There are a lot of things which are interesting to study about a different culture, and one of these examples is baby names. We all have names that were in one way or another influenced by the culture around us. It took me a long time to learn that westerners pick up an existing name for babies instead of creating a new word. So I think how Chinese people name their newborns is also good to learn.
1. Usually the father’s last name is given to the child, however there is a minority who have their mother’s last name. Since China changes one-child policy, couples who have two kids prefer to name one in father’s last name and the other in mother’s. Don’t be surprise if you know siblings in different last names.
2. It is against Chinese culture to name a child after an elder. The idea of honoring a family member by naming your child after them is not one that Chinese people practice. (I guess that’s why you don’t see many Jr’s around).
3. In most cases, a family name is just one character and a first name is between 1-2 characters long. Very few Chinese people have 3 character names. Data shows Chinese people prefer 2- character name after 2000. Only 10% male newborns have one character name in 2013.
4. Many Chinese parents add a positive descriptor to their children’s name with the hope that they will embody the virtue. Popular virtues include: attractiveness, intelligence, and so on. Many will look up a name in a dictionary or a famous book.
5. The final rule here is that one’s child must not have the same name as someone (as seen from the relative example), and this extends to pop culture. Chinese people definitely do not like giving their children the year’s most popular name, unlike back in the States. Having said this, there are still some rather popular Chinese baby names out there.
Below are lists of popular Chinese and English names that are given to Chinese and American babies. The Chinese names for girls typically highlight beauty and romanticism while boy names highlight future accomplishments. But parents definitely don’t like that their kids have popular names.
Sometimes names have been influenced by the times and the people of those times. For example in the US celebrity names have definitely influenced baby names. Time and time again, once a new president is named there is a jump in baby names! Similarly, during the 1950’s, lots of Chinese people were named建国 [Jiànguó, build the country] and 卫国 [Wèi guó, guard the country]. Nowadays it seems people have been influenced by romantic novels more than before.
So what’s your Chinese name? Do you prefer a unique name or popular one? Share with us.