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Villagers’ name goes to the dogs

MORE THAN 50 people in a central China village have thrown their centuries-old surname to the dogs, hoping to free themselves of a stigma supposedly imposed on their clan by an ancient emperor.

The villagers legally changed their surname from "Gou", a word that means "humble" in Chinese but is pronounced the same as "dog" -- an sharp insult in China -- back to their original family name "Jing", which translates as "respect".

"It was really embarrassing. My son couldn't even find a girlfriend because of his name," Gou Feng from Tangzhuang township in Henan province was quoted as saying before the name change.

When the Gou families of Tangzhuang collectively petitioned the local police in May to change their names, they said Shi Jingtang, the founder of the short-lived Jin Dynasty (936-947), ordered their ancestors to give up the surname Jing and adopt Gou.

In modern China, changing one's name is a much more difficult process.

"I had never heard of such a thing before," local police chief Ma Huiqiang said. "It sets a precedent for our bureau."

Gou is an uncommon, but not unheard of, surname in China and tends to provoke laughter at its mere mention.

Barking, isn’t it?