Chinese personal names (Chinese: 姓名; pinyin: xìngmíng; Wade–Giles: Hsing4 ming2) are names adopted by those from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and the Chinese diaspora overseas. They arose from the culture of the Han people. In some cases, the term may also refer to Chinese names adopted by or used to refer to people from other areas.
Chinese names typically consist of three syllables – a monosyllabic family name and a disyllabic given name – with each syllable having a particular tone and being written as a single Chinese character. About one in seven people have a two-syllable name, and fewer than one-fifth of one percent – many of them ethnic minorities – have a name of four or more syllables; most Han Chinese that have names longer than four characters have compound surnames (e.g. Ouyang Kunpeng or Da-Hong Seetoo).
Chinese names originated the Eastern ordering of names, where the family name precedes the given name. A boy called Wei (伟) and belonging to the Zhang (张) family – currently China's most common single name – is called "Zhang Wei" and not "Wei Zhang" (unless he is travelling abroad). It is typical for the Chinese to address one another – especially those with two-character names – by using full names in conversation situations that lack informality and familiarity. So normally, Zhang Wei would be formally addressed as "Mr. Zhang" and informally as "Zhang Wei" – never as "Wei" or "Mr. Wei". By contrast, a Zhang Da-wei may very well be simply called "Dawei" by his friends (of same gender) and relatives as a way to establish their intimate social distance in a particular situation. Addressing a person with just one character of his or her given name is acceptable only among people of very intimate relations, usually in two categories one of which is between close relatives. The other category consists of lovers, many of whom are not (yet) rightfully joined in marriage.
The two halves of the name are almost always treated as indivisible units. There is no equivalent of English middle names, which are both officially and generally ignored. 王秀英 – currently China's most common three-character name – might be called "Wang Xiuying" or simply "Xiuying". Under normal circumstances, one should not refer to her as "Wang Xiu" or "Wang Ying" and omit the other half of her given name.
Chinese people interacting with others – who do not know the characters – romanize their names in a variety of ways, although Hanyu Pinyin is now the standard in both mainland China and Taiwan. Many also adopt a European-style name (typically English) either by reversing the Chinese order (e.g., "Wei Zhang") or by choosing a new name entirely (e.g., "John Zhang").
In Hong Kong, a common practice is to combine both English and Chinese names into a single hybrid: "John Zhang Wei". However, as a practice that can be traced back to the 1840s, the inception of British rule, all Hong Kong-born persons' names are romanised in Cantonese, the lingua franca in Hong Kong. In the case of "张伟", which will also be in traditional Chinese "張偉" by Hong Kong standard, it will be spelt as "Cheung Wai", while the English-Chinese hybrid will be "John Cheung". Street names in Hong Kong are also romanised in Cantonese. The standard can be found here, which is generally based on the Eitel/Dyer-Ball system.
From at least the time of the Shang dynasty, the Han Chinese observed a number of naming taboos regulating who may or may not use a person's given name (without being disrespectful). In general, using the given name connoted the speaker's authority and superior position to the addressee. Peers and younger relatives were barred from speaking it. Owing to this, many historical Chinese figures – particularly emperors – used a half-dozen or more different names in different contexts and for different speakers. Those possessing names (sometimes even mere homophones) identical to the emperor's were frequently forced to change them. The normalization of personal names after the May Fourth Movement has generally eradicated aliases such as the school name and courtesy name but traces of the old taboos remain, particularly within families.
- 1 Family names
- 2 Given names
- 3 Writing
- 4 Spelling
- 5 Alternative names
- 6 Forms of address
- 7 Variations
- 8 Chinese names in English
- 9 See also
- 10 References
Although there are currently over 4,000 Chinese surnames (姓, xìng) in use in China, the colloquial expression for the "Chinese people" is the Bǎijiāxìng (百家姓) "Hundred Family Surnames" and a mere hundred surnames still make up over 85% of China's 1.3 billion citizens. In fact, just the top three – Wang (王), Li (李), and Zhang (张) – cover more than 20% of the population. This homogeneity results from the great majority of Han family names having only one character, while the small number of compound surnames is mostly restricted to minority groups. This has not always been true in Chinese history: between the first and fifth centuries AD, a law against multiple-character personal names briefly popularized two-character surnames and a number of important figures like Zhuge Liang and Sima Qian possessed them.
