Probably some of you are curious about what makes a Chinese name.

姓名 — full name. 姓 means family name. 名 is given name.

chinese name order naming tradition pronunciation writing characters words

Chinese naming order is with family name at the front before given name. Simply because ancestor is the utmost in Chinese tradition. In my case,  (lǐ) is the surname from father’s ancestor. It means ‘plum’ generally but when it comes to act as a surname, it has nothing to do with the fruit.

My middle name 碧 (bì) means turquoise color, the generation name of my family. For my generation, 碧 is for female and 祖 is for male. My two brothers have 祖 as their middle name. It means all our male cousins sharing the same middle name. I have been told that it is for the records of family. Not many families adopting generation name. But trust me, if I am on mission of searching my ancestor’s root in China, it would be easy for my relatives in china to know which generation I belong to.

Now we come to the last name, or given name. Given names can theoretically include any of the Chinese’s characters and contain almost any meaning. As for my own given name. There is a story behind.

Way way back then, my grandma had the authority to name her grandchildren. She picked 枝 (zhī) as my last name. My mother changed it to 芝(zhī). She thinks that 芝 as some sort of healthy plant is more useful than 枝 as a tree branch.

chinese given name chinese pronunciation writing characters words

So you see. Chinese’s given name is changeable. Many characters are pronounced the same, but have different meanings. If we are not satisfy with it, just need to change to another character that sharing the same pronunciation!

If you like this topic, how about getting to know the trouble with my Chinese name?

Now my friend. Any story about your name, or naming tradition?