- Chinese given name
Chinese given names (Chinese: 名字; pinyin: míngzì) are generally made up of one or two characters, and are written after the family name, therefore "John-Paul Smith" as a Chinese name would be read "Smith John-Paul". Chinese names 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, son of former Premier of China Li Peng, 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 names 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" characteristics or be named after plants or flowers.
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" while his sister may be named "moon." 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. Chinese names often do not just represent the environment or the time. For example, many Chinese born during the Cultural Revolution have revolutionary names such as strong country (強國, 强国) or eastern wind (東風, 东风). In Taiwan, it used to be common to incorporate one of the four characters of the name "Republic of China" (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 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.
Nicknames 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- and Cantonese-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 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, or style name, upon reaching maturity, and for prominent people to have posthumous names, and rulers temple names. This is rarely the case now, although Chinese writers will frequently take a pen name.
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. Among American-born Chinese, 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. Recent immigrants tend to use their given Chinese name as the legal name and adopting a Western Given name for casual use only.
In Hong Kong and Macau, some people may have their Chinese given names related to the pronunciation or meaning of their English given names, while many in Taiwan 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. 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:
Male Romanization Character English Wĕi 偉/伟 Great Hào 浩 Gallant Dōng 東/东 East Míng 明 Light Tāo 濤/涛 Great Wave Péng 鵬/鹏 Giant mythological bird Zhuàng 壯/壮 Robust Female Romanization Character English Yīng 英 Beauty, handsome, brave Píng 萍 Duckweed, water plants Xuĕ 雪 Snow, symbolizing purity
- Chinese surname
- Chinese clan
- Generation name
- List of common Chinese surnames
- Naming taboo
- Japanese name
- Korean name
- Vietnamese name
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