Chinese surnames arose from two separate prehistoric traditions: the xìng (姓) and the shì (氏). The original xìng were clans of royalty at the Shang court and always included the 'woman' radical 女. The shì did not originate from families, but denoted fiefs, states, and titles granted or recognized by the Shang court. Apart from the Jiang (姜) and Yao (姚) families, the original xìng have nearly disappeared but the terms ironically reversed their meaning. Xìng is now used to describe the shì surnames which replaced them, while shì is used to refer to maiden names.
The enormous modern clans sometimes share ancestral halls with one another, but actually consist of many different lineages gathered under a single name. As an example, the surname Ma (马) includes descendants of the Warring States–era bureaucrat Zhao She, descendants of his subjects in his fief of Mafu, Koreans from an unrelated confederation, and Muslims from all over western China who chose it to honor Muhammad. Nonetheless, however tenuous these bonds sometimes are, it remains a minor taboo to marry someone with the same family name.
In modern mainland China, it is the norm that a married woman keeps her name unchanged, without adopting her husband's surname. A child usually inherits his/her father's surname, though the marriage law explicitly states that a child may use either parent's. It is also possible, though far less common, for a child to combine both parents' surnames. In the older generations, it was also common for a married woman to prepend her husband's surname to her own. This practice is now almost extinct in mainland China, though there are a few exceptions such as the name change of Gu Kailai, but survives in some Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan families.
Chinese given names (名字, míngzi) show much greater diversity than the surnames, while still being restricted almost universally to one or two syllables. Including variant forms, there are at least 106,000 individual Chinese characters, but as of 2006, in the People's Republic of China Public Security Bureau only approximately 32,000 are supported for computer input and even fewer are in common use. Given names are chosen based on a range of factors, including possession of pleasing sound and tonal qualities, as well as bearing positive associations or a beautiful shape. Two-character mings may be chosen for each character's separate meaning and qualities, but the name remains a single unit which is almost always said together even when the combination no longer 'means' anything.
Today, two-character names are more common and make up more than 80% of Chinese names. However, this custom has been consistent only since the Ming dynasty. About 70% of all names were only one character long during the early Han and that rose beyond 98% after the usurping Wang Mang banned all two-character names outright. Although his Xin Dynasty was short-lived, the law was not repealed until 400 years later, when northern invasions and interest in establishing lineages revived interest in such longer names. The Tang and Song saw populations with a majority of two-character names for the first time, but the Liao between them and the Yuan afterward both preferred single character names. The restoration of Han dominance under the Ming, promotion of Han culture under the Qing, and development of generation names established the current traditions.
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. It is also more common for female names to employ diminutives like Xiǎo or doubled characters in their formal names, although there are famous male examples such as Li Xiaoping and Yo-Yo Ma. People from the countryside previously often bore names that reflect rural life, – for example, Daniu (大牛, lit. "Big Ox") and Dazhu (大柱, lit. "Big Pole") – but such names are becoming less common.
It is also considered bad form to name a child after a famous person, although tens of thousands might happen to share a common name such as "Liu Xiang". Similarly, owing to the traditional naming taboos, it is very uncommon in China to name a child directly after a relative, since such children would permit junior family members to inappropriately use the personal names of senior ones. Ancestors can leave a different kind of mark: Chinese naming schemes often employ a generation name. Every child recorded into the family records in each generation would share an identical character in their names. Sixteen, thirty-two, or more generations would be worked out in advance to form a generation poem. For example, the one selected in 1737 for the family of Mao Tse-tung read:
This scheme was in its fourteenth generation when Mao rejected it for the naming of his own children, preferring to give his sons the generational name An (岸, lit. "Lofty", "Proud") instead.
