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Generation Names in China: Past, Present, and Future



Traditional Chinese names are composed of three parts: the family name, a generation name, and a given name. The male generation name marks the position of the bearer in the sequence of generations within a clan. Until the middle of the 20th century, most Chinese men used their generation names regularly. Since then the use of generation natnes has been greatly reduced by social and cultural change in China, especially by urbanization, the breaking of traditional ties to the land, the perceived feudal aspect of generation names, and the influence of the policies of Mao Zedong. We report on the incidence of generation names in four time periods from 1940-1983. The major finding is that generation names decreased significantly until the 1960s; since 1976 their use has increased, but not to pre-1950 levels.
April 26, 2015
Running head: Generation Names in China
Generation Names in China: To Be or Not To Be?
Li Zhonghua
Ocean University of Qingdao
People’s Republic China
Edwin D. Lawson
State University of New York College at Fredonia
Generation Names
Chinese names have historically been composed of three elements,
the family name, the generation name, and the given name. The
male generation name marks the position of the bearer in the
series of generations after the founder. Prior to Mao, most men
used their generation names. A few had what can be termed
latent generation names. A latent generation name is one a man
knows but does not use in everyday life. Several forces reduced
the use of generation names, (1) urbanization, (2) breaking of
traditional ties to the land, (3) the feudal aspect of
generation names, and (4) the influence of Mao. Under Mao’s
regime, generation names dropped drastically and latent
generation names increased. This investigation evaluates the
responses of 493 male and 151 female Chinese respondents about
their use of generation names over four periods: Pre-Mao(1940-
1949), Mao1(1950-1959), Mao2 (1960-1976), and Post-Mao(1977-
1983). The decline in the use of generation names by men began
with the rise of Mao and continued significantly during the
second part of his regime. The Post-Mao period shows a
significant recovery rate in the use of generation names. The
use of generation names by females involves several factors and
is not as clear-cut as male data. Further, data for females
were available only for the Mao2 and Post-Mao periods.
Generation Names
Nevertheless, the data for females are similar to that of the
Generation Names
Generation Names in China: To Be or Not To Be?
The generation name is a naming practice unique to China.
The generation name is a name of the position of a group of
family members (a generation) in the family hierarchy. The
generation name is part of the male personal name, indicating
the generation position of the bearer(s) in the family
hierarchy. In a typical Chinese name the position of the
generation name is usually in the middle of three components
(characters), family name + generation name + given name. Some
people like to have the generation name after the given name. A
man’s male first cousins (from the father’s side) would also
bear this same generation name.
For females there are three alternatives possible:
(1) having no generation name at all, (2) having the same
generation name as their brothers, and (3) having a generation
name different than that of their brothers but shared with their
sisters (these generation names were not passed on). Examples
of both male and female names will be given below.
When a male child is born, the father will take a character
as the generation name from the chain of generation names
already selected and regulated by the forefathers and then
choose another character and give it to the baby as the given
name. Take the name Mao Zedong (毛毛毛) for example. Mao () is the
family name and Ze () the generation name. His real personal
Generation Names
name is Dong (). The name of Mao Zedong’s grandfather is Mao
Enpu (毛毛毛 ) and the father’s name is Mao Yichang (毛毛毛). The
generation names of the three generations are respectively (En),
(Yi) and (Ze), belonging to the 12th, 13th and 14th generations of
the Mao clan in Shaoshan, Hunan Province (Mao Zedong’s
hometown). According to the genealogy of the clan of the Maos
at Shaoshan, Hunan Province, the chain of generation names of
Mao Zedong’s family is a poem with five characters to a line.
The generation name Ze () in the name of Mao Zedong (毛毛毛) stands
as the fourteenth character of the poem, namely the fourteenth
generation since the chain of generation names was begun in
1737. Even though Mao Zedong had several names like 毛毛 (Runzhi),
毛毛(Yongzhi), 毛毛(Ziren), 毛毛毛(Mao Shishan), 毛毛毛(Li Desheng), names he
used for different reasons or for different periods of time, the
name with the generation name Zedong (毛毛) never changed and he
used it all his life (Quangen Wang, 2000, 119). The name for
the custom of using generation names is Pai-hang (毛毛). According
to Louie (2001, 51-52), the purpose of Pai-hang is:
... to identify men according to generation in their
family and clan so as to determine their relationship to
one another. As such, it reveals horizontal and vertical
dimensions of a family and clan...the generation name in
Generation Names
the names of siblings represents the horizontal Pai-hang
and when all the generation names for a clan listed
together, this depicts the vertical Pai-hang. Each
generation therefore must be distinguished by a different
generation name.
