Opinions on Chinese name

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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 standard for the Chinese to address one another – especially those with two-character names – by using full names. So normally, Zhang Wei would be formally addressed as "Mr. Zhang" and informally as "Zhang Wei" – never as "Wei" or "Mr. Wei".

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.


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Thanks to this graph, we can see the interest Chinese name has and the evolution of its popularity.

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