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中国人的姓名 (zhōngguó rén de xìngmíng) Chinese Surnames and Given Names

Jan. 20, 2010

中国人的姓名 (zhōngguó rén de xìngmíng) Chinese Surnames and Given Names
In Chinese, the surname comes first and then the given name. The full name of a Han Chinese is composed of two parts: the surnames and the given name.

A Chinese “姓 (xìng) surname” refers to one of the over seven hundred family names used by Han Chinese and Sinicized Chinese ethnic groups. The term “百姓 (băixìng) the hundred family names” is colloquially used in Chinese to mean people/commoners. Chinese surnames are mainly passed from the father.

Given names
Generally speaking, Chinese given names have one or two characters, and are written after the family name. When a baby is born, parents often give him or her a “乳名 (rŭmíng) pet name” or “小名 (xiăomíng) little name,” such as “小宝 (xiăobăo) Little Gem” or two characters that repeat “明明 (míngmíng) Ming Ming.” The given name is then usually chosen later and is often chosen with consultation of the grandparents. As mentioned earlier, in Chinese, the surname comes first and then the given name. Therefore “John Smith” as a Chinese name would be “Smith John.” For instance, the NBA star Yao Ming should be addressed as “Mr. Yao”, not “Mr. Ming.” And people like to add “小 (xiăo)” before family name, such as “小王 (xiăowáng),” “小郑 (xiăozhèng),” “小李 (xiăolĭ)” and so on. In calling their superiors or elders, the Chinese are accustomed to the nonreciprocal or asymmetrical addressing. They use “title +surname” to address their superior or elders rather than call them surnames (e.g. Professor Wang), while the superior or elders call the addressers their names directly. The Chinese tend to abide by the principle of depreciating oneself and respecting others to show appropriate respects towards the persons being addressed. Otherwise, the addresser may be considered as ill mannered, ill educated or rude.


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