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A Simple Basic Guide to Chinese Names

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

Simple Guide to Chinese Names :a family

Simple Guide to Chinese Names :

Chinese name order is:

​ Family name

Given name

​Full Name

Family Names

As befits a culture that emphasizes the importance of family, Chinese ‘family names’ or xìngshì姓氏 , come first. Family names are usually with 1 character or 2 characters. The first character in a Chinese name, passed down from the father’s side, is the family name – the equivalent of an English surname. This is followed by the given name, of either one or two characters.

For example :

马云 mǎ yún

Family name : 马 Ma

GIven Name : 云 yun

马 is one common last name among Chinese, 马 also means horse in China;

云 literally means cloud ;

Simple Guide to Chinese Names Jack Ma Name Example

A number of Chinese surnames are taken from the names of animals, such as 马 (horse), Xióng熊 (bear), Niú 牛 (ox), Yáng羊 (sheep), and Lóng 龙 (dragon). Some believe that this practice comes from the primitive totemic worship of such animals.

李小龙 xiǎo lóng

Family Name : Li (Lee)

Given Name :小龙 xiao long

小 means little; 龙 means dragon ;

Simple Guide to Chinese Names : Bruce lee Chinese Name Example

During the Tang dynasty, this surname - 李 lee was granted to a number of loyal subjects who helped found the dynasty. The surname was bestowed upon them by the emperor LǐShìmín, and of course it was a great honour to share the surname of the Emperor.

The most common surname in China is 王 Wáng

王:Wáng can mean either ‘king’ or ‘the highest official rank of nobility that an emperor may grant his subject’. Apart from those who were members of the imperial family – the wángzú , or ‘royalty’ – a lot of people were granted the surname as an honour, and some even carried it falsely. The family name is not limited solely to descendants of the Chinese imperial family, but also found among the descendants of tribal leaders and the rulers of many ethnic groups.

China has a wealth of family names: there are literally thousands, but you wouldn’t think it by looking at any school class register, for example. Around 20 surnames alone account for a vast majority of the country’s population.

Most 20 common surnames ( single character family name) in china:

​王wáng; 李lǐ ; 张 zhāng ; 刘 liú; 陈chén; 杨yáng ; 黄 huáng ; 赵 zhào ;

​吴 wú ;周zhōu ;徐 xú;孙sūn; 马mǎ;朱zhū ; 胡hú ;郭 guō; 何hé;

林lín ;罗 luó ; 高 gāo

Two character- surnames( 复姓 fù xìng ) can be rare in China, only small population in China have this type of family name; Common 2 -character names in China : (2 characters family name):

欧阳 ōu yáng ; 上官shàng guān ; 皇甫 huáng fǔ ; 令狐 lìng hú; 诸葛 zhū gě ;司徒 sī tú

司马 sī mǎ ;

Note : Minorities in China dont have the same name traditions as Han Chinese, some have their own languages, and their name rules can be totally different from Han Chinese.

Simple Guide to Chinese Names : Given names

One must consider the meaning of the characters in the name in China, as well as what the characters look like. Both are equally as important as the pronunciation of the name itself.

Some people think a good name should also take into account the customs and traditions of Chinese elemental astrology – the signs of the zodiac and the five elements – to make sure that the characters used do not make for an unlucky combination, chinese parents are willing to pay money to find professional given name organitions to create the perfect name for their babies.

How to create a Chinese name for yourself as a foreigner ?

1. Choose a family name with 1 or 2 characters that sounds like your own language family name.

2. Find 1 or 2 characters with good meanings and nice sounds as given name.

3. Ask one of your Chinese friends to name you or get feedbacks if the name you created for yourself is a good one.


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