Depending on the region and particular family, daughters were not entered into the family records and thus did not share the boys' generation name, although they may have borne a separate one among themselves. Even where generation names are not used, siblings' names are frequently related, so that a boy named Song (松, lit. "Pine") might have a sister named Mei (梅, lit. "Plum").
Traditional female names sometimes also reflected the male chauvinism of ancient China, with names like Laidi (來弟), Zhaodi (招弟), and Pandi (盼弟) all essentially meaning "Seeking a Little Brother". A similar name was Yehao (也好), meaning "Also Good".
More recently, although such chauvinistic names have become a rarity and generation names have become less common, many personal names reflect periods of Chinese history. For example, following the victory of the Communists in the Civil War, many Chinese bore "revolutionary names" such as Qiangguo (强国, lit. "Strong Nation" or "Strengthening the Nation") or Dongfeng (东风, lit. "Eastern Wind"). Similarly, on Taiwan, it used to be common to incorporate one of the four characters of the name "Republic of China" (中華民國, Zhōnghuá Mínguó) into masculine names. Periodic fad names like Aoyun ("Olympics") also appear. Owing to both effects, there has also been a recent trend in China to hire fortune tellers to change people's names to new ones more in accordance with traditional Taoist and five element practices.
Chinese names are written in Chinese characters. These originated from the Shang dynasty oracle bone script. The modern forms were largely established by the time of the Han dynasty's clerical script, but continued to develop. As new styles of calligraphy arose, variant characters sometimes entered the mainstream; likewise, some were political decisions whose success depended on the fate of their promulgators.
The two main modern forms are the simplified characters developed during the 1950s by the People's Republic of China and the traditional characters employed by the Republic of China, Hong Kong, and much of the Chinese diaspora. For example, a person who writes his name as 张伟 in a foreign country might be expected to come from mainland China or Singapore, while a 張偉 – the same name in traditional characters – might be asked if he or his family is originally from Taiwan or Hong Kong. When in Chinese speaking countries, the local variant of characters are used.
Chinese names in other East Asian countries have been influenced by the adoption of Hangul in Korea during the 1890s; the Japanese script reform beginning in 1900 and expanded after 1946 into the modern shinjitai; and the adoption of the Portuguese-based Quốc Ngữ script for Vietnamese after World War I.
The process of converting Chinese names into a phonetic alphabet is called romanization.
In mainland China, Chinese names have been romanized using the Hanyu Pinyin system since 1958. Although experiments with the complete conversion of Chinese to the pinyin alphabet failed, it remains in common use and has become the transcription system of the government of Singapore, the United Nations, and the International Organization for Standardization. After many decades of avoiding its use, Taiwan formally adopted pinyin as its "New Phonetic System" in 2009, although it continues to allow its citizens to use other romanizations on official documents such as passports. The Russian-influenced system is easily identified by its pronounced use of uncommon letters such as "q", "x", and "z"; when tones are included, they are noted via tone marks. In pinyin, 毛泽东 is written as Máo Zédōng.
Proper use of pinyin romanization means treating the surname and given name as precisely two separate words with no spaces between the letters of multiple characters. For example, "王秀英" is properly rendered either with its tone marks as "Wáng Xiùyīng" or without as "Wang Xiuying", but should not be written as "Wang Xiu Ying", "Wang XiuYing", "Wangxiuying", and so on. In the rare cases where a surname consists of more than one character, it too should be written as a unit: "Sima Qian", not "Si Ma Qian" or "Si Maqian". However, as the Chinese language makes almost no use of spaces, native speakers often do not know these rules and simply space between each character of their name, causing those used to phonetically spelled languages think of the xing and ming as three words instead of two.
