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Global Perspectives

Global traditions: Chinese names

December 11, 2019

Introduction: As writing instructors in UWRF’s English Language Transition (ELT) Program one of our missions is to involve English learning students in campus activities while strengthening their knowledge of English. We could think of no better way to do this than to have them publish an article in the Student Voice. What you are about to read is the final product of several sessions of brainstorming and writing followed by consultations with native speakers including some from the TESOL program and the Student Voice. — Kiki Augustin (ESL 211 Intermediate Writing) and Alex Hatheway (MODL 310 Advanced Composition)

Nowadays, there are nearly 500 surnames in China. As we all know, China is a big country with a big population, so it is normal that lots of people have the same surname.

Many foreigners feel confused why two Chinese students have the same surname although they are not siblings. Most of the Chinese surnames have been handed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. Different surnames come about in different ways.

At the same time, because of traditional culture , Chinese people care very much about their own names. They believe that their names should accompany their own lives. They must choose meaningful names to express their good wishes and integrate their parents’ deep feelings and ardent expectations for their children.

Therefore, today’s parents in China usually look through the dictionary to find the meaning of the word or go to a special name agency to find a professional person to pick up the name. And some of them will be based on Chinese idioms or allusions to other aspects of Chinese traditional culture. Names are the patented products of each of us, from a very simple code name to a socially meaningful vocabulary, which shows the infinite charm and connotation of Chinese language.