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Chinese Names

A complete Chinese name is composed of two parts; a family name (surname) and a given name. Chinese surnames originated from the matriarchal clan society about five thousand years ago. There are numerous surnames, but the exact number is not available. An intellectual in the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279) wrote a book titled 'Bai Jia Xing', meaning 'hundreds of surnames'. In the book are over five hundreds family names of Chinese including over sixty compound surnames (a compound surname is composed of two characters). It is said that Zhang, Wang, Li, Zhao and Liu are the most popular single surnames, and that Zhuge, Oyang, Situ, etc. are the most familiar compound family names.

Chinese names have their own traditional features. The surname, generally one character coming first, is usually passed down from father to children. Chinese women still kept their surname after marriage. The given name is often composed of one or two characters that are meaningful and hopeful. Some are named after their birth place, while others are named after natural sights or virtues. Boys' names usually show force or valor, while the names of girls are composed of soft and beautiful characters. Nowadays, Chinese names are not as complex as the ancient names with alias and more and more parents would like to choose the rare characters with significant senses for their child to avoid the similar or unisonant given names with other people.

Here are some points on addressing a Chinese person. We usually address a Chinese person by his or her family name. Otherwise it can be considered impolite; unless you are longtime, good friends. Following the surname, use Xiansheng (Mr.) for men, and Nvshi (Ms.) or Xiaojie (Miss.) for women. Using the same western custom, we suggest that you add professional title after his or her family names when addressing a very important person. For example, we address President Hu Jintao as Hu Zhuxi, Minister Wen as Wen Zongli, and Manager Zhang as Zhang Jingli, etc.

I want to say
  • Replykaren berger,   United States
    2012/4/27 21:30:00

    My friends name is Zhengyi Liu, her parent are visiting from China, I want to give them a card, how do I address the card?
    Thank you.

    • Jack :2012/4/28 20:56:00

      I guess it is liú zhèng yì.

    • Hank :2012/4/28 20:58:00

      I know that in China people often call a friend's parents uncle and aunt in respect.

  • Replykaren berger,   United States
    2012/4/27 21:35:00

    Second question:

    My Chinese friend always wants to be called by an American nick-name.. how do I pronounce her real Chinese name?
    Zhengyi Liu. Thank you

  • Replyjudy,   United Kingdom
    2012/4/25 6:12:00

    I am writing a business email to an assistant professor in China, called Jiancheng Weng. What is the correct way to address him?

    • Babara :2012/4/25 19:05:00

      Both Mr. Weng Jiangcheng and Mr. Weng are ok.

  • ReplyJeff,   United States
    2011/11/8 7:44:00

    I am addressing a letter to Tsai Bao Cheng

    is it correct to right Dear Mr. Cheng: ?

    • Tina :2011/11/8 18:47:00

      Hi Jeff,
      no. it should be Dear Mr. Tsai:, or just Dear Mr. Tsai Bao Cheng:

  • ReplyNatalie
    2011/6/15 13:25:00

    can you help me i need to do a project and i need a good chinese name for and girl

    • Sue :2011/6/15 20:13:00

      a Chinese Name for girl?
      is it for you?
      how about Zhao Na

  • ReplyLytton,   Ireland
    2010/11/11 3:18:00

    my name is Lytton , i want a Chinese Name.

    • Bella :2011/5/16 22:28:00

      how about Li Te ??, which sounds like your English name?

  • ReplyMrs P Tempest,   United Kingdom
    2008/12/5 13:44:00


    • amthony camareo :2011/5/16 12:59:00

      do u now the history of china becuz we are studiing it and we need to know what is a kite and do u no wut fufu means?

    • Sandy :2011/5/16 22:22:00

      hi Amthony Camareo,
      you can find information about Chinese history here
      and here is the info. about the Kite:
      no idea about fufu.

  • ReplyStephanie,   Indonesia
    2009/11/7 9:38:00

    please give me a chinese name suggestion

  • ReplyEmily Ann,   China
    2009/3/11 18:57:00

    hello my mane is Emily, how are you?