Chinese name

Chinese name
Chinese 姓名
Hanyu Pinyin xìngmíng

Chinese personal names are names used by those from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and the Chinese diaspora overseas. Due to China's historical dominance of East Asian culture, many names used in Korea and Vietnam are adaptations of Chinese names, or have historical roots in Chinese, with appropriate adaptation to accommodate linguistic differences.

Modern Chinese names consist of a surname known as xing ( , xìng), which comes first and is usually but not always monosyllabic, followed by a personal name called ming ( , míng), which is nearly always mono- or disyllabic. Prior to the 20th century, educated Chinese also utilized a "courtesy name" or "style name" called zi ( , ) by which they were known among those outside of their family and closest friends.

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.


Although some terms in the ancient Chinese naming system, such as xìng () and míng (), are still used today, they were used in different and more complex ways than in modern China.

In the first half of the 1st millennium BC, during the Zhou dynasty, members of the Chinese nobility could possess up to four different names—personal names (míng 名), clan names (xìng 姓), lineage names (shì 氏), and "style" or "courtesy" names ( 字)—and up to two titles: standard titles (jué 爵), and posthumous titles (shì 諡 or shìhào 諡號). [1] Commoners possessed only a personal name (ming), and the modern concept of a "surname" or "family name" did not yet exist at any level of society. [1] The old lineage (shi) and clan names (xing) began to become "family names" in the modern sense and trickle down to commoners around 500 BC, during the late Spring and Autumn period, but the process took several centuries to complete, and it was not until the late Han dynasty (1st and 2nd centuries AD) that all Chinese commoners had surnames. [2]