Chinese Culture

Naming

  • In Chinese names, the surname comes before one or two given names, the format being [surname] [given name] [given name]. The surname is usually one syllable, and the given names may contain one or two syllables each. 
  • In China, people address each other by their full name. When they wish to denote respect, they use one’s surname and appropriate title. It is disrespectful and uncommon to address someone by their given name alone. 
  • Only close friends and relatives may address each other by their nicknames. 
  • People may refer to those older or younger than them as ‘old’ [surname] (e.g. Lao WANG) or ‘young’ [surname] (e.g. Xiao WANG) to show respect and affection.
  • Chinese women do not change their names when they marry, but children are given their father's name. However, during the one-child policy, some children were given their mother’s surname or the surnames of both parents.
  • Chinese names are hard for Westerners to pronounce as the tones of Cantonese and Mandarin are very specific. Upon moving to Australia, the Chinese consider this (along with the pressure to conform to Western standards), and therefore, most will adopt a Westernised first name. They may keep one of their original first names as a middle name, but essentially adopt a new name and format it in the Western way: [Westernised first name] [Chinese first name/middle name] [surname]. This new name is only used in Western and international contexts; they revert to their original name when returning to China. However, first-generation Chinese migrants living in Australia usually give their Australia-born child a Western name instead of a Chinese one.
  • 270 million Chinese have one of the following three most popular surnames: Li, Wang and Zhang.
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