Louie’s statement showing the situation for men but not
mentioning women in Pai-hang shows that women did not have any
position, because the purpose of Pai-hang is “to identify
men . . . ” In other words, it may well be stated that women
in the past were not regarded seriously or not considered
important enough.
As an example of the first alternative where females do not
have the generation name, we have two sisters Xu Qiuju (毛毛毛) and
Xu Enhua (毛毛毛). They have the same family name but no generation
name even though their brother is named Xu Xuanliang (毛毛毛) with
Xuan () as the generation name.
As an illustration of the second alternative where a woman
has the same generation name as her brother, there is Wang
Guangmei (毛毛毛)wife of China’s former president. Her generation
name is Guang (), the same as her brother’s (her brother’s name
is Wang Guangying (毛毛毛); the two share the same generation name of
Guang ().
Generation Names
To show the third case where brothers and sisters have
different generation names, there are Li Chunting (毛毛毛) whose
generation name is Chun (), and his brothers are named Li
Chunlin 毛毛毛毛毛and Li Chunpei (毛毛毛) they share the same generation
name Chun (). Their sisters, however, are Li Yingyun (毛毛毛) Li
Yingshu (毛毛毛) and Li Yinghui (毛毛毛). The generation name of the
sisters, Ying (), is different from that of their brothers Chun
To study generation names in China, one must first go back
to their history. The typical generation name began toward the
end of the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD). Liu Biao (毛毛), a
historical figure at the end of the Han Dynasty, had two sons,
one named Liu Qi (毛毛) and the other Liu Cong (毛毛). In the given
name of the two sons, there is the same Chinese character
component “”(meaning “king”). In the period of the Three
Kingdoms (220 - 265), the form of the generation name became
more obvious. The famous marshal Sima Zhongda (毛毛毛毛) (Sima is the
family name and Zhongda the personal given name) had seven
brothers and the eight brothers were named Boda (毛毛毛毛), Sima
Zhongda (毛毛毛毛), Sima Shuda (毛毛毛毛), Sima Jida (毛毛毛毛), Sima Xianda (毛毛毛毛),
Sima Huida (毛毛毛毛), Sima Yada (毛毛毛毛), and Sima Youda (毛毛毛毛). The
eight names all share the Chinese character (meaning “eminence;
understanding; extension”) as the generation name and obviously
Generation Names
the eight brothers were of the same generation.
With time, during the period of the Northern and Southern
Dynasties (420 - 589), the generation name began to enter the
naming system and became very popular, especially in the royal
families and upper class families. For example, Emperor Song
Wudi had seven sons, whose given names were: Yifu (毛毛), Yilong (
), Yizhen (毛毛), Yikang (毛毛), Yigong (毛毛), Yixuan (毛毛) and Yiji (毛毛).
The generation name is Yi (, meaning “justice; righteousness”)
and in this family or clan, those whose generation name is Yi,
including the sons of Song Wudi’s brothers’, obviously belong to
the same generation.
The chief characteristics of the generation name of this
period are not only its increasing popularity, but also that the
father or the elder generation of the family or clan determined
the generation name when the child was born. That marks the
entrance of generation names into the naming system.
The generation name reached its maturity in the period of
the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279). The maturity is marked by the
fact that the generation name was not determined by the meeting
and discussion of the father and elder members of the family
when the child was born. Instead, a sequence or a chain of
Chinese characters had already been chosen and fixed by the
elder generation as the source of generation names. When a
child was born, the father would go to the chain of generation
Generation Names
names and pick up one following his own for the baby’s
generation name. When his son’s child was born, the Chinese
character after the previous one in the sequence would be given
as the generation name to that child. For example, the sequence
of generation names for the children of Emperor Song Taizu (927
- 976) are De (), Wei (), Cong (), Shi (), Ling (), Zi (), Bo
(), Shi (), Xi (), Yu (), Meng (), You (), and Yi (). His
sons must have De () as the generation name in their full name
and his grandchildren must have Wei () as theirs in the full
name as this Wei is the character right after the emperor’s
son’s generation name. If a person of a family or a clan of the
same family name knows the name of another member of the family
or clan that has the same family name, he will know his relation
with that person in terms of generation. When a sequence or a
chain of generation names circulates to the end, the elder
generation will meet and discuss its continuation or its new
An important esthetic aspect that should be mentioned is
that between the end of the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907) and the
beginning of the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279), people began to use
a poem for generation names. In other words, if we put
together all the Chinese characters in the chain of generation
names, we will find a poem that those characters form. The
poem usually contains praise for ancestors or hope for the
Generation Names
continuation and prosperity in the future for the family or
clan. This is the aesthetic beauty the generation name makes;
otherwise generation names would be separate and unrelated
characters and lack the aesthetic aspect. This beauty is an
important mark of maturity for the generation name.