The switch to pinyin is still quite new for Taiwan and many non-standard spellings continue to be found, including "Lee" and "Soong". Similarly, many Taiwanese and historic names still employ the older Wade–Giles system. This English-influenced system is identified by its use of the digraphs "hs" (for the pinyin x) and "ts" (for the pinyin z and c) and by its use of hyphens to connect the syllables of multi-character words. Correct reading depends on the inclusion of superscript numbers and the use of apostrophes to distinguish between different consonants, but in practice both of these are commonly omitted. In Wade–Giles, 毛泽东 is written Mao Tse-tung, as the system hyphenates names between the characters. For example, Wang Xiuying and Sima Qian are written in Wade as "Wang2 Hsiu4-Ying1" and "Ssu1-ma3 Ch'ien1".
Pinyin and Wade both represent the pronunciation of Mandarin, based on the Beijing dialect. In Hong Kong, Macau, and the diaspora communities in southeast Asia and abroad, the Chinese often romanize according to the sounds of their own languages, particularly Cantonese, Hokkien, and Hakka. This occurs amid a plethora of competing romanization systems. In Hong Kong, many Chinese who grew up under the British occupation adopted English spelling conventions for their names: "Lee" for Li, "Shaw" for Shao, and so forth. In Macau, Chinese names are similarly sometimes still transliterated based on Portuguese orthography. The Chinese from the diaspora communities in Malaysia and Singapore fully divide the characters in their names with spaces as a matter of course.
A final point is that – although characters have remained roughly the same since the Han dynasty and some classical grammar is still part of the core curriculum of Chinese secondary schools – vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation have all changed from Old to Middle to Modern Chinese even within the prestige dialects. Thus, although modern Chinese read "Confucius" (孔夫子) as Kǒng Fūzǐ, the same title would have been Khuwng Pjutsi in the Tang dynasty and was probably something like an atonal Khongʔ Patsəʔ during his lifetime. Of course, at the time, he would have been addressed by his courtesy name Trungsnərs (仲尼, Zhòngní) instead.
From their earliest recorded history, the Chinese observed a number of naming taboos, avoiding the names of their elders, ancestors, and rulers out of respect and fear. As a result, the upper classes of traditional Chinese culture typically employed a variety of names over the course of their lives, and the emperors and sanctified deceased had still others.
Current naming practices are more straightforward and consistent, but a few pseudonyms or alternate names remain common.
When discussing Chinese writers, Chinese and Japanese scholars do not consistently use particular names, whether they are private names or alternative names.
|Chinese associated names for prominent people,
example of Sun Yat-sen's names
|1||Official name:||Sūn Démíng (孫德明)|
|2||Milk name:||Sūn Dìxiàng (孫帝象)|
|3||School name:||Sūn Wén (孫文)|
|5||Courtesy names:||Sūn Zàizhī (孫載之)|
|6||Pseudonym(s):||1. Sūn Rìxīn (孫日新)a
2. Sūn Yìxiān (孫逸仙, 1886)a
jpn. Nakayama Shō (中山樵, 1897)
|Death, Honorary titles:|
|7||Posthume name:||Guófù (國父)|
|Notes: a. both pronounced "Sun Yat-sen" in Cantonese;
b. only for Royalty and Emperors; c. only for Royalty and Emperors' reigns.
Traditionally, babies were named a hundred days after their birth; modern naming laws grant the parents a month before requiring the baby to be registered. Upon birth, the parents often use a "milk name" (乳名, rǔmíng; 小名) – typically employing diminutives like xiǎo (小, lit. "little") or doubled characters – before a formal name is settled upon, often in consultation with the grandparents. The milk name may be abandoned but is often continued as a form of familial nickname. A superstitious custom sometimes attached to the milk name is to select a disgusting name, in order to ward off evil spirits who might wish to harm the child.
