Chinese Names 🤩 A Simple and Easy Guide to Understanding Names in China

Chinese Names || Understanding How Names in China Work

Intimidated and confused when it comes to reading and understanding Chinese Names? No idea where to start?

Chinese-names

You’ve come to exactly the right place!

Within 10 minutes you’ll be able to:

  • Understand the story behind Chinese Names
  • How to pick your own Chinese Name or better still…
  • Generate your own Chinese name in seconds!
  • Discover the most popular Chinese surnames
  • Find out some popular boys and girls names in Chinese

Chinese Names || What’s the Story

Chinese Names || What do they Mean?

Chinese Names || Changing your Name after Marriage

Chinese Names || How to Pick Your Chinese Name

Chinese Names || Chinese Boy Names

Chinese Names || Chinese Girl Names

Chinese Names || FAQs

Chinese names are unique, and sometimes a little odd sounding to a foreigner.

This is why Chinese people often have both a Chinese name and an English name. They will choose their English name themselves, or have it chosen for them at school. 

Choosing your own name? Sounds like fun, right? See below for tips on how you can choose your own Chinese name for when you come to China!

Or even better, use our Chinese name generator to find out your own name right now! Our generator only works for one name at a time. Please write only ONE NAME at a time.

When you first see a Chinese name, it’s very easy to glance at Chinese and think…

“that’s way too complex for me”

but WAIT…!

This is Dannie - Believe it or not, Dannie is not her Chinese name...!
It’s Dannie – Dannie is not her Chinese name

Most expats in China struggle to memorise Chinese names.

I struggle with remembering English names too, but that’s a separate issue.

They are too long and complex to pronounce. In Hollywood movies, we see and hear of actors with names like Jackie Chan and Jet Lee.

Their names are pretty and easy to remember.

But only a few people know their real names. Do you know their real names?

Jackie Chan is not his real Chinese Name?! Nope

Jackie Chan and Jet Li are actually called are Chéng Lóng (成龙) and Lǐ Liánjié (李连杰).

Being a Hollywood star or a famous businessman like Jack Ma (Chinese name Mǎ Yún 马云) requires a more westernised name.

Jack Ma (for those of you who don’t know) is the co-founder and executive chairman of the Alibaba Group.

Usually, I would ask a local Chinese person if they have an English (international) name. Some do and some don’t!

It has become more popular in recent times for Chinese people to keep their Chinese names – and foreigners just have to deal with trying to remember them. I mean, that’s pretty fair to be honest.

Especially since Chinese names carry such importance and weight in their meanings. 

Here’s the deal

Chinese names hold strong meaning and parents spend real time on these. The meanings are very deliberate.

Children are named after attributes like fire, or qualities such as loyalty, instead of the nicest sounding name. 

Chinese names are in fact, as long and esteemed as Chinese Culture itself. Naming in China is a serious and time-consuming process, just as in every country.

But only in China and some other Asian countries, there is a Name Culture.

Let’s try to figure it out…

Chinese Names – What’s The Story?

First of all, when Chinese people say their name, first they say the Family name, then Given name so if we take Jackie Chan (Chéng Lóng) as an example – Cheng is his last name, Long is given a name.

Basically flip your name backwards and you have the structure of a Chinese name.

Chinese family names take first place because they are more valuable.

You carry your family name proudly and pass it to next generations.

The family name usually consists of one (or rarely two/three) characters and the given name is usually two characters.

Family names have been in Chinese culture way before our era, but back then only privileged people had a family name. Common people did not.

It was only many years later that all Chinese people had family names. Much like many popular English names such as Smith, family names would have been issued according to their occupation. 

In China, it is common that the way people will address you will change throughout your life.

At birth, parents give a child a name and “little name” (小名). This “little name” is usually used in early childhood.

When a child enrols at school, he or she is given “school name” (学名).

After graduation from school, everyone can call you your given name or “big name” (大名/名). In addition, it is popular to use aliases (号).