The generation names of Mao Zedong’s family are an
interesting example. The chain of generation names of Mao’s
family was formed in 1737 and if the generation names are put
together, a poem then appears, a poem of five characters to a
line (given below in the left column in Chinese characters with
Pinyin in the right, the romanization system for written Chinese
based on the pronunciation of the Mandarin Chinese for easier
毛毛毛毛毛, Li xian rong chao shi,
毛毛毛毛毛毛 Wen fang yun ji xiang.
毛毛毛毛毛, Zu en yi ze yuan,
毛毛毛毛毛毛 Shi dai yong cheng chang.
In 1881, four more lines were added:
毛毛毛毛毛, Xiao you chuan jia ben,
毛毛毛毛毛毛 Zhong liang zhen guo guang.
毛毛毛毛毛毛 Qi yuan dun sheng xue,
毛毛毛毛毛毛 Feng ya lie ming zhang.
The meaning of this eight-line poem goes roughly like this:
Generation Names
Celebrity and eminence glorify government officials
And knowledge and education extend the good luck of the
There is no end to the bounties of ancestral kindness
On which prosperity keeps for following generations.
Filial piety and benevolence preserve the family,
And faithfulness and loyalty invigorate the nation.
Encouragement be given in the beginning for imperial honour,
And noble elegance and refinement exalt every generation.
There are 40 characters in the Mao generation name poem and
these 40 characters mean 40 generations.
In China, some people hold the perception that the generation
name will “ . . .lose its dominance in naming practice as time
goes on . . .” (Caiyan Liu 1999, 59) and it will die out. They
hold that perception because they see many people, especially
young people, whose name consists of only two Chinese
characters, one being the family name and the other the given
name. This two-character name practice leaves out the
generation name. Based on their observation these observers
believe that the use of the generation name is decreasing and
Generation Names
this decrease will lead to the extinction of the generation
name. The purpose of this investigation is to examine
generation names of young people and see where the generation
name is going, to die or to continue, on the basis of the data
of four periods, the pre-Mao period (from 1940 to 1949 when Mao
came into power), the first Mao period (from 1950 to 1959), the
second Mao period (1960-1976), and the Post-Mao period (1977-
1983) (after he died in 1976). Originally, we had one period
where Mao was in power. On rethinking, it appeared to us that
at least in the sphere of naming, Mao’s influence did not appear
significantly until 1960 when he was at the height of power.
The hypotheses to be tested in this investigation are:
1. The use of generation names declined significantly from the
pre-Mao to the Mao years.
2. Since the Mao years, generation names have increased.
3. Observers report that in the pre-Mao years, most men used
their generation names and only a few had latent generation
names (these few had generation names that they knew but they
chose for various reasons not to use them). In our survey, we
predict that there will be an increase of latent generation
names over time.
Generation Names
Data in this study were collected in September and October
of 2001 from students at the Ocean University of Qingdao, China
and from members of that city’s community. The respondents who
are from an urban environment answered questionnaires about
several aspects of their names and those of their fathers.
1. Full name
2. Generation name
3. Year of birth
The students also answered the following questions about
their fathers:
1. Father’s full name
2. Father’s generation name if he had one
3. Father’s year of birth
While the fathers of the student provided much information,
it seemed advisable to add community members of roughly the same
age group as the fathers to the sample. Internal examination
indicated that the community members and the fathers were
similar enough to be combined.
There were 493 males and 151 females who completed
questionnaires. Of the males, there 173 regular, part-time, and
graduate students, 95 fathers, and 58 community members. Of the
women, there were 123 regular, part-time and graduate students,
Generation Names
and 28 community members. Tables 1 and 2 and Figures 1 and 2
show the trends and significance levels, if any, of the trends.
