Sunday, October 5, 2008

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. Primarily used for male names, one could be given a ''zì'' by the parents, or adopt a self chosen ''zì'' later. The tradition of using style names has been fading away since the May Fourth Movement. There are two common forms of style name, the ''zì'' and the ''hào''.


The ''zì'', sometimes called the ''biǎozì'' or 'courtesy name', is a name traditionally given to Chinese males at the age of 20, marking their coming of age. It was sometimes given to females upon marriage. As noted above, the practice is no longer common in modern Chinese society. According to the ''Book of Rites'' , after a man reaches adulthood, it is disrespectful for others of the same generation to address him by his given name, or ''míng''. Thus, the given name was reserved for oneself and one's elders, while the would be used by adults of the same generation to refer to one another on formal occasions or in writing; hence the term 'courtesy name'.

The ''zì'' is mostly disyllabic, i.e., comprises two , and is usually based on the meaning of the ''míng'' or . Yan Zhitui of the Northern Qi Dynasty believed that while the purpose of the ''míng'' was to distinguish one person from another, the ''zì'' should express the bearer's moral integrity.

The relation which often exists between a person's ''zì'' and his ''míng'' can be seen in the case of Mao Zedong , whose ''zì'' was Rùnzhī (. These two characters share the same - 氵, which signifies water. Both characters can mean 'to benefit' or 'to nourish'.

Another way to form a ''zì'' is to use the homophonic character ''zǐ'' - a respectful title for a male - as the first character of the disyllabic ''zì''. Thus, for example, Gongsun Qiao's ''zì'' was: Zǐchǎn (, and Du Fu's: Zǐméi .

It is also common to construct a ''zì'' by using as the first character one which expresses the bearer's birth order among male siblings in his family. Thus Confucius, whose actual name was Kǒng Qiū , was given the ''zì'' Zhòngní , where the first character ''zhòng'' indicates that he was the second son in his family. The characters commonly used are bó for the first, zhòng for the second, shū for the third, and jì typically for the youngest, if the family consists of more than three sons.

The use of ''zì'' began sometime during the Shang Dynasty and slowly developed into a system, which became most widespread during the succeeding Zhou Dynasty . During this period, women were also given ''zì''. The ''zì'' given to a woman was generally composed of a character indicating her birth order among females siblings and her surname. For example, Mèng Jiāng was the eldest daughter in the Jiāng family.

Prior to the 20th century, sinicized Koreans, Vietnamese, and Japanese were also referred to by their ''zì''.

The ''zì'' of some famous people:


''Hào'' is an alternative courtesy name, usually referred to as the ''pseudonym''. It was most commonly three or four characters long, and may have originally become popular due to people having the same ''zì''. A ''hào'' was usually self-selected and it was possible to have more than one. It had no connection with the bearer's ''míng'' or ''zì''; rather it was often a very personal, sometimes whimsical, choice perhaps embodying an allusion or containing a rare character, as might befit an educated literatus. Another possibility was to use the name of one's residence as one's ''hào''; thus Su Shi's ''hào'' Dongpo Jushi . An author's ''hào'' was also often used in the title of his collected works.

Chinese pet name

In Chinese communities, people choose Chinese pet names often based on the pet's physical characteristics. The adjective "little" is added in front of the physical characteristic, creating an effect equivalent to adding "little" to "John" resulting in "Little John" or "Johnny." See the following table for common Chinese pet names.

Chinese name

Personal names in 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 Smith" as a Chinese name would be "Smith John". For instance, the basketball player who is commonly called Yao Ming would be addressed as "Mr. Yao", not "Mr. Ming".

Some Chinese people who emigrate to, or do business with, Western countries sometimes adopt a Westernized name by simply reversing the "surname–given-name" order to "given-name–surname" , or with a Western first name together with their surname, which is then written in the usual Western order with the surname last . Some Chinese people sometimes take a combined name. There are 3 variations: Western name, surname, and Chinese given name, in that order . Western name, Chinese given name, and surname . Or surname, Chinese given name, followed by Western name . The Western name, surname and then given name practice is most common in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Traditional naming schemes often followed a pattern of using generation names as part of a two-character given name. This is by no means the norm, however. An alternative tradition, stemming from a Han Dynasty law that forbade two-character given names, is to have a single character given name. Some contemporary given names do not follow either tradition, and may in some cases extend to three or more characters.

