Chinese Names
    2014-05-14 11:42:42       Web Editor: Qin Mei


P: Hi. Welcome to "Ask Pingping and Jules", your bridge to Chinese culture. I'm Pingping.
J: Ni Hao. I'm Jules. Wo shi Zhu Li An. Pingping, what do you think of my Chinese name, is it beautiful?

P: Yes, definitely. I always have a question, how did you come up with your name?

J: Oh, when I came to China for the first time I was interested in getting a Chinese name. There were many options, so I asked my Chinese friends ….and after much discussion,finally, I found a name similar to my English name “zhu Li An” which I was told had a good meaning.
P: Yes, it’s quite beautiful.

J: Thank you. I love this name. But I still have some questions about Chinese names. Could you tell me some basics?
P: All right. Chinese name, you know, consists of two parts. The first part is the family name and that comes first, then comes the given name. In other parts of the world, like where you’re from in Australia, it’s the other way around. Isn’t it?
J: Yeah, for example, Mr Smith’s given names are Peter George. He would be known as Peter George Smith. My given names in Chinese are “Li An”, and my family is “Zhu”. That’s correct, it?
P: Yes, that's correct. And do you know the meaning of Chinese name Zhu Li An?
J: Oh, yes, “朱” is my family name,“丽” means beautiful and “安” means safe.
P: Ok. And the meanings of a Chinese name are connected by the combination of the characters, which are influenced either by elements of culture or era.

J: Very interesting.
P: And usually the cultural influence is stronger in the characters for family names. Some family names originated either in official titles or occupations of from social status or in animals of totem worship. For instance, 龙 (lóng). A few others come from numbers and things like that.
J: I see. What about given names?
P: In the old days, characters meaning "wealth", "fortune" and "happiness" were very common given names.

J: Oh… well, that makes sense.
P: Characters with the meanings of "gifted", "handsome" and "clever" were often chosen by parents as well wishes for their children to be beautiful, capable and intelligent. Parents always like their children to learn more, be more thoughtful and to have great aspirations.

J: That’s true. I know Chinese parents care very much about their children.
P: Yes, during the 1950s and 1960s, many boys were given the name with meanings such as "building the country", "celebrating the nation" and "fighting the imperialists". The reform and opening up policies also provided more character choices, such as "博(bó )" which means "strive", "思 (sī)" which means "thoughtful".
J: English family names traditionally have also come from occupations, such as Sheppard, Smith and Baker. Some Western names also have meanings. "Laura "for example means "laureate" in Latin, and "Samson" means "Sun" in Hebrew. Julianne mean ‘youthful’.
P: Yeah, that’s similar.
J: Do you believe, as many do, that your name is your fate?
P: Not really. But names with positive characteristics can work for you.
J: Oh, yes, and I know a recent survey showed that American men thought Susan to be a most attractive female name, while women believed Richard and David were the most attractive names for men.

P: Not only do opposites attract but they also have an effect on business. If you have a good name, you will give others a good impression. Perhaps you will even find a good job because of your good name.
J: Oh, that’s special. And one of our listeners told us that he is also interested in Chinese names. And he asks if there is a way to distinguish between male and female Chinese names.

P: Yes, of course. You can find it in some ancient books in the library or bookshops. For instance, for the boys’ name, the character of 文(wén) means intelligence.

J: I see. What about my friends, one is named 武(wǔ)  and the other named 明(míng)?

P: 武 means martial and 明 means brightness.

J: I have some other friends too, one is 杰(jié).

P: 杰 means outstanding.

J: And 龙 (lóng)?

P: 龙means dragon.

J: That sounds a very cool name. How about 虎(hǔ) and 信(xìn)?

P: 虎means tiger and信means faith. For girls’ names, the Chinese character has its own meaning. For instance, 兰(lán) means orchid.

J: I work with some women who have some name that sounds really beautiful. For example, 芳(fāng) and 珠(zhū).

P: 芳 means fragrance and 珠 means pearl.

J: How about 雅(yá) and 秀(xiù)?

P: 雅 means elegance. 秀 means beautiful.

J: They are great meanings and great names too. There are a couple more I’d like to ask you too. How about灵(líng), 华(huá) and 红(hōng)?

P: 灵 means clever. 华 means glory. 红 means red.

J: Oh, that sounds great! So my first name “Li An (丽安)” also can mean beautiful, charming, thoughtful, gentle and elegant. Do you think it suits me? HaHa.

P: Sure it does!

J: Oh, I’m so glad. Ok, today we talked about Chinese names. If you've got any comments or would like to suggest a topic, you can contact us at or send us an email to...

P: You can also leave a message in the comment box below.

J: Until next time, 再见!

P: Bye-bye!


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• Chinese Names
Characters with the meanings of "gifted", "handsome" and "clever" were often chosen by parents as well wishes for their children to be beautiful, capable and intelligent. Parents always like their children to learn more, be more thoughtful and to have great aspirations.

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