17. Apr 2014 @ 21:41 on : Given Names in China: Male or Female?

Chinese Painting - Mountain
Chinese Painting – Mountain (Shan) 山 , which can be part of a Chinese male given name

In most European languages it is fairly easy to decide if the person is male of female by looking only at the written name. From Latin we know, that nouns or adjectives ending with an “-a” are female whereas nouns or adjectives with an “-us” are male. If that doesn’t work, as a Westerner you will have some other tricks to figure out if the name is female or male. But how to decide if to use Mr or Mrs by only seeing the written name in Chinese? Here are some hints:

Chinese given names almost always have a specific meaning, they reflect Chinese traditional and psychological characteristics. But because they should meet different expectations, which the parents or the society have, male or female names are different in China. In male given names you will often find the characters:

fu = rich

gui = precious

寿 shou = long life

jun = beautiful, talented

jie = excellent

which means, that the parents hope, that their sun will have his own family, become rich, healthy and talented. Male given names often express power, sublimity, light, strength, so one of the following character might be used:

niu = ox

hu = tiger

long = dragon

shan = mountain

hai = sea

lei = thunder

Female given names instead often have some of the following characters with the radical 女 “women” as part of the character

e = beautiful young lady

jiao = graceful

xian = chary

to express beauty and auspicousness. It is often the case that animals, plants or other natural phenomena which express beauty in China are used for female given names, like:

feng = phoenix

yan = swallow

ying = oriole

ju = chrysanthemum

lan = orchis

yun = cloud

xia = rosy clouds

Another aspect is that characters which express color (especially red) are used for female given names:

cai = colorful

bi = green jade

hong = red

su = white

All these express the parents’ hope, their daughter would be beautiful, tender and virtuous.

To decide, which Chinese name to use for yourself (if you don’t have any yet): John Pasden has made a list of the 100 most common Chinese surnames on his blog. You may choose a syllable which sounds similar to your surname and a given name you like and which correspond to your gender (mostly has two syllables).

Some examples: 陈大山 (male)、李富贵 (male)、王雨燕 (female)



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.