Chinese Culture >> Chinese Baby Names
Chinese baby names are among some of the most poetic,
beautiful names in the world, but they are often confusing to westerners. To
begin with, in China, the surname (or family name) comes first, followed by the
given, or personal name. So, if John Smith happens to be Chinese, he would refer
to himself as Smith John. Furthermore, in China, unlike in the west, there are
relatively few surnames, but a huge diversity of given names.
Chinese baby names come from the many thousands of Chinese characters, or graphic word symbols, in existence, so the variety of names is enormous. Usually, a Chinese given name will consist of two characters, denoting elements, or ideas, such as 'golden sea' for a baby boy, or 'little iris' for a baby girl. For boys, the characters usually reflect traditional male qualities like strength and endurance, whereas for baby girls, the Chinese name will often be linked to beauty, flowers, refinement, or nature.
In Chinese culture the influence of family is extremely strong. This extends to Chinese baby names. Often, one of the two characters of the given name is shared by all members of a generation within a family. This generational system makes more sense when you realize that it is considered offensive, in China, to name a baby after an older relative. (It is also considered poor taste to name a baby after a well-known public figure or celebrity).
When Chinese babies are born, the parents have a month to register them with the state. In the interim, parents often give the baby a nickname, such as 'bright star,' or 'tiny jewel.' The nickname, or as it is sometimes called, the 'milk name,' may remain with the baby long after childhood!
If you are looking for a two-character Chinese name, be careful not to make the mistake of thinking any character combination will do. While it is true that there are thousands of characters to choose from, not all combinations are appropriate, and some may be very inappropriate! An excellent article by Xiaoning Wang about choosing a Chinese baby name, will give you more guidance on this issue. You can also find useful information in the article on Chinese given names at Wikipedia.org.
With so many names to choose from, it is difficult to create a brief list of Chinese names that does justice to this ancient heritage. The list suggested below, ten for boys and ten for girls, will hopefully at least give you a sense of the variety and beauty of Chinese names. Since the Chinese characters cannot be reproduced in an article such as this, the names have been 'anglicized' in the accepted manner. The translation into modern English should not be taken as the only possible definition, since many Chinese characters have several meanings, and there may also be linguistic nuances beyond the scope of this brief survey. Hopefully, these names and definitions will give you a glimpse of the beautiful Chinese language and the role it serves in the creation of Chinese baby names. Following each name, in parentheses, is the meaning of the name.
Whether you are looking for a traditionial name for a child born in China, or you are honoring your's or your partner's Chinese heritage, or whether you are simply browsing for enjoyment, hopefully these names will help you in your search.
Ten examples of Chinese boys' names include Yaochuan (honoring the river); Honghui (great splendor); Bai (white); Chao (surpassing); Jianyu (building the universe); Qingsheng (celebrating birth); Jinhai (golden sea); Shan (mountain); Longwei (dragon greatness), and Zhengzhong (upright and loyal).
Chinese girls' names include Wencheng (refined accomplishment); Yanlin (swallow forest); Chunhua (spring flower); Cuifen (emerald fragrance); Nuying (female flower); Meilin (plum jade); Qingzhao (clear understanding); Xiaozhi (little iris); Mingyu (bright jade), and Zhenzhen (precious).
About the Author:
Neil Street writes frequently about baby names. He is co-publisher of the Baby Names Garden website