Please insert Tables 1 and 2 and Figures 1 and 2 about here
Generation Names
Tables 1 and 2 and Figures 1 and 2 clearly show that
generation names occur significantly more with males than
females in the Mao and Post-Mao eras (data on females for the
Pre-Mao era were not available).
Further examination of the tables shows that for males
there was a highly significant drop in generation names from the
pre-Mao to the Mao eras. There is a significant recovery in the
use of generation names from the Mao2 period to the Post-Mao
The results with the women as shown in Table 2 reveal an
increase in the use of generation names (13.9% to 24.1%) from
the Mao to the Post-Mao eras. However, while interesting, it
does not reach a significant level. Pre-Mao data for women were
not available because the naming patterns for women are
different from those of men.
No Generation Names
There were 105 males out of the total of 493 (21.3%) whose
generation name does not show up in the full name. The similar
Generation Names
comparison for the women shows 56 out of 151 (37.1%) not showing
generation names. Comparison for the men and women shows that
the proportion of women lacking generation names is highly
significant (beyond the .001 level) when the whole sample of men
over four periods is compared with the two available periods of
women. However, when the two comparable periods of men are
compared with the two periods of women, there is no difference.
Latent Generation Names
Earlier we had defined a latent generation name as one that
is known by the respondent but not regularly used. Examination
of the male data shows that in the pre-Mao years when most men
had generation names, there was a relatively low percentage
(6.8%) that had latent generation names. This increased to
24.8% in the Post-Mao years, a very highly significant increase.
With the women, the latent generation names were 34.9% in the
Mao2 years, 44.4% in the Post-Mao years. This is not
significantly different. Comparison of men and women in the
Post-Mao period does show that the women had more latent
generation names than the men. This is significant at the .001
Discussion and Conclusions
Now, it is time to return to the original hypotheses that
were set up. The first concern was whether generation names
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declined from the pre-Mao to the Mao years. Only the male data
were available but Table 1 and Figure 1 show how dramatically
generation names declined during the Mao years.
Our second question asked whether generation names had
increased from the Mao to the Post-Mao periods. For men, there
was a significant increase; for women, there was an increase but
not at a significant level. These results give some support for
our hypothesis.
The third hypothesis concerned the increase of latent
generation names. This we showed to exist at a highly
significant level for males when there is a comparison of the
Pre-Mao and Post-Mao periods and the Mao2 and Post-Mao periods.
For women, there was also an increase in latent generation
names but not at a significant level.
Decline of Generation Names
Though people began to use the generation name in China more
than 1,000 years ago, there has been a trend that fewer and
fewer individuals are using it. Questions arise as to what has
brought this about. We can suggest four major factors: (1)
urbanization, (2) the breaking of traditional ties to the land
and community, (3) the feudal aspect of generation names, and
(4) the influence of Mao.
With the development of cities, more and more people came to
cities and settled. These migrants to the cities may be far
Generation Names
from the original places where their forefathers originated and
so they are far from the hierarchic relations that exist in
those places.
The breaking of ties is also associated with urbanization.
Ties to the traditional rural economy and ways of life have been
severed. In the traditional rural economy, farming depends on
the land and this dependence leads to the members of the family
or clan living in one village or area. In order to maintain the
rules and hierarchy of the family or clan, there must be marks
to distinguish genealogical generations. The system of
generation names serves that purpose. Since more and more
people leave the rural areas and come into cities and settle
down, the generation name, as the representation of the
genealogical generation, lacks the soil for its growth and thus
shows itself less and less in importance. This urbanization
explains why, as Lu and Millard (1989) wrote: “the sense of
clans is blunted, and many families no longer use generation
names” (275).
The third reason that many people take an aversion to
generation names is because it embodies the old ideas of feudal
patriarchal society. These people, especially the intellectuals
and people in cities, do not use the generation name when they
name their children. In the period of the 60s - 90s, many
people even adopted the two-character naming manner and composed
Generation Names
the name of the child with the family name and one selected
character only. For example, Li Dong (毛毛, Li, the family name;
Dong, male given name meaning “ridgepole”), Xu Li(毛毛, Xu, the
family name; Li, male given name meaning “morning”), Liu Yan (毛毛,
Liu, family name; Yan, female given name meaning “gorgeous”).
