Apr 22, 2014


Names can be cultural symbols, indicate blood ties, and have complex history and meaning depending on the language and culture.  Due to differences in race, language, faith, etc., the naming systems are greatly varied. In the long history of China, the practice of choosing names has been an important part of Chinese life.

In China there are five basic ways to choose a name. First, the name can reflect beautiful wishes in people’s heart. For example, if parents hope a child will be exceptionally intelligent, they might choose a name with one of the following characters: 慧(huì), 颖(yǐng), 敏(mǐn), 聪(cōng), and 睿(ruì), all of which literally mean clever or smart.

Second, a name can be based on the weather conditions when a person was born. For example, if it was raining when a baby was born, the baby's name might include the character, 雨(yǔ, rain). Other characters such as 雪(xuě, snow) and 小雨(xiáoyǔ, rain shower) are often seen in Chinese names.

Third, a name can refer to historical events, especially if the child was born on the anniversary of that event. You might meet a person named 文革(the Cultural Revolution). This type of name is chose to remember and honor the event. Fourth, a name can refer to festivals, especially if the child was born on the day of the festival. For example, 国庆(guóqìng) and 建国(jiànguó) are common in Chinese naming. A person with this name was probably born on National Day, a day to celebrate the establishment of China. The former name, 国庆(guóqìng) refers to the national holiday while the latter, 建国(jiànguó), means the establishment of the country. Both are used to show patriotism.

Fifthly and finally, names can be purposefully humble. It is believed that the more humble a person’s name is, the more he or she will have an easy life.  So you might meet a person with a name like 狗蛋(gǒudàn, little dog), 黑皮(hēipí, black skin) and other odd, humble names.

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