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Names of Chinese People

Names of Chinese People

The surnames of Chinese appeared during the matriarchal society, when clans were constituted with mothers at the center. And clans distinguished themselves from each other by using the name.

The surname has roughly several origins as follows:
  • With the first name of the mother as the surname of the clan in the matriarchal society.
  • With the creatures worshipped in remote antiquity as the surname, such as horse, cattle, sheep, dragon, etc.
  • With ancient states names as the surname, such as Zhao, Song, Qin, Wu, etc.
  • With ancient official titles eventually adopted as the surname, such as Sima, and Situ
  • With the rank or title of nobility as the surname.
  • With the location and scene in residential places as the surname.
  • With the profession as the surname. For instance, the person who makes pottery has the surname of pottery.
  • With ancestor's official and courtest names as the surname. For example, the Chinese nation's ancestor was named Xuanyuan, which later became a surname.

Some are one-character surnames, while others are compound surnames made up of two or more characters. Up to now, there is no exact statistic on how many surnames there are in China. Contemporary Chinese use about 3,500 Chinese surnames. Among the 100 commonly used surnames, the three most common are Le, Wang and Zhang; Zhuge, Ouyang, Situ and Sima are the common compound surnames

In China, the surname comes first, and is followed by the given name, and the later has its own traditions and features. It can have one or two characters. In the same clan, the given name is arranged in the order of seniority in the family hierarchy. And the given names of the peers usually have one Chinese character in common if there are more than one character in their given names. The names of the ancient men were more complicated than those of the modern people. People of literacy and status have both a style name and an alternative name, along with the surname and given name. For example, a man of letters Su Shi in Song Dynasty had the style name Zizhan and the alternative name Dongpo. The poet Li Bai in Tang Dynasty lived in Qinglian Village in Szechuan province in his childhood, and thus he styled himself QingLian jushi - retired scholar.

Chinese names usually have a certain meaning, expressing some kink of wish. Some names embody the location, time or natural phenomenon when the person was born, such as Jing - Beijing, Chen - morning, Dong - winter, and Xue - snow. Some names indicate the expectation of possessing some virtues, such as Zhong - loyalty, Yi - justice, Li - etiquette, and Xin - faith. Some names have the meaning of health, longevity and happiness, such as Jian - health, Shou - longevity, Song - pine, representing longevity, and Fu - happiness. Make names are different from female ones: male's names usually have the character meaning power and vigor, such as Hu - tiger, Long - dragon, Xiong - grandeur, Wei - magnificene, Gang - hardness, and Qiang - strength. And the names of female usually use characters representing gentleness and beauty, such as Feng - phoenix, Hua - flower, Yu - jade, Cai - colors, Juan - graceful, and Jing - quiet.

Today, Chinese does not pay as much attention to naming, as did ancient folk. Generally a person has an infant name and an officail one, and the given names are not necessarily arranged in the order of the seniority in the family hierarchy. However, it's still the Chinese people's wish to give their children a name which sounds good and meaningful.

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