The generation name declined.
The final reason, and perhaps the most important is the
effect of Mao and the Cultural Revolution from 1967 to 1976.
That political event made many people, especially young people,
change their name or drop the generation name and take for their
name such characters as 毛毛(Weidong, meaning “protect Mao
Zedong”), 毛毛(Hongwei, meaning “Red Guard”), 毛毛(Xiangdang meaning
“Be loyal to the Party”), etc. When babies were born, fathers
did not dare to use generation names for the name of the baby.
Instead, they would turn to characters like mentioned just now
for names.
The Future of Generation Names
When talking about the changes over time in conventions in
naming, Lu and Millward (1989) said that the sense of clan
declines and many families no longer use generation names (275).
The increase of generation names in our study, however, makes it
a little too early to conclude that the generation name will die
out and become extinct.
Generation Names
The generation name helps avoid or reduce name duplication.
The two-character name pattern (family name and personal name)
produced a great deal of duplication while the three-character
name pattern is a good way to avoid name duplication and thus
the three-character name pattern leaves much room for the
generation name to exist.
The fall of generation names was in part brought about by
political events (the Cultural Revolution). The rise then owes
itself to the end of that event in the years of 1976 and 1977
and that end brings about, in one way or another, the revival of
traditional Chinese culture.
It is not easy to have the generation name and the personal
given name side by side in the full name. The generation name
and the personal given name must stand in harmonious relation or
in good integration and support each other. One must extend the
meaning of the other or explain the meaning of the other or
complete what the other intends to mean. The father not only
has to select the character in consideration of all that; he
must also take sound into consideration. So the generation name
presents parents with a great deal of opportunity for creativity
in naming their children.
Old and traditional as the type of the generation name is in
China, it is unique and cultural as a name type in the name
practice of the world. Even though the generation name
Generation Names
originated in the soil of the feudal, patriarchal social system,
it changes in meaning with the advance of society and constantly
adapts itself to catering to social needs and thus, just as
Daliang Wang (2001) put it, it “is exhibiting new vigour”(74).
It also reminds people of the idea of family and home and what
the forefathers have undergone in the past. It is part of
Chinese culture and heritage. Sometimes it may be popular and
sometimes it may become less popular. The generation name
declined in the 60s and the 70s but it rose in the beginning of
the 80s. The generation name in China, to be or not to be? It
is a little too early to tell for certain but it does appear
there may be a slight trend for increase in generation names.
Works Cited
Liu, Caiyan. (1999). Qimingxue [On naming]. Beijing: Chengshi.
Liu, Zongdi. (2000). Xinshi minghao mianmianguan [Aspects of family names
and personal names]. Jinan: Qilu.
Louie, Emma Woo. (1998). Chinese American Names, Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
Lu, Zhongti with Celia Millward. (1989) “Chinese Given Names Since the
Cultural Revolution”, Names 37: 265-280.
Wang, Daliang. (2001). Xingming tanyuan yu quming yishu [Origins of Surnames
and the Art of Naming]. Beijing: Qixiang.
Wang, Quangen. (2000). Zhongguo renming wenhua [The Culture of Chinese
Names]. Beijing: Tuanjie.
Authors’ Notes
We wish to express our appreciation to colleagues Li Ling, Mao Yanyang, Xin
Haiyan, and Xu Zhongchuan of the Department of English, Ocean University of
Qingdao, for their assistance with the data collection; to Richard F. Sheil,
Professor Emeritus of Music, State University of New York College at Fredonia,
for assistance in the statistical analysis; and to Professor Xu Xuanliang of
the Children's Palace of Qingdao, and Professor Yang Zijian of the Department
of English, Ocean University of Qingdao for assistance in the interpretation of
the generation poem of the Mao family.
1Table 1. Generation names for males during the Pre-Mao, Mao, and Post-Mao eras.
Pre-Mao Mao-1 Mao-2 Post-Mao Totals
Have Generation names (A) 66 90.4% 139 82.3% 42 41.2% 79 53.0% 326
No Generation names (B) 2 2.7% 20 11.8% 50 49.0% 33 22.1% 105
Latent Generation names (C) 5 6.8% 10 5.9% 10 9.8% 37 24.8% 62
Totals 73 99.9%* 169 100% 102 100% 149 99.9%* 493
Note 1. *The totals for the columns have been rounded and may not total 100%.
