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« Back to articles from category "Culture"

The following article was published in our article directory on November 24, 2010.
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A Chinese Name For The Western World

Article Category: Culture

Author Name: James Tien


Chinese and western names have many discrepancies among them. Most prominent of these is the inclusion of the surname before the first, or "given name". The Chinese "family name" is what is known as a surname. For an English speaker, addressing a Chinese by their given name is the proper way to converse. A Chinese name carries with it both the legacy of their family as well as a personalized description of their personality.

It is commonly known to be a taboo to marry another individual with the same family name, though contemporary Chinese often disregard this. There are around seven hundred Chinese family names that exist, though only twenty can be said to be commonplace today. As such, many Chinese today share the same family name although they have no relation to one another, and this superstition has been relaxed.

This discrepancy between first and last names can lead to some confusion in business with western acquaintances. As such, many Chinese that are employed often change their given names to a western one that is more recognized and applicable; as many western individuals cannot pronounce their true names, and English text processors have difficulty with their characters.

Given names begin at birth with what is known as a "milk name". This is created by parents before the permanent name is given. The family has a month to register the child, though this name can continued to be used until the child is older. A specific example of a milk name consists of doubling a character or adding another word to the given name.

The Chinese are known for their sometimes inexplicable names. Basically, any character can be used in the creation of a name, and unlike their western counterparts, naming a child after a relative or ancestor is considered offensive. Thus, most Chinese are named uniquely, and often the name reflects the society in which they are raised.

The uneducated, rural Chinese often have simpler names, rather than ones that are completely descriptive. Alternatively, more educated, suburban Chinese will adopt western names. These names are used in school, and also in conversation with other Chinese. School students often prefer calling classmates by their given names.

A Chinese nickname consists of mainly physical traits of the bearer, such as speaking style or any other unusual characteristics. As with their Western counterparts, the Chinese do not use these names in formal settings. Part of the given name may also be present within the nickname, which personalizes its value.

About the Author: James Tien is an expert in the Chinese culture niche. He recommends Absolutely Feng Shui for more on What is Feng Shui? and Chinese Names.

Keywords: Chinese name

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