Nicknames (t 綽號, s 绰号, chuòhào; 外号, wàihào) are acquired in China in much the same way they are in other countries. Not everyone has one. Most that do received theirs in childhood or adolescence from family or friends. Common Chinese nicknames are those based on a person's physical attributes, speaking style, or behavior. Names involving animals are common, although those animals may be associated with different attributes than they are in English: for example, Chinese cows are strong, not stupid; foxes are devious, not clever; pigs are ugly, lazy, stupid, or content, but not dirty. Similarly, nicknames that might seem especially insulting in English – such as "Little Fatty" (小胖) – are more acceptable in Chinese. One especially common method of creating nicknames is prefixing Ā- (阿) or Xiǎo (小) to the surname or the second character of the given name. Ā- is more common in southern China and abroad, while Xiǎo is common throughout China. Nicknames are rarely used in formal or semi-formal settings, although a famous exception is A-bian.
English is taught throughout China's secondary schools and the English language section is a required component of the Gaokao, China's college entrance examination. Many Chinese teenagers thus acquire English names, which they may keep and use as nicknames even in Chinese-language contexts. Chinese may adopt English names for a variety of reasons, including foreigners' difficulty with Chinese tones and the modern Chinese tendency to regard foreign names as modern or egalitarian. The freedom associated with choosing a Chinese given name sometimes leads to choosing English names which seem bizarre to native English speakers.
In Hong Kong, because of its one and a half century British rule, many Hong Kong people will pick English names as early as attending English classes in kindergarten, or even have the English alias embedded in official documentation. The English alias are widely used at schools and at work. Similar to Singapore, who shares similar historical development, it is very common among Hongkongers to address each other with English alias. English alias can be accepted as part of the name in official documentation, but whether to include such is an option to individuals.
Upon maturity, it was common for educated males to acquire a courtesy name (字, zì or 表字, biǎozì) either from one's parents, a teacher, or self-selection. The name commonly mirrored the meaning of one's given name or displayed his birth order within his family.
The practice was a consequence of admonitions in the Book of Rites that among adults it is disrespectful to be addressed by one's given name by others within the same generation. The true given name was reserved for the use of one's elders, while the courtesy name was employed by peers on formal occasions and in writing. The practice was decried by the May Fourth Movement and has been largely abandoned.
Pseudonyms or aliases (t 號, s 号, hào) or pen names (t 筆名, s 笔名, bǐmíng) were self-selected alternative courtesy names, most commonly three or four characters long. They may have originated from too many people having the same courtesy name.
Some – but by no means most – authors do continue to employ stylized pen names. A famous[dubious ] example is the exile and dissident poet Zhao Zhenkai, whose pen name is "Bei Dao" (北岛, lit. "North Island").
Posthumous names (t 諡號, s 谥号, shìhào) were honorary names selected after a person's death, used extensively for royalty. The common "names" of most Chinese emperors before the Tang Dynasty – with the pointed exception of Shi Huangdi – are their posthumous ones. In addition to emperors, successful courtiers and politicians such as Sun Yat-sen also occasionally received posthumous titles.
The temple name (t 廟號, s 庙号, miàohào) of the emperor inscribed on the spiritual tablets of the imperial ancestral temple often differed from his posthumous name. The structure eventually became highly restricted, consisting of a single adjective and either zǔ (祖) or zōng (宗). These common "names" of the emperors between the Tang and the Yuan are their temple ones.
The era name (年号, niánhào) arose from the custom of dating years by the reigns of the ruling emperors. Under the Han, the practice began of changing regnal names as means of dispensing with bad luck and attracting better. Almost all era names were literary and employed exactly two characters. By the Ming and Qing dynasties, emperors had largely dispensed with the practice and kept a single era name during their reign, such that it is customary to refer to Ming and Qing emperors by their era names.
Forms of address
Within families, it is often considered inappropriate or even offensive to use the given names of relatives who are senior to the speaker. Instead, it is more customary to identify each family member by abstract hierarchical connections: among siblings, gender and birth order (big sister, second sister, and so on); for the extended family, the manner of relationship (by birth or marriage; from the maternal or paternal side).