When generation names are used as part of a two-character given name, it is highly inappropriate and confusing to refer to someone by the first part of their given name only which will generally be their generation name. Instead, the entire given name should be used. This should be the case regardless of whether the surname is used. For instance, referring to Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as Hsien or Hsien Lee would be confusing as this could just as easily refer to his brother. However, this does commonly occur in Western societies where the first part of the given name is frequently mistakenly used as the first name when the given name is not hyphenated or adjoined.

Family names

A majority of countries in Eastern Asia adopted the Chinese naming system. Today, there are over 700 different Chinese family names, but as few as twenty cover a majority of Chinese people. The variety in Chinese names therefore depends greatly on given names rather than family names. The great majority of Chinese family names have only one , but there are a few with two; see Chinese compound surname for more information.

Chinese family names are written first, something which often causes confusion among those from cultures where the family name usually comes last. Thus, the family name of Mao Zedong is Mao , and his given name is Zedong .

Chinese women on the mainland usually retain their maiden names as their family name, rather than adopting their husband's. Children usually inherit the father's family name. However, there is the practice of married women taking on the husband's surname as part of their full-name.

Historically, it was considered taboo to marry someone with the same family name — even if there is no direct relationship between those concerned--though in recent decades this has no longer been frowned upon.

Given names

Generally speaking, Chinese given names have one or two , and are written after the family name. When a baby is born, parents often give him or her a "milk name" or "little name," such as ''Little Gem'' or two characters that repeat . The given name is then usually chosen later and is often chosen with consultation of the grandparents. In China, parents have a month before having to register the child. The parents may continue to use the nickname.

With a limited repertoire of family names, Chinese depend on using given names to introduce variety in naming. Almost any character with any meaning can be used. However, it is not considered appropriate to name a child after a famous figure and highly offensive after an older member among the family or even distant relatives.

Given names resonant of qualities which are perceived to be either masculine or feminine are frequently given, with males being linked with strength and firmness, and females with beauty and flowers. Females sometimes have names which repeat a character, for example Xiuxiu or Lili . This is less common in males, although Yo-yo Ma is a well-known exception.

In some families, one of the two characters in the personal name is shared by all members of a generation and these generational names are worked out long in advance, historically in a ''generation poem'' listing the names. Also, siblings' names are frequently related, for example, a boy may be named ''pine'' while his sister may be named ''plum'' , both being primary elements of the traditional Chinese system of naturally symbolizing moral imperatives. Depending on region and family, female children may not be entered into the family tree, and thus will not be given a generation name. A frequent naming pattern for female offspring in this case could share the same last character in the given name while varying the first character . A well known example of such system can be found from the names of the main four sisters in the novel "A Dream of Red Mansions" 红楼梦, where they were named 元春,迎春,探春 and 惜春 .

Chinese personal names also may reflect periods of . For example, many Chinese born during the Cultural Revolution have "revolutionary names" such as ''strong country'' or ''eastern wind'' . In Taiwan, it used to be common to incorporate one of the four characters of the name "Republic of China" into masculine names.

People from the rural areas may have "rural" names due to their uneducated parents, for example, ''large ox'' and ''big pillar'' , though, these names are much less common today.

Also, some decades ago, due to the traditional Confucianism, when a family gives birth to a female baby, the parents may name her ''comes a little brother'' , ''invites a little brother'' or ''hopes for a little brother'' . Some other female names of this sort includes: 望弟 , 牽弟 , 帶弟 , 引弟 , 領弟 , and even 也好 . The parents may feminize the character '弟' to '娣' with the same pronunciation, but different in meaning . These names show the traditional sexism or male chauvinism in the older Chinese society where having a boy is better than having a girl .

A recent trend has swept through greater China to let fortune tellers change people's names years after they have been given. These fortune tellers claim that the name leads to a better future in the child according to principles such as .

Regional variations


Family names in Taiwan of the Han Chinese heritage are similar to those in southeast China, as most families maintain family trees that are traceable to their origins in places such as Fujian and Guangdong. Taiwanese aborigines have also adopted Chinese names in the process of . The popularity distribution of family names in Taiwan as a whole differs somewhat from the distribution of names among all Han Chinese, with the family name Chen particularly common . Local variations also exist.

The top ten most frequent family names in Taiwan, ranking in China, and common romanizations.

Among the Taiwanese , the family name 偕 is of particular interest as an example of a Chinese-like surname with a non-Chinese . According to the clan's tradition, the name was adopted to honor the missionary George Leslie Mackay, also known as Má-kai . This family name is actually rarely seen even among Christians. Taiwanese Christians of other sects do not carry this tradition.

