Many of the international fans of Korean and Chinese dramas rely on subtitles to understand the dialogues and the story. But as is typical in Asian dramas, sometimes there are nuanced messages that are hidden but meaningful in the original language. An example is that the names of the characters may symbolize or give important clues. Take a look at two current dramas: To Be A Better Man and Scarlet Heart: Ryeo.

SPOILER ALERT:  I will be discussing the character name as they relate to the story's development. It is possible that my discussion will give hints to what the ultimate ending may bring. On the other hand, these dramas are still on air at this time, and I don't know what the endings will be.

In To Be A Better Man, versatile actor Sun Honglei plays Lu Yuan, a famous chef who loses everything he holds dear when his life is abruptly dealt a harsh hand when he is in the United States. Eventually, he returned to Shanghai, China. Will fate give a second chance to the Michelin-starred chef who has lost his sense of taste?

It turns out that the name Lu Yuan, 陸遠, literally means "Long Road," which symbolizes the long journey and challenges that he has to endure in life.

The two female leads present a stark contrast through their characters' names too.

Gan Jing (Che Xiao) is Lu Yuan's ex-girlfriend. When the drama starts, she and Lu Yuan have been separated for a while. She is now an interior designer in Shanghai and has been dating another man who is actually an old friend of Lu Yuan's. Did she ditch Lu Yuan for the wealthy businessman? What was the reason that she and Lu Yuan broke up? 

Did you know Gan Jing, 甘敬, is a homophone for the Chinese word "neat and clean?"

Jiang Lai (Jiang Shuying) is a temperamental heiress who is frustrated by matters of love. She and Lu Yuan don't see eye to eye when they first meet, but they gradually become friends. Will she finally find a purpose in life? Will she and Lu Yuan fall in love? 

Therefore, you may find it very intriguing to know that Jiang Lai, 江萊, is a homophone for the Chinese word for "Future."

Let's not forget Lay of the popular K-pop group EXO. 

His character Xiao Cai, (pronounced as Xiao Tsai,) is a young man who is passionate about cuisine and wants Lu Yuan to accept him as an apprentice. He is tested by Lu Yuan in one episode to make a dessert using shrimp.

Did you know Xiao Cai, 小蔡, is a homophone for "Side Dish" in Chinese? 

His fans would probably prefer him to be named the "Main Entree." 

Now we come to the extremely popular Scarlet Heart: Ryeo

During the Goryeo era in ancient Korea, the written language was Hanja, which contains characters from the Chinese language. Modern Koreans uses Hangul, an alphabet system invented by King Sejong the Great of Joseon Korea during the 15th century. 

You probably know already that Scarlet Heart: Ryeo is a historical romance with an ingenious time-travel twist. IU plays a 21st-century woman who wakes up in the Goryeo kingdom. A big challenge to her is that she can't read the old Hanja language even though she can more or less speak the same Korean language, except when she breaks out into "Fighting!"

In a recent episode, Eighth Prince (Kang Ha Neul) teaches Hae Soo (IU) how to write his name and explains the meaning.

He explains that Wook, , means "The sun rising in the morning."

The drama doesn't bother to explain that all the princes and their King father have a surname of Wang, , that is literally "King."

Are you ready for the name of the mysterious Fourth Prince, played by dynamic Lee Joon Ki?

His name is Wang So, and So is , meaning "The leading sun." It can also mean "The brightness that shines."

Do you notice the root character  in both the sun-related names? 日 means "Sun" and is evolved from the original Chinese hieroglyph depicting the actual sun. The sun, whether in the East or in the West, often symbolizes the emperor or the king.

Can there be two suns in the sky? An important part of the story is the love triangle where the two royal princes will compete for their true love. You may have guessed by now that they'll also battle for the throne. It's so fascinating that their names aren't made up for the creative drama—They are from actual Goryeo history. 

Do you find this discussion interesting? Which drama is your favorite right now, and who are your favorite characters?

 ~ NancyZdramaland

(Image credit as referenced or tagged)


Scarlet Heart: Ryeo

Starring Lee Joon Ki and Lee Ji Eun (IU)

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