Like most of the names from the rest of the world, Chinese names have two parts: 姓 family name and 名given name. Unlike names from most of the western countries, in China, the family name 姓 comes before the given name 名. Therefore, 丽 from family 赵 is called 赵丽 Zhao Li instead of Li Zhao.
In China, family names are typically passed from the father to the children. Women normally keep their maiden surname upon marriage. The same surname many times unite families into a big clan where people show respect to the same ancestors. For many Chinese, a stranger of the same surname is like a distant relative.
There are thousands of surnames, the top 100 common surnames are shared by 85% of the population. And the top 3 most common surnames in Mainland China are 李（Lǐ）, 王（Wáng） and 张 Zhang, which make up 7.9%, 7.4% and 7.1% respectively.
Based on population, the top 20 most common Chinese surnames in 2018 were
1：李 Lǐ 2：王 Wáng 3：张 Zhāng 4：刘 Liú 5：陈 Chén
6：杨 Yáng 7：赵 Zhào 8：黄 Huáng 9：周 Zhōu 10：吴 Wú
11：徐 Xú 12：孙 Sūn 13：胡 Hú 14：朱 Zhū 15：高 Gāo
16：林 Lín 17：何 Hé 18：郭 Guō 19：马 Mǎ 20：罗 Luō
As you can see, all of the top 20 surnames have only one character. Indeed most of the common Chinese family names have only one characters; however, there are still around 20 double-character family names such as 司马 （Sīmǎ）， 诸葛（zhūgé），欧阳（ōuyáng），司徒（sītú） and so on. There are also some family names with three or more characters. For example, 爱新觉罗 （Ài xīn jué luō ）which was the family name of the Manchu royal family of the Qing Dynasty.
ONE HUNDRED FAMILY NAMES 百家姓 （Bǎi jiā xìng）
Family names are so important that a book of 100 family names has become of the first books for children to learn. 百家姓 Bǎi jiā xìng (One Hundred Family Names) records 568 surnames including 444 single-character surnames and and 124 double-character surnames. The book starts as follows
Zhào qián sūn lǐ
zhōu wú zhèng wáng
féng chén chǔ wèi
Zhào qián sūn lǐ
USING TITLE WITH FAMILY NAME
Unlike in English, Chinese titles are always placed after the family name of the person.
张老师 Zhāng lǎoshī Mr Zhang (to a teacher)
李同学 Lǐ tóngxué Classmate Li
刘先生 Liú xiānshēng Mr Liu
吴小姐 Wú xiǎojiě Miss Wu
陈女士 Chén nǚshì Ms Chen
王太太 ｜ 王夫人 Wáng tàitài | wáng fūrén Mrs Wang
GIVEN NAMES IN CHINESE
Parents or senior members of the family usually given the first names to the children. The names are usually made up of one or two characters. Theoretically they can include all the Chinese characters and contain any meaning.
In China, it is quite usual that adults give names to their children based on their gender: for boys, names implying strength, greatness or courage are often given while girls tend to receive names containing beauty , elegance or flowers.
For boys, some common Chinese given names include
伟 wěi (great, grand)
英 yīng (brave)
平 píng (peace)
For girls, some common Chinese given names include
丽 lì (beauty)
兰 lán (orchid)
玉 yù (jade)
WHAT IS YOUR NAME?
In Chinese, when we ask for name, we use 你叫什么名字？ Nǐ jiào shénme míngzì?
Nǐ jiào shénme míngzì?
What’s your name?
My name is ….
Let’s listen to a song “你叫什么名字？”
If you like the post, PIN IT!
You May Also Be Interested:
- Chinese4kids Membership – a portal for busy Chinese teachers and parents
- Chinese learning flashcards Hive – a flashcards library that with regular additions of new quality Chinese learning flashcards
- Chinese learning worksheets collection – Also a part of Chinese4kids membership, this collection is for teachers and parents who want to have access to engaging worksheets and activity sheets created for kids learning Mandarin Chinese as an additional language
- Speak Chinese with Kids Course