Giovanni Athaniel Chia (謝旺皓/Xiè Wàng Hào)

Chia (謝): My family’s surname in Hokkien (it’s Xiè in Mandarin). Cabinet Presidium Decision 127 of 1966 mandated Indonesian Chinese to adopt Indonesian-sounding names. After the ruling, our family adopted ‘Dahlan’ as our surname (if I remembered correctly, it was taken, perhaps somehow randomly, from one of my grandfather’s neighbors while they lived in Mangga Dua). But somehow it is not registered in my passport (while it is in my father’s and sisters’) and that’s why I don’t have it on my legal name. This rule became obsolete after Gus Dur (thanks be to God) and we are re-introducing the Chinese surname back to the new generations of our family, while keeping the Indonesian-sounding names for the given name.

Athaniel: We want to combine ‘Hartono’ and ‘Lie’, and this is what we get after trying many permutations (if it is a girl, it will be Litania and this is still our plan if our second child is a girl). The name is inspired from a church father, Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373), who is one of the key figures in the great debate of Trinitarianism against Arianism. He attended the Council of Nicaea as a bishop’s assistant, before succeeding the bishop himself at Alexandria. He is the first person to list the same 27 books of the New Testament as what we have today. He is also known as ‘Athanasius Contra Mundum’ (Athanasius against the world) for his numerous clashes against the emperors which led him to be exiled many times. This is not to wish our son a hard life in the world, but to remind us that all of us are called to die to ourselves and the world and to live for Christ. ‘Athanasius’ itself in Greek means immortal (athanasios, αθανάσιος), but we are fully aware that our son is as mortal as you and I.

The suffix ‘-el’ (אל) is a common suffix among the Hebrews, as a shorthand for Elohim/God. ‘Athanasios’ is not supposed to be combined with ‘-el’, since they come from different origins (Greek and Hebrew), but as St. Paul said, there is neither Greek nor Jew, for we are all one in Jesus Christ, no? (cf. Gal 3:28) [/maksa]

Giovanni: Italian for John/Yohanes, which means ‘God is gracious’. John/Yohanes, of course, is a very common name among Christians, taken from two prominent figures in the New Testament, John the Baptist and John the Apostle/Evangelist. I had a presentation at ISMRM 2014 in Milan last May and we visited Italy together for a short trip before the conference. At that time Cint was pregnant for 30 weeks and we would like to commemorate the trip (and the wonder-ful country) by giving him an Italian name (but which still sounds reasonably Indonesian, hence not Gianluigi nor Giancomo nor something like that).

We visited numerous churches when we were there and we really love the frescoes at the churches. One of the figures that’s almost always present in the frescoes is John the Baptist. What really fascinates us is John the Baptist is always depicted as an ugly and unremarkable man. That, of course, echoes what he said regarding him and Jesus, “He must become greater; I must become less.” (Joh 3:30) It is our hope that our son will also live such a life, a life where he becomes less and Jesus becomes greater.

Coincidentally (?), this year also marks the canonization of two popes, Pope John XXIII (Papa Giovanni XXIII) and Pope John Paul II (Papa Giovanni Paolo II). Indeed, we went to Italy one week after the canonization. So the name is also a homage to the two great popes (and saints now).

Finally, if you combine the first and last syllable of his name (alpha and omega, heh), you will get Gio-el (Joel), which means YHWH is God.

Gio: His nickname is Gio. Pronounciation wise, either gi:yo or ji:yo will do.

If you look at the consonant and vowel components of his name, you will get something like this:


or something like this:


This is a nod to mathematics and its wonderful patterns. Maths!

Meanwhile, the Chinese name (which was picked by my father) means as follow:

旺 (wàng)prosperous, flourishing, to make prosperous.

皓 (hào)bright, luminous.

If combined, it means ‘prosperous & bright’, but not only for himself, but also for other people. He is to be a bright light which shines upon others.

Finally, if we combine the Indonesian and Chinese name, it is our prayer that Gio will always remember that his life is sustained solely by the grace of God, and that he shall extend that grace to the world and people around him, for the grace of God is greater far than any of us could ever imagine. Praise be to God!

PS: And he shall love maths!


2 thoughts on “Giovanni Athaniel Chia (謝旺皓/Xiè Wàng Hào)

  1. hhpang

    I like the stories behind the name. It records what is dear to Cint and you, and events on your travels recently. The name also got a multi-lingo feel. I pray that he will learn some Cantonese and talk to uncle Peter in his mother tongue. By the way, 謝means thankful/ grateful in Chinese. In Mandarin, the full name should be pronouced as xièwànghào, or written as Xiè Wànghào.


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