Chinese Names

The full name of a Han Chinese person is composed of two parts: the surname (family name) and the given name.

Today, there are 3,050 surnames in China. Among them, surnames like Zhang, Wang, Li, Zhao and Liu are the most popular. The surname, which comes first, is often passed down from father to son. It is generally composed of one word. There are also two word surnames, or compound surnames, such as Oyang, Zhuge and Sima. Unlike people in western countries, Chinese women always retain their family name even after marriage.

The given name, which contains one or two words, follows the surname. Take Chairman Mao's name for example: his name is "Mao Zedong". "Mao" is his surname and "Zedong" is the given name.

A full Chinese name normally has two or three words. Full names containing four words can also be seen because of a compound surname and two syllable given names.

Addressing a Chinese person directly by his (her) given name is considered to be offensive, unless you are a longtime friend. The proper way to address a person is by his (her) surname (family name), followed by XIANSHENG (Mr.) for men and NVSHI (Mrs.) or XIAOJIE (Ms.) for women.

Similarly, the professional/functional title is also used after the family name when addressing an important person. Here follows some examples:
English Chinese English Chinese
Mr. Li Li xiansheng President Jiang Jiang zhuxi
Mrs. Wang Wang nvshi Minister Zhu Zhu zongli
Ms. Wang Wang xiaojie Manager Zhang Zhang jingli

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