Ping’s Chinese in Elmhurst, NY is my favorite Chinese restaurant in New York City. Or at least it was, because I haven’t had Chinese food in New York for half a decade. Ping’s is also a prime example of Chinese business naming practices: a ridiculously epic Chinese name coupled with a very unassuming English name.

昇輝 is the Chinese name of the restaurant. means, roughly, “raise”. However it is a more formal kind of “raise” and so “ascend” and “promote” may be better. (Google Translate suggested “hoist”, which is hilarious but not really true.) 輝 means “brilliance”, as in literal brilliance from light and “splendor”. Put together we have splendor that ascends, or is ascending (昇 being a verb and 輝 being a noun, we can’t say it’s a splendid ascension).

Now, why doesn’t the restaurant actually call itself Ascending Splendor? Well, there are three reasons. First it’s marketing. Which of the following sentence rolls off better, in English?

Hey guys let’s grab some crab at Ping’s.

Hey guys let’s grab some crab at Ascending Splendor.

Second, it’s cultural. While it’s perfectly reasonable to have outrageous names for pretty much anything in Chinese it’s not so in Occidental cultures. Third, while naming something in Chinese is easy if you’re used to it translating that name is not. It took me, someone who is fluent in both languages and is on vacation, a whole twenty minutes of thinking and dictionary-searching to figure out a decent translation of the name; likely the folks who named the place didn’t have much time and resources to make the translation.