Chinese Proverbs || 11 of our Favourites (with Bonus Proverb Quiz) Thumbnail

Chinese Proverbs || 11 of our Favourites (with Bonus Proverb Quiz)

Chinese Proverbs (or Idioms) and sayings (谚语 yànyŭ in Chinese) are a great way to expand your Chinese vocabulary when you’re learning mandarin.

Chinese Names – What Do They Mean? 

Mulan’s name means “magnolia” in Chinese

Chinese names always have meanings and its always something good and pleasant. Girl’s names normally have a Chinese name that relates to beauty, flowers, or pureness. Boys Chinese names are usually connected with power and bravery

However, a long time ago it was believed that giving your child a name with a bad meaning could hold off evil spirits. 

This lead to some interesting name choices:

Gou Sheng (dog’s leftover) and Te Dan (iron egg) are two examples!

Another interesting tradition includes parents going to visit a witch or seer upon the birth of the baby. Here, they would ask the seer or witch what kind of destiny is intended for their child.

If there was a risk of some kind of threat to the child’s life or health, parents gave the name with the opposite meaning of the threat.

If the child’s destiny said that the child will suffer from fire, the child would be given a name connected with water.

The tradition of giving a “little name” is still popular nowadays and using an alias is very popular among celebrities. The “little name” usually sounds like their given name, just a little bit modified.

For example, if the child’s full name is Ma Yang, the little name will be Yang-Yang.

Chinese Names – Changing Your Name After Marriage?

Changing the last name after marriage is common practice all over the world.

Except for in China.

What do they do instead?

Sometimes, girls keep their original Family name, or they can combine it with their husband’s Family name.

The children have to take fathers’ family name regardless.

This is largely due to the importance held on Chinese names since they can tell us a lot about the person.

For example, the given name and family name can also give the information about a person’s origin a long time ago.

The name Huang Helou (黄鹤楼) is a feminine name given after one famous tower called Yellow Crane in Wuhan, a city in Hubei province.

Did you know…

The most common Chinese Names

FUN FACT || in the whole of China, 85% of the population share the same 100 last names.

In total there are about 12,000 last names.

The most famous are – Li (李), Wang (王), Zhang (张).

From all 12,000 last names about 5000 consist of 1 character and the rest consist of 2 to 8 characters.

And there is one last name in China that consists of 9 characters.

Chinese people value their names and family names very much.

A good example of Chinese people expressing the important of ‘name culture’ happened at Columbia University in New York, the USA.

Young people from China spoke out against xenophobia towards their original names and created a video that was spread all over the internet.

It has thousands views on YouTube.

The video called “Say my name” encourages people to respect Chinese names and Chinese culture.

Chinese culture is one of the oldest and richest in the world and naming is a part of it as in every Chinese person’s life their name carry the part of their National Culture.

5 Ideas To Help You Pick Your Chinese Name

Choose a name that sounds similar to yours.

This doesn’t work for all names, and make sure to check with your Chinese friends or teacher before settling with a character purely based on the sound!

Choose one of the name translations.

There are many standard name translations in Chinese for typical English names. For example, Amy is usually 艾美 ài měi, and David is usually 大卫 dà wèi.

Pick yourself a common Chinese name! 

Here are the most common Chinese names in China.

  • Wang (王)
  • Li (李)
  • Zhang (张)
  • Liu (刘)
  • Chen (陈)
  • Yang (杨)
  • Huang (黄)
  • Zhao (赵)
  • Wu (吴)
  • Zhou (周)
Chinese-Names

Pick some characters you like, or you can write (!)

It’s important that you can at least read your name, but better if you can write it too! Don’t pick characters that are too difficult.

Ask your Chinese friend or teacher. 

The least fun, but the most fool-proof method when choosing your Chinese name.

BONUS || LTL student and marketing whizz Hannah wrote an article about how she picked her Chinese name and enlisted help from her closest friends in Taiwan.

See the end result here.

