Red ink and names

By greenteapanda

March 27, 2009

Category: Education

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When I was in Korea, it was a huge no-no to write names in red ink. In Taiwan, it isn’t as strict, but it is still something important to consider in the classroom. Even if a red pen is the only one with ink in it in the classroom, you can’t use it to write names. It will imply the person is dead or about to be executed.

My students pointed out that I was signing my name in red on their workbooks when I correct each page. I am supposed to use red ink to correct their papers, and no other colour. Of course, that also means that many of the characters in books are dead or about to be executed, since I sometimes have to rewrite an incorrect student sentence.

Anyhow, it brought up an important question – if I can’t sign my own name in red ink, why is it OK to use red chops to accomplish the same thing? I have never seen somebody use their chops in Asia with anything other than red ink. The chops either have their name or their company’s name on them.

I have been asking many people about this question, and have yet to get a satisfactory answer.

What I do know:

  • The emperor of China was the sole person allowed to use vermillion ink to hand out orders to subordinates back in the day. By using red, one indicates they are basically God compared to the person’s name they are writing. Based on this, it seems writing my own name in red is no problem.
  • Chops use red ink because traditionally, the red ink used with chops would fade less over time than any other colour or shade of ink. Since I have to sign pages as proof they are done and corrected, this seems like a good idea for that to be obvious over time.

Personally, I’d rather correct with a green pen. One of the rules at work – all corrections must be done in red. Students cannot use red to do their own work. It seems that my actual situation matches that of the emperor, even if I am an embattled emperor where the people I work with sometimes blatantly do not follow orders. They are, after all, kids.

Even if I am saying that I will be dead, what dead does it actually mean? If it is the current state of me, with some wrong beliefs, and the new me sheds those wrong beliefs and actions, I can hardly see that as a bad thing. If it only can mean that I physically die, then that could be a problem.


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