅读汉字,不纯粹只靠汉语拼音,因此“莱佛士”和“来福士”是两个截然不同的名字。倘若真是一样,嘉德置地就不必为了统一形象,而将“莱佛士城”改为“来福士城”了。

  可是,嘉德置地在上海的商场,原本是逼于无奈,受限于当地建筑物命名条例而无法出现“佛”字,也不准使用外国人的名字,而不得不改用“来福士”这三个近音字取代,这确实令人遗憾。称之为“广场”而不是“城”,也是基于当地的条例。

  现在反过来在发源地用“来福士城”来取代新加坡人和国际社会所熟悉的“莱佛士城”,强迫新加坡人接受一个陌生的名字,是否本末倒置呢?

  吊诡的是,嘉德置地公司的名称在新加坡和中国也各有不同版本。因为中国原已有一家称为“嘉德”的公司,它在中国登记设立的全资子公司,也不得不改称“凯德置地”,但是它却不打算将公司的华文名称统一为“凯德置地”。如果“嘉德”两个字值得保留,那“莱佛士”为什么却可以摒弃?

  廖文良认为“来福士”三个字有更好的现代意义,也喜欢那个“福”字。可是招财招福的商标,许多商家都可以自创和拥有,但有个历史悠久的名称,却是许多机构求之不得的,如今嘉德置地却自动弃权了。

  在面向世界的时候,选择放弃具有历史意义的华文旧名称,是想要卸下历史包袱以便展翅高飞,还是认为“华文对于走向世界并不重要”?一家不重视具有历史意义的名称的公司,又为我们的后代树立什么样的榜样?

  接下来,嘉德置地将把这个“新加坡制造”的“城中城”概念带到世界各地,让世界其他角落留下新加坡的足迹。可是,如果对嘉德置地来说,“莱佛士”和“来福士”发音相近,只是“稍微不同而已”,那么在世界各地留下足迹的,究竟还是不是“新加坡”?

15 comments:

tigerfish said...

Since when has China been so active in intellectual property laws? They can "clone" products like crazy....but set regulations in names? Well, I may give my 10% understanding on the character 佛 that meant Buddha...but other characters could have remained unchanged ? :(...btw 佛 and 福 are not even pronounced the same in Mandarin.

But again, it is a business decision afterall.

Victor said...

Tigerfish - I agree with you. I think it would have been better if CapitaLand had forgone the names 莱佛士 or 来福士 completely and come up with a brand new name altogether. What is being done now is like a half measure - wanting to stick to an established brand name and yet appeasing the Chinese authorities at the same time.

Anonymous said...

I dun think the historical link to Raffles is important to them at all.
http://cd.focus.cn/common/modules/dmc/dongtaiview.php?info_id=10603

Victor said...

Anonymous - Thanks for the link. Yes, the historical link to Raffles is not as important to CapitaLand as the commercial branding which the name evokes, which is exactly the point of this article.

华校生 said...

《莱佛士改名记》

弃佛来福音不同,改名撕裂地标空。
历史渊源要不要?听语轩堂心哄哄。
嘉德凯德尚能改,莱佛来福有何忠?
四方块字值多少?万事都以英为宗!

Victor said...

哇! 华校生, that was very a beautiful and appropriate Chinese poem indeed! Did you write it yourself?

Although I am 英校生 I appreciate and admire the beauty of the Chinese language and its 5,000-year history and culture.

fr said...

Wow, Vic, your Chinese is good leh. I don't quite understand the poem.

Victor said...

Fr - I only know how to appreciate and admire the poem, not understand it. I probably know 80% of the Chinese characters and understand only 50% of the poem.

etel said...

very bz ah GD? why no blog!!

Anonymous said...

I think the commercial reason is sufficient to change the name in China but changing the Singapore property is STUPID.

Liew Ban Leong has only $ in his eyes, why dont he change his family name to Ho,if you know what I wanted to say.

Yes, may be we should call him Ho Ban Leong. After all the new family name will fit his status more.

Just to keep all ourselves out of a law court, I say Ho meaning "Home Orientated"

Victor said...

GNE - My "normal rate" is 1 blog entry a week mah. No choice, work and family come first. What? Are you running out of blog entries to read? :P

Victor said...

Anonymous - Why are you suggesting a surname change for Mr Liew? Do you happen to be someone of surname Ho whom I met last Saturday? :)

Sleepless in Singapore said...

Singaporean companies often like to restructure and change names; e.g. our transport companies. Govt departments and govt-linked companies seem to be the champs in this dept as I have pointed out here.

Victor said...

Sleepless - What you said is so true, isn't it? It's so strange that they seem to equate a name change to making progress and moving with the times.

For commercial buildings like hotels, I can understand that sometimes there is no choice because new owners want to have their own identities in the names. But for government departments, it is often unnecessary and confusing.

Anonymous said...

I dun think the newspaper article is in support of the change.
In fact it seems to lament the loss of several other historical Chinese names.

Several Mandarin forums locally and across the causeway are talking about this topic, but no one seems to be discussing this in our local English forums.

Is it really as Liew said, as long as the English name remains, the change of Chinese name is no big deal?