Taryn Zhang’s Chinese Name: 妲婨

talun

I spent a lot of time these past few weeks agonizing over the conception of Taryn Zhang International’s Chinese name. Finally, I’m using the name my mother came up with: 妲婨國際公司.

The brand will be known as 妲婨 (pronounced: dá lún), a transliteration of “Taryn,” and the company 妲婨國際公司 (pronounced: dá lún guó jì gōng sī; simplified Chinese: 妲婨国际公司), or “Taryn International Company.”

妲 (pronounced: dá) is reminiscent of 妲己 (pronounced: da ji; English: Daji), a concubine of the last Shang emperor, and who eventually became empress of the Shang Dynasty. History and a misogynist culture have characterized this woman as a villainess. Some renderings depict her as a sorceress, or an other-worldly witch with magical powers.

It is said that Daji corrupted the emperor by seducing him to squander the nation’s resources for her extravagant pleasures. Folklore depicts her as a woman aroused by the torture of innocents, and the sole cause of the downfall of a dynasty. She ate the eyeballs of the people she tortured, engaged in debauchery, was really a nine-tailed fox demon disguised as a woman—oh, the horrific tall tales are endless.

Daji is in many respects China’s version of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, only Daji is painted even more sinister and conniving and sadistic. Like Helen of Troy, Daji is a legendary beauty.

What’s more, an interesting detail in her story is rarely included in popular narratives: In retribution for her father’s murder, Daji plotted her revenge by seducing the emperor into marrying her, becoming empress and ultimately killing her husband, Emperor Zhao. Daji was born into nobility. Her father was a duke. In Emperor Zhao’s assent to the throne, he murdered Daji’s father, the duke. Heartbroken and evidently scarred for life, Daji sought vengeance against Emperor Zhao. From there, she went from concubine to empress to legend.

I am convinced that Daji was unfairly portrayed, and was never the villainess that the Chinese characterize her to be. She was simply a scapegoat, the easiest target for blaming the fall of the Shang dynasty on. Most likely, Daji was a woman too strong and confident for the comfort of her society. She must have intimidated her peers with her power and beauty. Today, we still remain unforgiving of alluring, authoritative women; it had to be tenfold worse in the times of Daji.

Although 婨 (pronounced: lún) is not a frequently-used word in the modern Chinese lexicon, it was used in ancient times as a female name. Also, the word holds as its root 侖 (also pronounced: lún), a word that connotes logical reasoning, discourse and intellect. Juxtaposed with the root 女 (pronounced: nŭ), which means woman, 婨 is the perfect exemplification of Taryn Zhang’s ideology.

The fact my mother is the one who came up with the name makes 妲婨 personally significant. 妲婨 is truly a feminist and feminine brand.

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