Given names that consist of one character are much less common on Taiwan than in mainland China.

More common in the past when life was much more difficult, Taiwanese given names are sometimes unofficially re-assigned based on the recommendation of fortune-tellers, in order to ward off bad omens and evil spirits. For example, a sick boy may be renamed "Ti-sái" , or " Manure", to indicate to the evil spirits that he is not worth their trouble. Similarly, a girl from a poor family may have the name "Bóng-chhī" , or translated loosely, "Keeping Only Reluctantly".

Nicknames derives from the practice common to Fujian of being constructed by attaching the prefix "A-" to the last syllable. Unlike the situation in Mainland China, this construction is used for Hakka names as well. Nicknames are often used by friends to refer to each other, but are rarely used in formal contexts. However, one major exception to this is Chen Shui-bian who refers to himself as A-pí?--a in public, which appears endearing to his supporters. The use of nicknames in public contexts is however unusual, and very few other public figures are known by their nicknames.

Examples of names of prominent Taiwanese born in Taiwan, mostly after World War II.
* One-character family name + two-character given name
** 王永慶 = 王 + 永慶
** 陳長文 = 陳 + 長文
** 張榮發 = 張 + 榮發
** 林懷民 = 林 + 懷民
** 古金水 = 古 + 金水
* One-character family name + one-character given name
** 蔡琴 = 蔡 + 琴
** 蕭薔 = 蕭 + 薔
* Two-character family name + one- or two-character given name
** 歐陽龍 = 歐陽 + 龍
** 司徒達賢 = 司徒 + 達賢
* Compound family name + one- or two-character given name
** 鄭余鎮 = 鄭 ? 余 + 鎮
** 郭李建夫 = 郭 ? 李 + 建夫
* Husband's family name + one-character family name + two-character given name
** 錢林慧君 = 錢 + 林 + 慧君


Among Chinese Americans, it is common practice to be referred to primarily by the Western name and to use the Chinese given name as a middle name; for instance, Soong would have "James Chu-yu Soong". In a more recent effort to combine Western names for those with native Chinese names, the Western name is placed directly in front of the Chinese name so that both the Chinese and Western names can be easily identified. The relative order of family name-given name is also preserved. Using this scheme, Soong Chu-yu would be James Soong Chu-yu.

In Malaysia and Singapore, it is equally acceptable for Western names to appear before or after the Chinese given name, thus Tan Keng Yam Tony may also be written as Tony Tan Keng Yam, and individuals are free to indicate their official names in either format on their s. General usage tend to prefer placing the Western name first due to the popularity of referring to individuals simply as "Tony Tan" and dropping the given Chinese name entirely. For administrative purposes, however, tend to place the Western name behind so as to standardise namelists sorted by family names. In some cases, therefore, agencies may choose to include a behind the Chinese name to indicate such amendments made, for instance, "Tan Keng Yam, Tony".

The Hong Kong printed media tends to adopt a presentation style similar to American usage, for instance, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. On official records such as the Hong Kong , however, family names are always printed first, capitalised, and followed with a comma for all names, including non-Chinese names. Therefore the name would be printed as either TSANG, Yam Kuen Donald or TSANG, Donald Yam Kuen, according to the person's, or the person's parents' own preference at time of application. A non-Chinese name would be printed in the style of "BUSH, George Walker". Some people do not have the transliterations of their Chinese given names in their names in English record, such as Henry Lee or Peter Vincent Cheng. In Macau, ethnic Chinese individuals who have Portuguese given names may have their names written in the Portuguese name order, such as Carlos do Rosário Tchiang.

The use of a comma between a surname and given name is acceptable if the name is in isolation , but not as part of a sentence. For example, the sentence "My student Wang, Ming-Sheng graduated in 2006" would be wrong.


In mainland China, Han names are romanized in pinyin, usually without tone marks. Chinese from Mainland China are generally recognizable from the "x", "zh" and "q" that exist in Hanyu Pinyin orthography, and by the combination of the two syllables in a two character given name into one romanized word .

In Taiwan, the vast majority of Taiwanese today romanize their names in pronunciation using Wades-Giles or a similar system, which can be easily distinguished from the Hanyu Pinyin used for romanization in Mainland China and Singapore by the lack of the use of "q", "zh", and "x", by the use of "hs" and by the inclusion of hyphens. Unlike Mainland China, romanization of names in Taiwan is not standardized and one can often find idiosyncratic variants such as Lee or Soong, and others.

