What You Need to Know about Chinese Names

In China there is a saying:

“不怕生错命, 就怕起错名”

(Bú pà shēng cuò mìng, jiù pà qǐcuò míng)

‘Don’t worry about being born with the wrong destiny, but being given the wrong name’.

Chinese Family Names
From Aboluowang

This emphasizes the belief in China that your name will determine your fortune. If you are a learner of Chinese and take Chinese language classes, your teacher must have already picked a good name for you. All you need to know is that name is extremely important to Chinese people. So, children are named with qualities their parents hope they will posses to give them a good life in the future.

From Wellness Today

Zodiac predictions can also be used to help parents to pick a suitable name as you want to ensure there is a balance in your child’s life. Chinese names are also very short, with two characters at the most.

Unlike in the west where we name our children after our elders to show respect, in China, this is considered a very big taboo.

Chinese children
From Fotolia

For a westerner, it might be hard at the start to hear a difference between male and female given names. As you learn more Chinese you will notice that women’s names emphasize female characteristics like ‘美’ (Mei3, ) ‘beautiful’ or are tied to objects that are seen as feminine  ‘莲花’ (lian2 hua1) ‘Lotus flower’.

From Visit Korea

Girls names will most likely also have phonetic female parts in their character, like my name 安娜 Anna, notice how both the characters have ‘女’ (nv3) meaning female.

The Chinese character of female
The Chinese character of “female”

Whereas men have names that have ties to strong objects or masculine traits like ‘杰’ (Jie2) meaning heroic.

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