Note 2. The Male Generation table has 12 cells. There are three rows, A, B, C,
and four columns, 1, 2, 3, and 4.
The Chi square measure was used for comparisons. The comparisons below show
the levels of statistical significance:
A1-A2 (Pre-Mao vs. Mao1) NS
A2-A3 (Mao1 vs. Mao2) *
A1-A3 (Pre-Mao vs. Mao2) ***
A3-A4 (Mao2 vs. Post-Mao) *
B1-B2 (Pre-Mao vs. Mao1) *
B2-B3 (Mao1 vs. Mao2) ***
B3-B4 (Mao2 vs. Post-Mao) ***
C1-C2 (Pre-Mao vs. Mao1) NS
C2-C3 (Mao1 vs. Mao2) NS
C3-C4 (Mao2 vs. Post-Mao) **
NS = Non-significant difference.
*** = Difference significant below the .001 level. (very highly
** = Difference significant below the .01 level. (highly
* = Difference significant below the .05 level.
Table 2. Generation names in women during the Mao2 and Post-Mao
Mao2 Post-Mao Totals
Have Generation names (A) 6 13.9% 26 24.1% 32
No Generation names (B) 22 51.2% 34 31.5% 56
Latent Generation names(C) 15 34.9% 48 44.4% 63
Totals 43 100% 108 100.0% 151
Note 1. The female generation table has 6 cells. There are
three rows, A, B, C, and two columns, 1, 2.
The Chi square method was used for comparisons. The comparisons
below show the levels of statistical significance:
A1-A2 (Mao2 vs. Post-Mao) NS
B1-B2 (Mao2 vs. Post-Mao) *
C1-C2 (Mao2 vs. Post-Mao) NS
NS = Non-significant difference.
* = Difference significant below the .05 level.
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Generation Names
Figure Captions
Figure 1. Percentages of Generation names, No Generation
names and Latent Generation names for males.
Figure 2. Percentages of Generation names, No Generation
names and Latent Generation names for females.
Generation Names 29
Generation Names 30
... A generation name indicates the person's generation position within the family hierarchy. It has a long history in Chinese, and may be dated back to the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD) (Li and Lawson 2002). A predetermined generation name list or a poem encoding a name list may be the source of generation names, or they may be determined by parents (Li and Lawson 2002). ...
... It has a long history in Chinese, and may be dated back to the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD) (Li and Lawson 2002). A predetermined generation name list or a poem encoding a name list may be the source of generation names, or they may be determined by parents (Li and Lawson 2002). In a full name, the generation name usually appears after a family name and before a typical given name, as demonstrated below in bold in Mandarin and Xining Chinese: ...
Full-text available
This paper concerns the morpho-syntax of Chinese personal names, including given names, family names, and full names. The two varieties of Chinese discussed are Mandarin and Xining Chinese. Given names are subject to a condition ruling out monosyllabic given names occurring as free words. Family names are not subject to such a condition. A corpus study and a judgment experiment have been conducted to verify this difference between given names and family names. The condition is satisfied by either combining two or more monosyllabic given names to form compound given names, or by combining a given name with a family name, or by reduplication. Given names and family names, like other content words, are composed of a root and a categorizer. The reduplication that applies to given names in Chinese is the same operation that applies to monosyllabic nouns in Xining Chinese: reduplication occurs, with no semantic effect, when the categorizer copies the phonological matrix of the root. Family names in Chinese need not, and cannot undergo reduplication, being combinations of a root and a distinct family name categorizer that does not allow reduplication. While compounds made up of two given names are symmetric and non-compositional, with two coordinated names, full names made up of a family name and a given name (single or compound) are asymmetric endocentric compounds in which the given name is the head and the family name is an attributive modifier. A full name is thereby formally a given name. Pet names and so called generation names are discussed as well.
... The ethnic-Chinese population have traditionally conformed to the naming traditions they had before they emigrated from southern Chinese provinces, predominantly Guangdong and Fujian, with Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese 1 being the traditional Chinese languages associated with these provinces. In this respect then, the naming pattern conforms to the traditional naming pattern described by Li (1997), Louie (1998) and Li and Lawson (2002): the surname (consisting of almost always one character) is placed first; this is followed by the given name (usually two characters, but possibly also one character). In Chinese writing, each character represents one syllable; when romanised, the typical pattern is for there to be a monosyllabic surname and a disyllabic given name (whether hyphenated, or written as one or two words), as in the following. ...
