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Chinese Names

So, you just met Wong Zhongyu and Fong Ying. You then say "Pleased to meet you Mr. Zhongyu and Miss Ying". You have already made your first mistake. Chinese surnames(family names) are expressed first. In this example, you have met Mister Wong and his associate Miss Fong.

After marriage, Chinese women normally retain their family name. You will not see hyphenate names such as "Chen-Ling". They do not combine the two family names and hyphenate them as is common in the west. The children will take on the fathers' family name.

Chinese readily take on a western first name when working with foreign firms or engaged in business where they will come in contact with Westerners. It is also common for parents to give their child a Western first name(in addition to their chinese name) at birth or in early childhood. They will take care in selecting their first name, either for themselves or for their child and will select a name with a meaning that they prefer. On occasion, you may be asked to either select a name or to help in the selection. Make sure you know he meaning of the names you recommend.

After you have worked in China or with the Chinese people, you will likely want a Chinese name as well. Ask your Chinese friends and colleagues to select the name for you. They will not usually give you a name on the spot. After significant thought, they will select a name that carries meaning and significance about you. They will describe this meaning. A helpful hint is to request in advance that the name be easy for you to pronounce, especially if you do not speak the language.


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