The hierarchical titles of junior relatives are seldom used except in formal situations, or as indirect reference when speaking to family members who are even younger than the person in question. Children can be called by their given names, or their parents may use their nicknames.
When speaking of non-family social acquaintances, people are generally referred to by a title, for example Mother Li (simplified Chinese: 李妈妈; traditional Chinese: 李媽媽; pinyin: lǐ māma) or Mrs. Zhu (朱太太, pinyin: zhū tàitai). Personal names are used when referring to adult friends or to children, although, unlike in the west, referring to somebody by their full name (including surname) 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 lǎo (老, old) or xiǎo (小, young) followed by their family name, thus Lǎo Wáng (老王) or Xiǎo Zhāng (小張, 小张). Xiǎo 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, lǎo (old) does not carry disrespect, offense or any negative implications even if it is used to refer to an older woman. Despite this, it is advisable for non-Chinese to avoid calling a person xiǎo-something or lǎo-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 xiānsheng (Chinese: 先生, mister) or nǚshì (Chinese: 女士, madam) is relatively neutral and unlikely to cause offense.
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 (e.g. Chinese: 李老師; pinyin: Lǐ Lǎoshī; literally: "Teacher Li"), and commonly by others as a mark of respect. Where applicable, "Teacher Surname" is considered more respectful than "Mr/Mrs/Miss Surname" in Chinese. A professor is also commonly addressed as "teacher", though "professor" is also accepted as a respectful title. 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 shortened to simply the first character of the word "engineer" -- Chinese: 工; pinyin: Gōng. Should the person being addressed be the head of a company (or simply the middle manager of another company to whom you would like to show respect), one might equally address them by the title "zŏng" (simplified Chinese: 总; traditional Chinese: 總), which means "general" or "overall", and is the first character of titles such as "Director General" or "General Manager" (e.g. simplified Chinese: 李总; traditional Chinese: 李總; pinyin: Lĭ zŏng), or, if they are slightly lower down on the corporate food-chain but nonetheless a manager, by affixing Jīnglĭ (simplified Chinese: 经理; traditional Chinese: 經理, manager).
Because the small number of Chinese surnames leads to confusion in social environments, and because some Chinese parents have a desire to give individuality, some Chinese have received unusual given names. As of April 2009, about 60 million Chinese people have unusual characters in their names. A 2006 report by the People's Republic of China Public Security Bureau stated that of about 55,000 Chinese characters used in the People's Republic of China, only 32,232 of those are supported by the ministry's computers. The PRC government has asked individuals with unusual names to change them so they can get new computer-readable public identity cards, and the diversity prevents them from receiving new identity cards if they do not change their names.
Beginning in at least 2003, the PRC government has been writing a list of standardized characters for everyday usage in life, which would be the pool of characters to select from when a child is given his or her name. Originally the limits were to go in place in 2005. In April 2009, the list had been revised 70 times, and it still has not been put into effect.
Wang Daliang, a China Youth University for Political Sciences linguistics scholar, said that "Using obscure names to avoid duplication of names or to be unique is not good. Now a lot of people are perplexed by their names. The computer cannot even recognize them and people cannot read them. This has become an obstacle in communication." Zhou Youyong, the dean of the Southeast University law school, argued that the ability to choose the name of one's children is a fundamental right, so the PRC government should be careful when making new naming laws.
While the vast majority of Han Chinese names consist of two or three characters, there are some Han Chinese with longer names, up to 15 characters. In addition, transliteration of ethnic languages into Chinese characters often results in long names.
Han family names on Taiwan are similar to those in southeast China, as most families trace their origins to places such as Fujian and Guangdong. The Taiwanese aborigines have also adopted Chinese names as part of their Sinicization. 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 (陳) being particularly more common (about 11% on Taiwan, compared with about 3% on the Mainland). Local variations also exist.
Given names that consist of one character are much less common on Taiwan than on the mainland.