Chinese Boy Names

Here are five favourite or typical Chinese boy names:

NamePinyinMeaning
伟祺wěi qíVery lucky or auspicious
念真niàn zhēnThe first name of a famous Taiwanese writer, meaning ‘read the truth’
鸿涛hóng tāoThe hóng part of this name means to prosper or to flourish
苑博yuàn bóThe bó in this names means to be learned or a scholar
明杰míng jiéWise and distinguished

Chinese Girl Names

Here are five favourite or typical Chinese girl names:

NamePinyinMeaning
徽因huī yīnThe first name of a famous female architect and poet
书兰 shū lánshū means book and lán is orchid
海云hǎi yúnThis name has beautiful imagery, hǎi refers to the sea and yún are clouds
平安píng’ān The characters in this Chinese name mean peace
雅琴yǎ qínYǎ means elegant and qín means musical instrument

So there we have it, your complete guide to Chinese names!

Do you have a Chinese name? If so, tell us below. Or do you want us to help you with your very first Chinese name?

If you are keen on coming to China we recommend you check this video out. Mr LTL himself, Andreas, our founder, tells you the best places to learn Chinese in China (in his humble opinion)

Like learning about how names differ in the east and west?

What about a quick lesson in Vietnamese names and Korean names too? There’s some fascinating insights to discover!

Plus there is even some cross over with Chinese names and names throughout Asia. Come and find out.

Chinese Names || FAQs

What is the most popular Chinese surname?

李 (Li) is the most common surname in China.

What are the 2nd and 3rd most popular surnames in China?

The 2nd and 3rd most popular names in China are 王 (Wang) and 长 (Zhang).

What is Jackie Chan’s Chinese name?

Jackie Chan’s Chinese name is Chéng Lóng (成龙).

What is Jet Li’s Chinese name?

Jet Li’s Chinese name is Lǐ Liánjié (李连杰).

How do you say name in Chinese?

míng zì 名字

How do you say surname in Chinese?

xìng 姓

What are Chinese boy names?

伟祺 Wěi qí – this means very lucky or auspicious.

念真 Niàn zhēn – This name is the first name of a famous Taiwanese writer, meaning ‘read the truth’.

鸿涛 Hóng tāo – The hóng part of this name means to prosper or to flourish.

苑博 Yuàn bó – The bó in this names means to be learned or a scholar.

明杰 Míng jié – This name means wise and distinguished.

What are Chinese girl names?

徽因 Huī yīn – this is just a Chinese girls name that we think sounds nice. It’s the first name of a famous female architect and poet.

书兰 Shū lán – In this Chinese name, shū means book and lán is orchid.

海云 Hǎi yún – This name has beautiful imagery, hǎi refers to the sea and yún are clouds.

平安 Píng’ān – The characters in this Chinese name mean peace.

雅琴 Yǎ qín – Yǎ means elegant and qín means musical instrument, a Chinese name for an elegant and creative type.

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  12. 예스벳
    Reply

    Chinese names are really fascinating, they also work similar to Koreans. Kim, Lee and Park are the most common surnames in Korea.

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      Absolutely, although I can’t say we are expert Korean speakers there are certainly a number of similarities with how the names are displayed. I think Kim, Lee and Park is similar to Li, Zhang and Wang in Chinese – they are dominant surnames in the language.

  13. I want a Chinese name!!

  14. Jemma
    Reply

    Are any Chinese names like, 5/6 characters?

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      No Jemma Chinese names are either 2 or 3 characters in virtually all cases.

      I’m sure there are some exceptions out there, but we’ve never seen otherwise!

      LTL

      1. Nana Prempeh
        Reply

        Pls can I send a card to you then you mentioned the name for me

        1. Max Hobbs
          Reply

          Feel free

      2. Namhi
        Reply

        can you give me a sample name of Fuel? its regard for business matter. thank you

        1. Max Hobbs
          Reply

          Sorry Namhi, I don’t quite understand your question?

  15. Martin
    Reply

    My Chinese name is 马云 (horse cloud) 😂

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      Excellent Martin, the Ma is from your name also! Good work

  16. Martyn
    Reply

    Chinese names blow my mind so much thought behind them compared to the west where it’s just “follow the trends” or celeb choices!

