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1.9: Choose or Request a Chinese Name

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    You may have indicated in your class forum self-introduction that you already have a Chinese name.  If so, congrats!  You can skip this section.

    For those of you who do not yet have a Chinese name, or who are thinking of choosing a new one, here are a few tips to consider.

    Surnames (Family Names) 

    First, choose a surname or find the Chinese equivalent of your surname.  Wikipedia has a list of common Chinese surnames.  You should probably try to stick to this list.  The vast majority of Chinese surnames have only one character.  Nonetheless, some Chinese surnames do have more than one character.  These are called compound Chinese surnames.  If you choose a multi-character Chinese name, it will sound somewhat exotic to most native Chinese speakers.

    If you are Korean, it is almost 100% likely that your surname will be a single Chinese character.  If you are Japanese, it is quite likely that your surname in kanji is two Chinese characters.  If you think your name has a direct Chinese equivalent, I recommend checking by searching on Google or Wikipedia.  See this link, for example, for how I'd search for the Chinese equivalent of the Japanese surname Yamaguchi.

    Given Names 

    Personal names in China are typically understood in terms of the meanings of their characters.  Taking a name is interpreted in China as akin to setting one's destiny.  Make a list of characteristics you might like your name to convey. These could be personality traits like “intelligent” or “brave” or physical traits like “beautiful” or “strong”. Many first names in China relate to elements of the natural world, like "fragrant" or "lotus".  The most common boys’ name in China is 偉/伟 (wěi “great”), and for girls 芳 (fāng “fragrant”). Here’s a list of common Chinese given names and their translations.

    Your name does not have to be deep and philosophical. It could merely be a phonetic transliteration of your English name. For example, David is Dàwèi (大衛 / 大卫), Lily becomes Lìlì (麗麗 / 丽丽), and Alice is Àilìsī (愛麗絲 / 爱丽丝). Here’s a a tool to search for a phonetic transliteration of your English first name

    Let the Computer Pick Your Name 

    If you like, you could use this Chinese naming tool to find some suggestions for a name.  It asks you to enter your own name and birthday, but you don't necessarily have to enter your exact information.  You can play around with it a bit and see some of the suggestions it makes for you.  It will provide the Chinese characters as an image file, so be sure to take a screenshot and figure out how to type the suggested name you like by using the pinyin keyboard you've installed on your computer or device.

    Let the Instructor Pick Your Name 

    Of course, you can also let me know if you'd like me to pick a name for you!  If so, please let me know what types of characteristics you'd like your name to be related to, and whether you'd like a name that sounds similar to your English name. 

    If you have a Japanese or Korean name, it's likely that I will help you to find out the equivalent name in Chinese characters.

    Complete the Chinese Name Assignment 

    Once you have an idea of what you'd like your name to be, or what preferences you'd like to share to help me pick a name for you, head over to the Homework & Tests section of our course site to complete the short essay assignment there.

    This page titled 1.9: Choose or Request a Chinese Name is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Carl Polley (裴凯).

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