Chinese given name
Chinese given names are generally made up of one or two characters, and are written after the family name
Family name
A family name is a type of surname and part of a person's name indicating the family to which the person belongs. The use of family names is widespread in cultures around the world...

, therefore "John-Paul Smith" as a Chinese name would be read "Smith John-Paul". Chinese name
Chinese name
Personal names in Chinese culture follow a number of conventions different from those of personal names in Western cultures. Most noticeably, a Chinese name is written with the family name first and the given name next, therefore "John-Paul Smith" as a Chinese name would be "Smith John-Paul"...

s can consist of any character and contain almost any meaning. Unlike the Western convention, it is extremely frowned upon to name a person after someone else , and cases where people have the same name are almost universally the result of coincidence rather than intention. The common Western practice of naming the children after their parents, ancestors, or historical figures is almost a taboo in Chinese culture (a notable exception to this is Li Xiaopeng
Li Xiaopeng
Li Xiaopeng may refer to:*Li Xiaopeng , Olympic gymnast*Li Xiaopeng , professional soccer player*Li Xiaopeng , son of former premier Li Peng...

, son of former Premier of China
Premier of the People's Republic of China
The Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China , sometimes also referred to as the "Prime Minister" informally, is the Leader of the State Council of the People's Republic of China , who is the head of government and holds the highest-ranking of the Civil service of the...

 Li Peng
Li Peng
Li Peng served as the fourth Premier of the People's Republic of China, between 1987 and 1998, and the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislative body, from 1998 to 2003. For much of the 1990s Li was ranked second in the Communist Party of China ...

, whose name literally means 'Li Peng, Jr.').

In some families, the first of the two characters in the personal name is shared by all members of a generation and these generation name
Generation name
Generation name, variously zibei or banci, is one of the characters in a traditional Chinese name, and is so called because each member of a generation share that character, unlike surnames or given names...

s are worked out long in advance. In some families there is a small number of generational names through which are cycled. Together, these generation names may be a poem about the hope or history of the family.
There are also other conventions. It is frequently the case that girls will be given names which reflect "feminine
Femininity is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with girls and women. Though socially constructed, femininity is made up of both socially defined and biologically created factors...

" characteristics or be named after plants or flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...


Chinese females sometimes have doubled names (e.g. Xiu-xiu, Xiao-xiao). This practice also extends to males (e.g. Yoyo Ma), but much less so. Siblings' names are frequently related. For example, one child may be named "sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

" while his sister may be named "moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

." It is also common to split a Chinese "word" (which consists usually of two characters) like 健康 (healthy), and have one child given the name 健, and the other 康.

Chinese personal names also reflect periods of history
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

. Chinese names often do not just represent the environment or the time. For example, many Chinese born during the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

 have revolutionary names such as strong country (強國, 强国) or eastern wind (東風, 东风). In Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

, it used to be common to incorporate one of the four characters of the name "Republic of China
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

" (中華民國) into masculine names.

Within families, adults rarely refer to each other by personal names. Adult relatives and children referring to adults generally use a family title such as big sister, second sister, third sister and so on. As is the case in the West, it is considered rude for a child to refer to parents by their given name, but unlike the West this taboo
A taboo is a strong social prohibition relating to any area of human activity or social custom that is sacred and or forbidden based on moral judgment, religious beliefs and or scientific consensus. Breaking the taboo is usually considered objectionable or abhorrent by society...

 is extended to all adult relatives.

When speaking of non-family social acquaintances people are generally referred to by a title (for example Mother Li or the Wife of Chu). Personal names are used when referring to adult friends or to children. Occasionally a person will be referred to as lăo (老, old) followed by the last name or xiăo (小, young) followed by the last name.

Most Chinese also have a "little name" or nickname which their parents and close family and friends call them. These names are generally not used by anyone outside this close circle.

A nickname is "a usually familiar or humorous but sometimes pointed or cruel name given to a person or place, as a supposedly appropriate replacement for or addition to the proper name.", or a name similar in origin and pronunciation from the original name....

s are usually alteration of the given name, sometimes they are based on the persons' physical attributes, speaking style or even their first word. In Hokkien
Min Nan
The Southern Min languages, or Min Nan , are a family of Chinese languages spoken in southern Fujian, eastern Guangdong, Hainan, Taiwan, and southern Zhejiang provinces of China, and by descendants of emigrants from these areas in diaspora....

- and Cantonese
Standard Cantonese
Cantonese, or Standard Cantonese, is a language that originated in the vicinity of Canton in southern China, and is often regarded as the prestige dialect of Yue Chinese....

-speaking areas, a nickname will often consist of the diminutive Ah, followed by part of the given name (usually the last character). The nicknames are rarely used in formal or semi-formal settings. One exception to this is Chen Shui-bian
Chen Shui-bian
Chen Shui-bian is a former Taiwanese politician who was the 10th and 11th-term President of the Republic of China from 2000 to 2008. Chen, whose Democratic Progressive Party has traditionally been supportive of Taiwan independence, ended more than fifty years of Kuomintang rule in Taiwan...

 who is commonly known as A-bian (or A-biN in Hokkien pronounce) even in more formal settings such as newspaper articles.

In former times, it was common for males to acquire a zi
Chinese style name
A Chinese style name, sometimes also known as a courtesy name , is a given name to be used later in life. After 20 years of age, the zì is assigned in place of one's given name as a symbol of adulthood and respect...

