History Of Family Names

history of family names

Chinese Names And Their Origins

Naming conventions are different in the Chinese culture when they are compared to Western naming conventions in that Chinese names are written with the family name first proceeded by the given name. Chinese people address each other by their full names. When Chinese people do business with Westerners they will sometimes adopt a Western name by adding a name such as Jack before their given Chinese name.

Chinese surnames are passed from generation to generation and tell a lot about a person’s family history. It is a source of honor and pride in the culture. It is said that surnames originated with the Emperor Fu Xi from the year 2852 BC. A Chinese surname reflects the past deeds of ones ancestors over the span of many years.

The Chinese people have a two name convention that was traditional until the Han Dynasty banned it. Today it is acceptable to use the two name convention if one chooses to do so. When referring to someone it is respectful to use both names when appropriate and one should never use only one of the names.

It was considered bad luck to marry someone with the same name in the Chinese culture at one time, today it is more accepted. Some women will add their husband’s name to their maiden name when they marry, Chinese women generally keep their maiden name and their family name and not take their husband’s name when marrying. In writing their names the family name comes before the given name.

A surname can tell a lot about how long a family has been in existence. The given name can be one or two characters and it proceeds the family name when written. Nicknames for a baby are appropriate but the final name must be decided upon within a month after birth when the baby is registered.

Non-family friends are addressed by their formal titles such as the position they hold in their family, like father. Children are addressed by their given name. It is bad practice to call elders in the family by their given name.

When conducting business with Westerners the Chinese will often adopt a popular Western name like Steve or John to fit into the culture. They will always retain their surname however. They will sometimes just reverse the placement of their name to comply with Western naming conventions.

 

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