Chinese in southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Macau, and other old diaspora communities are likely to romanize in their own dialect, such as "吳" becomes Ng in languages such as Cantonese, while the same character would be Wu in Mandarin. In particular, , Min Nan, Hakka are prevalent. Although not a Chinese dialect, in Vietnam romanize their names in Vietnamese pronunciation using , making them almost indistinguishable from Vietnamese names. In Singapore, individuals, or their parents, are free to choose to romanize their Chinese names in Mandarin, in any Chinese dialect, or in any other form as deemed fit. In general, however, the romanized name in dialect and in Mandarin are both depicted on the person's NRIC, unless the bearer chooses to drop either of them. In Macau, Chinese names are usually based on Portuguese orthography.

Chinese from diaspora communities in Malaysia and Singapore can also be identified by the inclusion of spaces in their first names, as well.

Alternative names

;Nicknames :Milk name and ?Caricatural name?
Nicknames are usually an alteration of the given name. There are two kinds of nicknames, one given by biologic parents to a baby, and one give by the family or a child's friends to another child . The first is a nice little nickname, to call a baby or children, often simply made by doubling one character of the official name , or even their first word. The second one is a caricatural name based on the person's physical attributes, speaking style . A nickname may consist of the prefix ''ā'' or the diminutive prefix ''xiǎo'' , followed by part of the given name . The prefix ''ā'' is more commonly found in the southern regions of China than in the north where the prefix ''xi?o'' is more common. 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 even by himself and in newspaper articles.

;School name
The School name is the name that a child takes to go to school. Teachers and classmates had to call the child with this formal name. Friends prefer to use the official given name or the caricatural name.

;Courtesy names and Pseudonyms
In former times, it was common for educated males to acquire . The two most common forms were a ''zì'' , given upon reaching maturity, and a ''hào'' , usually self-selected and often somewhat whimsical. Although this tradition has lapsed, authors' use of pen names is still a common phenomenon. ''For more information, see Chinese style name.''

;Posthumous name and Temple name
For prominent people, posthumous names have often been given, although this is uncommon now. Sun Yat-sen was given the posthumous name of Guófù , the name by which he is most frequently known in Taiwan. Emperors were also ascribed temple names , and in certain situations, an Era name as well.

;Era name
The era name can sometimes be use in ways which refer to the monarch himself, and not to the period.

Forms of address

Within families, adults are rarely referred to by their given names. Rather, the relationship is stressed, so each member is known by this connection. Thus, there is big sister, second sister, third sister and so on. These connections are also distinguished by what side of the family they are on. Generally speaking though, the family title is only used when the relative being called is older than caller. It is considered highly inappropriate and sometimes extremely offensive if a person from a younger generation calls someone from an older generation by his/her given name. Younger relatives are normally only called by their relational title in formal situations. Children can be called by their given name, or their parents may use their nickname.

When speaking of non-family social acquaintances, people are generally referred to by a title, for example Mother Li or Mrs. Zhu . Personal names are used when referring to adult friends or to children, although, unlike in the west, referring to somebody by their full name is common even among friends, especially if the person's full name is only two syllables. It is common to refer to a person as ''l?o'' or ''xi?o'' followed by their family name, thus L?o Wáng or Xi?o Zhāng . Xi?o is also frequently used as a diminutive, when it is typically paired with the second or only character in a person's name, rather than the surname. Note that because old people are well respected in Chinese society, ''l?o'' does not carry disrespect, offense or any negative implications even if it's used to refer to an older woman. Despite this, it is advisable for non-Chinese to avoid calling a person xi?o-something or l?o-something unless they are so-called by other Chinese people and it is clear that the appellation is acceptable and widely used. Otherwise, the use of the person's full name, or alternatively, their surname followed by xiānshēng or nǚshì is relatively neutral and unlikely to cause offence.

Whereas titles in many cultures are commonly solely determined by gender and, in some cases, marital status, the occupation or even work title of a person can be used as a title as a sign of respect in common address in Chinese culture. Because of the prestigious position of a teacher in traditional culture, a teacher is invariably addressed as such by his or her students , and commonly by others as a mark of respect. By extension, a junior or less experienced member of a work place or profession would address a more senior member as "Teacher".

