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“where did you get the name Sha-yuan?” I asked abruptly. “I’ve been wondering about it myself. Nobody ever gave him that name. where did it come from?” the mother said, looking confused.(649)

I too wondered where this name came from, as it felt as if “The Child Who Raised Poisonous Snakes” by Can Xue played off the name Sha-yuan. However, because the story was translated into English I thought maybe the meaning of the name lost its power. As such I searched the meaning of Sha-yuan to see what it meant in Chinese. Turns out that Sha -yuan is the Chinese name for a particular herb in the Astrgalus family. A species of plants that are known for hosting larva inside them. Weirdly paralleling Sha-yuan hosting the snakes inside his body. It also so happens to be a natural remedy to chronic fugue. Which might be part of the humor of the name, as Sha-yuan suffered from chronic fugue in the short story.

However, I believe the reason Can Xue used the name Sha-yuan comes more from the Chinese personality analysis. A horoscope like interpretation of a name, relying on the number of letters in a name and where each letter of a name is analyzed with a set meaning. But in the name sha-yuan there are multiple letters that contradict each other. Which I find are like Sha-yuan’s strange behavior and constant change of mannerism in “The Child Who Raised Poisonous Snakes.”

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