A traditional practice, now largely supplanted, was choosing deliberately unpleasant given names to ward off bad omens and evil spirits. For example, a boy facing a serious illness might be renamed Ti-sái (豬屎, lit. "Pig Shit") to indicate to the evil spirits that he was not worth their trouble. Similarly, a girl from a poor family might have the name Bóng-chhī (罔市, lit. "No Takers").
Nicknames (囝仔名, gín-á-miâ, "child names") are common and generally adopt the Southern Chinese practice of affixing the prefix "A-" (阿) to the last syllable of a person's name. Although these names are rarely used in formal contexts, there are a few public figures who are well known by their nicknames, including former president A-bian and the singer A-mei.
In Malaysia and Singapore, it is equally acceptable for Western names to appear before or after the Chinese given name. Thus, the Singaporean President Tony Tan might see his name written as "Tony Tan Keng Yam" or "Tan Keng Yam Tony". Individuals are free to register their legal names in either format on their identity cards. In general use, the English name first version is typically preferred as it keeps the correct order for both systems; however, for administrative purposes, the government agencies tend to place the English name last to organize lists of names and databases more easily.
The Hong Kong printed media tend to adopt the hybrid name style – for example, Andy Lau Tak-wah – although some people prefer American-style middle names, such as Steven N. S. Cheung, or simply use English names like Henry Lee. On official records such as the Hong Kong Identity Cards, family names are always printed first in all-caps and followed by a comma for all names, including Chinese ones. Thus, the examples above would have identity cards that read "LAU, Tak-wah Andy" or "CHEUNG, Steven Ng-sheong", with the position of the given names determined at the time of application. Non-Chinese names are printed in similar style: "LEE, Henry".
Chinese names in English
Chinese people, except for those traveling or living outside of China, rarely reverse their names to the western naming order (given name, then family name). Western publications usually preserve the Chinese naming order, with the family name first, followed by the given name. Beginning in the early 1980s, in regards to people from Mainland China, western publications began using the Hanyu Pinyin romanization system instead of earlier romanization systems; this resulted from the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China in 1979.
The usual presentation of Chinese names in English differs from the usual presentations of modern Japanese names, since modern Japanese names are usually reversed to fit the western order in English. In English the presentation of Chinese names is similar to those of Korean names. Edith Terry, author of How Asia Got Rich, said that "it was one of the ironies of the late twentieth century that Japan remained stranded in the formal devices underlining its historical quest for equality with the West, while China set its own terms, in language as in big-power politics." As of 1989, Pinyin became the preferred romanization system in works discussing contemporary China, while English-language books relevant to Japanese history still used the Wade–Giles system to romanize Chinese names more often than other romanization systems. As of 1993, Wade–Giles was still used in Taiwan.
Kinds of Chinese group-names:
- Kinds of personal-names
- Indonesian-sounding names adopted by Chinese Indonesians as the biggest overseas Chinese group
- List of common Chinese surnames
- Japanese name
- Korean name
- Vietnamese name
- Naming laws in the People's Republic of China
- The Xinhua Net article "我国汉族公民最长姓名达15字" (op. cit.) reported that in 2007 97% of all Chinese names longer than 10 characters were held by citizens living in Xinjiang.
- 何春中 (12 Dec 2007). "我国汉族公民最长姓名达15字 公安部：起名不规范会有不便". Xinhua Net. Accessed 16 Mar 2012. (Chinese)
- Beijing News. "一个“张伟”找到29万人". 26 Jul 2007. Accessed 16 Mar 2012. (Chinese)
- People's Daily. "Chinese surname shortage sparks rethink". 19 May 2007. Accessed 16 Mar 2012.
- Dru C. Gladney (1996). Muslim Chinese: Ethnic Nationalism in the People's Republic. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Asia Center. p. 375. ISBN 0-674-59497-5. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
- The 2004 Taiwanese Ministry of Education Dictionary of Chinese Variant Form compiled 106,230.
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