|Chinese||字辈 or 班次|
|Hanyu Pinyin||zìbèi or bāncì|
|Hangul||돌림자 or 항렬자|
|Hanja||돌림字 or 行列字|
|Revised Romanization||dollimja, hangnyeolja|
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 (i.e. siblings and cousins of the same generation) share that character, unlike surnames or given names.
Where used, generation names were usually given only to males, although this does vary from lineage to lineage and has changed over time.
The sequence of generation is typically prescribed and kept in record by a generation poem (banci lian 班次聯 or paizi ge 派字歌 in Chinese) specific to each lineage. While it may have a mnemonic function, these poems can vary in length from around a dozen characters to hundreds of characters. Each successive character becomes the generation name for successive generations. After the last character of the poem is reached, the poem is usually recycled though occasionally it may be extended.
Generation poems were usually composed by a committee of family elders whenever a new lineage was established through geographical emigration or social elevation. Thus families sharing a common generation poem are considered to also share a common ancestor and have originated from a common geographical location.
Important examples are the generation poems of the Kong and Meng family. During the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Jianwen respected Confucius and Mencius so much that he honored their families with generation poems. These generation poems were extended with the permission of the Chongzhen Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, the Tongzhi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty, and the Ministry of Interior of the Beiyang Government. Another notable generation poem is the Nguyễn dynasty's Đế hệ thi (帝係詩 ‘Poem of the Generations of the Imperial Family’), created by Minh Mạng emperor.
Generation names may be the first or second character in a given name. Normally this position is consistent for the associated lineage. However some lineages alternate its position from generation to generation. This is quite common for Korean names. Sometimes lineages will also share the same radical in the non-generation name.
A related, but uncommon, custom is the practice of giving two children characters from a multiple-syllabic word. In Chinese, most words are composed of two or more syllables. For example, by taking apart the word jiàn-kāng 健康 (‘healthy’), the Wang family might name one son Wáng Jiàn (王健) and the other Wáng Kāng (王康). Another example would be měi-lì 美丽 (‘beautiful’). Daughters of the Zhous might be names Zhōu Měi (周美) and Zhōu Lì (周丽).
Besides the Han majority, the Muslim Hui also widely employed generation names, which they call lunzi paibie; for instance, in the Na family, the five most recent generations used the characters Wan, Yu, Zhang, Dian, and Hong. This practice is slowly fading since the government began keeping public records of genealogy.
Table with example family
This table illustrates an example.
|Family member||Chinese form||Full name|
|Family name||Generation name||Given name|
|Father's sibling||Xia||Zhou||Sui||Xia Zhousui|
|Mother's sibling||Shang||Qin||Song||Shang Qinsong|
|First child||Xia||Han||Zheng||Xia Hanzheng|
|Second child||Xia||Han||Li||Xia Hanli|
|Third child||Xia||Han||Yong||Xia Hanyong|
In place of a biological generation, the character could be used as an indicator of seniority and peer groups in religious lineages. Thus, in the lay Buddhist circles of Song and Yuan times, it could be Dào (道 ‘Dharma’), Zhì (智 ‘wisdom’), Yuán (圆 ‘Complete/All-embracing’[N.B. 1]), Pǔ (普 ‘universal’[N.B. 2]), Jué (觉 ‘Enlightenment’), Shàn (善 ‘Skillful/Virtuous’). The characters demonstrated belonging to a devotionalist group with a social status close to the family one. The affiliation character Miào (妙 ‘Profound/Marvellous’) usually was used by women, relating them to Guanyin, as Miàoshàn (妙善) was her name at birth.
In a same way, taking the monastic vows meant the break with the family lineage, which was shown by application of the surname Shì (释, Thích in Vietnam) in one's Dharma name, the first character of the Shakyamuni Buddha's name in Chinese, Shìjiāmóuní (释迦牟尼).
- 圆 corresponds to pūrṇa (‘teeming/filled’) in Sanskrit, as in the Complete Enlightenment (Pūrṇabuddha 圓覺).
- 普 is the equivalent of viśva in Sanskrit
- Michener, James A. (1959). "IV: From the starving village". Hawaii. Fawcett Crest Book. New York: Ballantine Books. pp. 480–485. ISBN 0-449-21335-8.
- (Chinese) 孔姓 (The Kong family, descendents of Confucius)
- (Chinese) 孟姓 (The Meng family, descendents of Mencius)
- Susan Debra Blum, Lionel M. Jensen (2002). China off center: mapping the margins of the middle kingdom (illustrated ed.). University of Hawaii Press. p. 121. ISBN 0-8248-2577-2. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
- W.E. Soothill & Lewis Hodous, 1937, A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms.
- Charles Muller, the Digital Dictionary of Buddhism.
Examples of generation poems:
- The generation poems of the Ming dynasty princes (Chinese)
- The Shaolin lineage poem, used by monks at the Shaolin Temple and representing the continuity of the Dharma transmission
- The generation poem of the descendants of Huang Qiaoshan (871–953)
- Ten generation poems of the Cantonese Lee family (Chinese)