Evolution of Chinese names

March 16, 2021


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For Kontinentalist, Isabella Chua took a dive into the evolution of Chinese names:

Put simply, names encode the wishes parents have for their children.

So, what were these wishes? For answers, I turned to the Chinese name database, which covers the surname and given-name characters for almost all 1.2 billion Han Chinese—the ethnic majority in China—individuals born between 1930 and 2008. I’ve focused only on given names here rather than surnames; given names are subject to parents’ discretion, whereas surnames are inherited.

If you’re unfamiliar with Chinese names, Chua provides good explanations and audio pronunciations to make it easier to follow along.