, or style name, upon reaching maturity, and for prominent people to have posthumous name
Posthumous name
A posthumous name is an honorary name given to royalty, nobles, and sometimes others, in East Asia after the person's death, and is used almost exclusively instead of one's personal name or other official titles during his life...

s, and rulers temple name
Temple name
Temple names are commonly used when naming most Chinese, Korean , and Vietnamese royalty. They should not be confused with era names. Compared to posthumous names, the use of temple names is more exclusive...

s. This is rarely the case now, although Chinese writers will frequently take a pen name
Pen name
A pen name, nom de plume, or literary double, is a pseudonym adopted by an author. A pen name may be used to make the author's name more distinctive, to disguise his or her gender, to distance an author from some or all of his or her works, to protect the author from retribution for his or her...


Many coastal Chinese have a Western name in addition to the Chinese name. For example, the Taiwanese politician Soong Chu-yu is also known as James Soong
James Soong
James Soong Chu-yu , is a politician in the Republic of China on Taiwan. He founded and chairs the People First Party, a smaller and more conservative party in the Kuomintang -led Pan-Blue Coalition....

. Among American-born Chinese
American-born Chinese
An American-born Chinese or "ABC" is a stereotype that describes a person born in the United States of Chinese ethnic descent, a category of Chinese American. Many are second-generation born after the U.S. Immigration Act of 1965 were free from limits on immigration from East Asia...

, Canadian-born Chinese, etc., it is common practice to be referred to primarily by the Western name, and the Chinese name is used either (officially or otherwise) as an alternative name, or sometimes, middle name
Middle name
People's names in several cultures include one or more additional names placed between the first given name and the surname. In Canada and the United States all such names are specifically referred to as middle name; in most European countries they would simply be regarded as second, third, etc....

. Recent immigrants tend to use their given Chinese name as the legal name
Legal name
Legal name is the name that an individual is given at birth and/or recognized by a government or other legal entity, or which appears on a birth certificate , marriage certificate , or other government issued document on which a legal name change is evidenced and...

 and adopting a Western Given name
Given name
A given name, in Western contexts often referred to as a first name, is a personal name that specifies and differentiates between members of a group of individuals, especially in a family, all of whose members usually share the same family name...

 for casual use only.

In Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

 and Macau
Macau , also spelled Macao , is, along with Hong Kong, one of the two special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China...

, some people may have their Chinese given names related to the pronunciation or meaning of their English given names, while many in Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

 will choose their adoptive English name based on their Chinese given name.

People from Hong Kong, Macao and mainland China's Guangdong province usually have double-word Chinese given names. When romanised, such names usually appear as two separate words and many people in the west mistake the first word for the first name and the second word for the middle name; in fact, both words form one single unit in a name, like 'Mary' and 'Jane' in the name 'Mary Jane'. It is a common practice for Hong Kongers and the Macaolese to adopt western (mainly English or Portuguese) names in addition to their Chinese names; their western names will either be their first names or middle names (e.g. a person with a Chinese name 'Tai Ming CHAN' and a Portuguese given name 'João' will have a full name of 'Tai Ming João CHAN' or 'João Tai Ming CHAN').

In regions where fortune-telling is more popular, many parents may name their children on the advice of literomancers
Literomancy, from the Latin litero, "letter", mancy, "prophecy", is a form of fortune-telling based on written words, or, in the case of Chinese, characters. A fortune-teller of this type is known as a literomancer....

. The advice are often given based on the number of strokes of the names or the perceived elemental value of the characters in relation to the child's birth time and personal elemental value; rarely on the sound of the name as there is no system of fortune-telling based on character pronunciations. In jurisdictions where it is possible, people may also choose to change their legal given name, or their children's names, in order to improve their fortune.

Due to varying cultural backgrounds and regional dialects, some names may sound silly and hilarious when spoken in a different community and dialect, although it is considered rude to tease a person's name in such a way.

Some common names include:
Romanization Character English
Wĕi 偉/伟 Great
Hào Gallant
Dōng 東/东 East
Míng Light
Tāo 濤/涛 Great Wave
Péng 鵬/鹏 Giant mythological bird
Zhuàng 壯/壮 Robust

Romanization Character English
Yīng Beauty, handsome, brave
Píng Duckweed, water plants
Xuĕ Snow, symbolizing purity

See also

  • Chinese surname
    Chinese surname
    Chinese family names have been historically used by Han Chinese and Sinicized Chinese ethnic groups in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and among overseas Chinese communities. In ancient times two types of surnames, family names and clan names , existed.The colloquial expressions laobaixing...

  • Chinese clan
    Chinese clan
    A Chinese clan is a patrilineal and patrilocal group of related Chinese people with a common surname sharing a common ancestor and, in many cases, an ancestral home.-Description:...

  • Generation name
    Generation name
    Generation name, variously zibei or banci, is one of the characters in a traditional Chinese name, and is so called because each member of a generation share that character, unlike surnames or given names...

  • List of common Chinese surnames
  • Naming taboo
    Naming taboo
    Naming taboo is a cultural taboo against speaking or writing the given names of exalted persons in China and neighboring nations in the ancient Chinese cultural sphere.-Kinds of naming taboo:...

  • Japanese name
    Japanese name
    in modern times usually consist of a family name , followed by a given name. "Middle names" are not generally used.Japanese names are usually written in kanji, which are characters of usually Chinese origin in Japanese pronunciation...

  • Korean name
    Korean name
    A Korean name consists of a family name followed by a given name, as used by the Korean people in both North Korea and South Korea. In the Korean language, 'ireum' or 'seong-myeong' usually refers to the family name and given name together...

  • Vietnamese name
    Vietnamese name
    Vietnamese names generally consist of three parts: a family name, a middle name, and a given name, used in that order. The "family name first" order follows the system of Chinese names and is common throughout the Sinosphere , but is different from Chinese, Korean, and Japanese names in having a...

External links

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