Similarly, engineers are often addressed as such, though often shortend to simply the first character of the word "engineer" -- . Should the person being addressed be the head of a company , one might equally address them by the title "z?ng" , which means "general" or "overall", and is the first character of titles such as "Director General" or "General Manager" , or, if they are slightly lower down on the corporate food-chain but nonetheless a manager, by affixing Jīngl? .

Chinese given name

Chinese given names are often made up of one or two s. Unlike Western personal names, there is great variety in assigning Chinese given names. 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 .

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 "" characteristics or be named after plants or flowers.

Chinese females sometimes have doubled names . This practice also extends to males , 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" like 健康 , 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'' or ''eastern wind'' . In Taiwan, it used to be common to incorporate one of the four characters of the name "Republic of China" 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 . Personal names are used when referring to adult friends or to children. Occasionally a person will be referred to as l?o followed by the last name or xi?o 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 - and -speaking areas, a nickname will often consist of the diminutive Ah, followed by part of the given name . 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 even in more formal settings such as newspaper articles.

In former times, it was common for males to acquire a '''', 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 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.

In regions where fortune-telling is more popular, many parents may name their children on the advice of . 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 -
* Female -

Bo (surname)

Bo is a Chinese surname and Bo is an Italian_name also.

Its Pinyin translitteration is .

The character stands for :
* A qualificative verb meaning ''to be thin'', ''to be small'', ''to be light''
* A qualificative verb meaning ''to be ungenerous'', ''to be unlikeable''
* A verb meaning ''to disdain'', ''to scorn'', ''to overlook''
* A verb meaning ''to come close to'', ''to be about to''


* Empress Dowager Bo of the Han Dynasty
* of the Han Dynasty
* Bo Xilai , CPC Chongqing Committee Secretary
* Bo Yibo , Chinese politician
* Carlo Bo , Italian politician and IULM foundator

Bai (surname)

Bai is a common Chinese surname, mostly found in the Mongolia region. With its variants, Bai was ranked 79th within the list of common Chinese surnames in 2006, up from 70th in 1990.

Another surname, , is written with a character normally also pronounced as "Bai", but as a surname is properly pronounced "Bo", according to the ancient reading of the character.

Alternate spellings

* : Bái
* : Baak6, Pak
* Min Nan : Pe?h, Pe?k, Peh
* : B?ch
* : Bae, Baek , Pae
* : Haku, Hyaku, Byaku


* Bai Qi , Qin general of the Warring States Period
* Bai Juyi , Tang Dynasty poet
* Bai Renfu , Yuan Dynasty playwright
* Bai Chongxi , general of the Republic of China
* Pai Hsien-yung , Chinese writer
* Lou Pai , Chinese-American businessman and former Enron executive
* Pai Kun-Hong , Taiwanese baseball player
* Pai Hsiao-yen , Taiwanese teenage idol and victim of a fatal kidnapping

Temple name

Temple names are commonly used when naming most , , and Vietnamese royalty. They should not be confused with era names. Compared to posthumous names, the use of temple names is more exclusive. Both titles were given after death to an emperor or king, but unlike the often elaborate posthumous name, a temple name always consists of only two s:

# an adjective: chosen to reflect the circumstances of the emperor's reign . The vocabulary overlap with that of posthumous titles' adjectives, but for one emperor, the temple name's adjective character usually does not repeat as one of the many adjective characters in his posthumous name. The usual exception is "Filial". The founders are almost always either "High" or "Grand" .
# "emperor": either ''zǔ'' or ''zōng'' .
#* ''Zu'' implies a progenitor, either a founder of a dynasty or a new line within an existing one. The equivalent in is ''jo'' , and ''t?'' in Vietnamese
#* ''Zong'' is used in all other rulers. It is ''jong'' in Korean, and ''t?ng'' in Vietnamese.

The name "temple" refers to the "grand temple" , also called "great temple" or "ancestral temple" , where crown princes and other royalties gathered to worship their ancestors. On the ancestral tablets in the grand temple, it is the ruler's temple names that are written there.

Temple names were assigned sporadically since the Han Dynasty and regularly only since the Tang Dynasty. Some Han emperors even had their temple names permanently removed by their descendants in 190. It is the usual way to refer to the emperors from the Tang Dynasty up to the Ming Dynasty. For the Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty , era names were used instead.

In Korea, temple names are used to refer to kings of the early Goryeo , and kings and emperors of the Joseon Dynasty. For the Korean Empire , era names should be used, but the temple names are often used instead.

In Vietnam, most rulers are known by their temple names, with the exception of the and Dynasties, who are known by their era names.