Posted by: oliviapontet | May 24, 2012

Names in China

Many people wonder how to translate their names in Chinese. This is quite complex.

First some facts about Chinese names and surnames:

In Chinese, we always put the family name first, followed by given name. For example, Hu Jintao (current President): The name is Hu.

Unlike at home where there is a limited number of names and a huge number of family names, it is quite the opposite in Chinese. There are a hundred surnames more or less (well no, there’s more, but among the names customary let’s say a hundred). As against the names are endless, since parents can choose any character to dial (with some rules and trends that I will explain below)

Interestingly, the Chinese character for surname 姓 is composed of radical 女 (woman) followed 生 (give birth). Yet a child take the surname of his father.

As I said, for the first name is much more free-style. Generally composed of one or two characters, it gives a complete names (name and surname) of 2 or 3 characters. Prior to 1996, 90% of the names were recorded in the latter category. As for the characters used, there are trends: for example, during Communist China there were many “红” in names (red). Or the surname meaning “glory of the country” and so on.

For girls, we love the characters that mean beautiful, delicate, elegant, etc.. and everything related to floral or jade. For example, in my class I have a 美 玉 (yumei, beautiful jade). With that said, I had a teacher whose name meant something like “continues to study.”

For boys, we love strong animals (tiger, dragon), and adjectives like brave, glorious etc.. In my class there is a 光 南 (Nanguang glory of the south or south light). Or better known example, Bruce Lee, whose stage name is 李小龙 Chinese, Li Little Dragon.


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