CCTV's Li Yong

CCTV's Li Yong

A recent post by Micah reminded me about this guy Li Yong (李咏). Before I followed Micah’s link to the NY Times article on Li Yong, I didn’t even know who Li Yong was, but upon seeing the picture accompanying the story, I was all, “Oh, that guy!”

This guy is extremely familiar to those of us who have lived in China for long because he has hosted quite a few of CCTV’s Chinese New Year Craptaculars (春节联欢晚会) in recent years. If you watch a lot of Chinese TV (I sure don’t), I suppose you might know him from other programs as well. He’s immediately recognizable because of his long hair and often weird clothing. I don’t really have any feelings about the guy one way or another. Really, all I wanted to know was his name. When a face becomes that familiar, it’s good to have a name to go with it.

Finally, a question for those with more native-like Chinese than my own. Is 咏 a really weird character to use for a name or what? When I started searching for a pic of the guy based on just the pinyin (no tone), I needed to guess at the characters, and I figured “Yong” was probably either 勇 or 庸 (like 朱德庸). I had to change tactics because none of my guesses were right. 咏?? 咏 means to recite or chant or something. Is this not a bizarre choice of characters for a name?


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Like other old Chinese words for “to recite or chant”, like “ge” or “song”, they all have a second meaning of “to praise”, so “yong” just means “to be praised” or “worth praising [for their moral high ground or heroic deeds or whatoever]”. Quite a lot of Chinese use this character for given names, so don’t be surprised.

  2. He looks kinda like the eccentric, Chairman Kaga on the original Iron Chef. Long hair, weird clothing.

  3. Leo,

    OK, got it. Thanks.

  4. I thought it was a weird name too, when I first saw it in the name of the HK singer Liang Yongqi: 梁咏琪 (Gigi Leung for HK folks). It seems that as poor foreigners, we are just not able to figure out which characters are proper for names and which are not… Either that or the parents having weird choices in names.

  5. Gun,

    Yeah, that’s true. It really doesn’t help, either, that a lot of Chinese people really do have really weird names (even to the Chinese).

  6. I know many parents want to give their children outstanding names, but actually names are not always showing their own meanings, so plz regard them as ordinary characters.
    And, i wonder 咏 “yong” is refer to moral? i guess we use this character to praise/criticize things when we are deeply moved or in a terriblly good/bad mood. What we may use for moral purpose is the character 颂 “song”.

  7. I can’t even begin to count how many of my Chinese friends, when introducing themselves, have to go into some story about their name and how their parents decided that they wanted their child to have some special name with characters which haven’t been written down since the warring states period. I’ve never come across anyone named 咏 though.

  8. Good post. Name is really an issue. If Chinese parents are too serious at naming their children, American parents seem to take it too easy. I have two Joe in my lab and three Dan in the next door. I have six Christ in my class. I still can not believe G.W. Bush has the same name with his father. Isn’t it confusing? “George!” Who is that? The father or the son? The Joe in my lab, he has exactly the same name with his father except he has a Jr at the end. While in China, it’s not polite to use same character with parents.

  9. Luskyshoe Says: February 9, 2006 at 8:31 pm

    As a Chinese ,I don’t like this guy either.But to be true, this kind of names are very common in China, using words which may be less used in daily life in names. It is not very important for us to be different in name,but it is better, and perhaps some of us think name can bring us luck and fortune.My own name is more strange,i think, but i like it a lot.:-)

  10. I think the way we Chinese people choose our names is related to our traditional culture. Chinese people believe the name will bring us something( which is not scientific). This is just a traditional custom, like people from other countries want give their children the same name of their family to remember some one etc. Names are the signs of one family, one country , one nation…..This is all the same in this world!!!

  11. I don’t think Mr Li’s poses are cools

    • BongDong Says: May 24, 2010 at 6:13 am

      I don’t like when he always flashes his smile and squints his eyes after making a joke. It’s unorthodox and always laugh at his own jokes. He’s China’s Jimmy Fallon.

  12. 咏 means is to praise with a poetic song that rhymes.

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