... For given names with two syllables, one of the syllables (usually but not necessarily the first) could be shared with all the cousins of the same sex. This is known as the generation name, and Li and Lawson (2002) point out that the practice of giving generation names appears to be losing popularity in China. ...
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English place names show vestiges of the original languages spoken (e.g. Kent is Celtic): this is seen as characterising the early stages of dialect birth. In contrast to place names, little attention has been given to personal names. This paper attempts to explore ways in which this can be done by examining ethnic-Chinese names in Singapore with a view to understanding how this could be related to the spread of non-Anglo Englishes. To illustrate my point, I examine graduation lists as data; these are from Singaporean universities and span 40 years and characterise the patterns of change. One significant change is the rise of the proportion of the population with English-based given names, although there are other patterns of change too: these are indicative of some of the tensions within Singaporean society. I also suggest that some aspects of anthroponymics can be incorporated into the theory of dialect birth.
... 9 According to Liao (2000, p. 90) this practice concerns mainly males, as females are expected to marry into other families; however, Louie (1998, p. 56) notes that "[i]n Taiwan, there is the trend for brothers and sisters to have the same generation name as a means of expressing family unity and gender equality." 10 This practice decreased significantly in the second half of the twentieth century (e.g., Lu -Millward, 1989), although Li and Lawson (2002) report its rise in mainland China after the Cultural Revolution (1967)(1968)(1969)(1970)(1971)(1972)(1973)(1974)(1975)(1976). ...
This paper presents a comparative overview of basic characteristics of given names in Japan and Taiwan, and, based on an analysis of primary data, provides a closer look at names of Japanese and Taiwanese females born in the last decade of the twentieth century. The names are examined from the point of view of their length, structure, and especially their semantics. They are discussed in the context of the period, and also in respect to the culture-specific naming criteria as well as current name selection trends. The findings suggest that despite various differences at all levels of description the names are remarkably similar in the meanings they convey. Through the characters in which they are written, the names reflect, directly or through various associations or allusions, similar contemporary values, aspirations for and expectations of the named individuals, providing an unconventional insight into the two societies of the examined period.
... In the Chinese kinship system, clan members that are beyond five generations are not considered relatives anymore. Before the 1980s, Chinese males used generation names, which means males of the same generation in a clan have the same generation and family names, with only the given names being different (Li and Lawson, 2013). ...
Payments for ecosystem services (PES) programs may bring unintended consequences to the coupled socio-ecological system (SES) and incur unexpected feedbacks between social and ecological systems. This paper explores how the SES responds to PES intervention and investigates the role played by social networks in building resilience in a traditionally poverty-stricken area of China. The structure of social networks is measured through the social network analysis with degree and betweenness. Then, we develop an agent-based model to examine how social networks function to affect household livelihood resilience. The model captures feedbacks between PES intervention, social networks, household livelihood decisions, and environmental changes. Results show that the livelihood resilience of rural households is expected to decline during 2013–2030 within the current PES scheme. Social networks impose significant positive impacts on resilience building. However, their effects decay over time due to the fading structure and function of social networks along with massive rural-to-urban migration. Besides environmental conservation, policy-makers should take measures for socio-cultural conservation and preservation, reinforcing the identity, structure, and function within SESs for rural development in China.
... It also needs to be said that personal names in China are not exempt from change. Social conditions including the Chinese one-child policy has encouraged the loss of generation names and the prevalence of one-character (monosyllabic) given names (Li and Lawson 2002). Increased exposure to Anglo cultures (on the label' Anglo', see the next section) has also led to the rise of English-based given names, at least at the unofficial level (Lee 2001), some of which (such as Bisoll, Jeckyll, Redfox or Echo) might appear very unorthodox. ...
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The evolution of personal names in western Europe can be said to be characterized by the phenomenon of standardization (Wilson 1998). This article seeks to examine whether this general rubric is of use in the context of hybridized names, specifically the names of the ethnic Chinese in Singapore. I examine names obtained from a school year book in Singapore against the backdrop of the traditional pattern as documented by Jones (1997). Notable changes include the increased use of English-based given names and the way Chinese given names are represented: the tendency is towards having them based on Mandarin Chinese as opposed to other varieties of Chinese, and of having them spelt in a standard way of sorts. This is in line with the government's preferences and supports the standardization thesis. There is, however, strong resistance to the standardization of Chinese surnames.
