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Features of Chinese People’s Names

There are over 5,000 Chinese family names in China, among which more than 200 are commonly seen.

Rainbow Niu
Rainbow Niu
Book lesson

A Chinese name always starts with the family name and ends with the given names, for example, in the names “李飞”, “张小鹏” and “王芳”, “李” “张” and “王” are family names and “飞”、“小鹏” and “芳” are given names.

The Most Common Chinese Names

There are over 5,000 Chinese family names in China, among which more than 200 are commonly seen. For example, “张”, “王”, “李” and “赵” are the most common ones. Such family names as having only one character are known as single-character surnames. Most Chinese people have a single-character surname. There are family names with two characters also in China, which are called compound character family names, such as “欧阳” and “诸葛” and so on.

Chinese Names’ Meanings

Most given names have one or two characters in China. Now the given names with two characters account for the majority. Given names usually have a certain meaning. For example, some given names indicate the expectation of possessing some virtues, such as “义 (justice),” and “诚 (faith).” Some given names have the meaning of health, longevity, and happiness, such as “健 (health),” “松 (pine, representing longevity).” Some given names indicate the location or time when the person was born, such as “京 (Beijing),” “晨 (morning).” Male names are different from female ones in China, such as “刚(hardness)” or “伟(magnificence)” are often used in male names, but “柔(gentleness)” and “静(calmness)” are often used in female names.

In addition, a person can be addressed with his/her family name followed by his/her job or profession in China. For example, “李飞” is a teacher, so we can call her “李老师”(means Teacher Li), while “王芳” is a doctor and we can call her “王医生”(means Doctor Wang).

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