One of the first things I learnt in Chinese class a while back was “Wo shi Ao Da li ya ren” – meaning “I am Australian”. It’s a good ice breaker when speaking to locals because many assume you are American or European. It usually follows a similar conversation you’d have in parts of America about Australia – “Yes, back home I ride a kangaroo to work”, “Yes, Koalas are vicious animals who lurch on unsuspecting children”, “Yes, a Platypus is what happens when a duck has sex with a beaver” (yes, somebody really asked me that in Wyoming).
Suffice to say people overall seem to like Australians even though they are “fat” and “drunks”. Guilty as charged.
Anyway, back to the point of this post. When Chinese assign a name to some countries (not all) I hear they find words in Chinese that sound like the syllables of the name and somewhat reflect the image of that country. They then use the characters which stand for those syllables. As I’ve said, Australia is “ao da li ya”. If the translation is right this means: harbour, big, advantage, Asia.