... Finally, Li and Lawson (2002) looked at Chinese generation names. Generation names, an additional name to the family name and first name for males, had been repressed under Mao Zedong during the Cultural Revolution. ...
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TATAR FIRST NAMES FROM WEST SIBERIA Edwin D. Lawson and Richard F. Sheil (State University of New York, Fredonia), and Zinaida S. Zavyalova (Tomsk Polytechnic University). There are about four and one-half million Tatars, descendants of the Turkic-Mongolian peoples of the Ural-Altaic region, in Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, China, and Finland. This investigation focused on first names used in the Tomsk area (about 950,000 population) at the entrance to Western Siberia. Tatars make up about 2% of the population or about 20,000 people, and are mostly Sunni Muslims. Some live in villages, some live in the city of Tomsk itself. The literature on Tatar first names is very limited. This project studied the names of 100 families (50 from the City of Tomsk and 50 from Villages in the Tomsk area). Almost 500 different names were recorded of the 799 participating individuals. Each entry includes the name’s English spelling, Russian spelling, gender and frequency in the sample, BBC-New York Times style of pronunciation, International Phonetic Alphabet style of pronunciation, language(s) of origin if not Tatar, meaning, and historical note if any. Аннотация Личные имена татар Западной Сибири Эдвин Д. Лоусон и Ричард Ф. Шейл (Государственный университет Нью-Йорка в г. Фридония), и Зинаида С. Завьялова (Национальный исследовательский Томский политехнический университет). В мире насчитывается около четырех с половиной миллио-нов представителей татарской национальности, потомков тюркских и монгольских народов урало-алтайского региона, проживающих в России, Украине, Турции, Китае и Финляндии. Это исследование посвящено татарским личным именам, используемым в Западной Сибири, а именно в Томской области (около 950,000 населения). Татары составляют около 2% населения или около 20000 человек, являющихся в основном суннитами. Часть татарского населения проживает в деревнях, часть является резидентами Томска. Объем научной литературы, посвя-щенной татарским личным именам, достаточно ограничен. В рамках настоящего проекта были изучены личные имена членов 100 семей (50 из города Томска и 50 из татарских деревень в Томской области). Были опрошены 799 респон-дентов и задокументировано более 500 имен. Запись для каждого имени содержит: английскую и русскую трансли-терации, пол, вариант произношения BBC-Нью-Йорк Таймс, вариант произношения Международного фонети-ческого алфавита, язык из которого происходит имя (если не собственно татарское), значение, историческая справка (если имеется) частота употребления имени в рамках собранного материала.
As Chinese characters (hanzi) have three aspects – as a technical writing system, an aesthetic visual art (Chinese calligraphy), and a highly-charged cultural symbolic system – changing them is a complex process. In the 1950s when language planning campaigns were launched to modernise Chinese through hanzi standardisation, names were set aside as too difficult to reform. But over the last two decades the increasingly acute need for effective modern communication based on a stable standard written system has increased the pressure for name reform. This paper discusses the standardisation of personal and geographical name-related hanzi, detailing the socio-cultural and political factors that make the job of language reform much more difficult than it once was for language planning practitioners. The central theme is the conflict between standardisation and diversity, i.e. technological convenience for personal names and modernisation for geographic names vs compatibility with the traditional heritage. In this new historical context, the focus has changed from top-down technical solutions to multiple standards and bottom-up prestige and image planning as ways of addressing hanzi naming dilemmas.
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Chinese given names, best considered lexical, rather than onomastic, items, often reflect political, social, and cultural conditions at the time of naming. An investigation of the given names of four groups of Chinese students born in 1966, 1973, 1979, and 1981 reveals great differences between the names of those born early in the Cultural Revolution and those born later. The investigation also reveals differences between names for males and females (reflecting differing cultural expectations for the two sexes) and a recent trend toward one-character given names.
Qimingxue [On naming
  • Caiyan Liu
Zhongguo Renming Wenhua [The Culture of Chinese Names
  • Quangen Wang
Xingming Tanyuanyu Quming Yishu [Origins of Surnames and the Art of Naming
  • Daliang Wang
Chinese American Names
  • Emma Louie
  • Woo