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      Indeed, there’s a real art behind picking the right one. Very unique

  17. Irina
    Reply

    矮林 is my Chinese name 🙂

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      👏

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  20. Carroll
    Reply

    I finally got my name in Chinese! Thanks LTL!

    1. Marine Colliot
      Reply

      Always happy to help! 🙂
      – Marine

  21. Gunnar
    Reply

    Thank you! My Chinese professor gives us names based on how our own names are pronounced. Funny enough, he thought I was a girl during our first class, so after I told him, he renamed me 郝国男 to remind himself, haha!

    1. LTL Team HQ
      Reply

      Haha Gunnar, that is a very funny story 😂.

      The LTL Team

  22. Hey, been trying to deciding on a chinese name for AGES, wondering what you think of 周 海霞?

    Its really hard to know what kind of flow it has

    1. LTL Team HQ
      Reply

      Hi Roob,

      Yes it can be so hard to decide on a Chinese name!! But 周 海霞 is a great name, it is very 很好听 so we think it’s a great choice 😊.

      Thanks,
      The LTL Team

  23. Frank Balena (高富帅)
    Reply

    高富帅 was the name given to me years ago. I didn’t realize what it meant until I actually went to China to study 😂😂

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      We’ve all been there Frank!

      1. Lana
        Reply

        My name is Lana and I have not found a Chinese name close to mine

        1. Max Hobbs
          Reply

          In these situations it’d be great to ask a Chinese friend who knows you well. Names can often be based on personality.

  24. My chinese name is 陆慈榕. Is it good or bad??

    1. Katie Coy
      Reply

      Hi Lea,

      This is a great Chinese name! 慈 means kind and 榕 is a big tree, which in a name refers to growing up strong and quick.

      The LTL Team

  25. Is 吳嘉芸 a good female name?

    1. Katie Coy
      Reply

      Hi CJ,

      The character 嘉 means good and 芸 is a good character for a female name. Really great choice!

      The LTL Team

  26. Grace
    Reply

    Hi what do you think of 马雅 or 马雅惠 as a girl’s name? (which one do you prefer?) Is there any weird/funny alternative meaning to these characters being used together?

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      Hi Grace, thanks for your comment

      We prefer 马雅惠。 马雅 sounds like 妈呀 which in Chinese means “oh my god” 😂

      Hope this helps

      LTL

      1. grace
        Reply

        Oh wow! Thanks for that. What about 马惠 over 马雅惠 as a 2-syllable alternative

        1. Max Hobbs
          Reply

          No problem!

          How about 马慧 as this sounds like wisdom in Chinese? Something a little different but great connotations in Mandarin.

          LTL

    2. 문한별
      Reply

      what do you think of 吴宵晖?

  27. Anastasia Wun
    Reply

    hi, is there such a surname called Bibi 比比? If yes, what exactly does it mean?
    I’m still puzzled by this name 比比东 BiBi Dong

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      Hi Anastasia, thanks for your comment

      比比东 comes from a famous novel, TV show and animation called 斗罗大陆.

      It’s just a nick name and we don’t have a surname like that in Chinese.

      Hope this helps.

      1. Hi I want to name my son Qiao which means handsome but I Don’t know if it’s a surname and its chinese character

    2. Thanks for the excellent article! What do you think do the name 王海灵? I wanted something that felt gender neutral and specifically mentioned the ocean. Thank you!

      1. Max Hobbs
        Reply

        That’s a great choice of name 🤩 Well done if you chose it yourself!

  28. Cynthia You
    Reply

    Hi! what do you think of 輕珍 / 輕珠? do they sound and look good for a girl’s name? or how about using this qing 清珍 / 清珠? which one will be better?

    1. Katie Coy
      Reply

      Hi Cynthia!

      珍珠 means pearl, so perhaps this may be maybe a better name for you? Or if you prefer both 清清 and 珠珠 also sound like really cool names!

      Thanks,
      The LTL Team

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  30. Alden
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    Thank you, this post really helps me creating a name for myself. Interesting that they put so much thought on creating names.

    Also, what do you think about these names: 俊爾德, 俊威儀, and 俊維翰? Are they sound OK for a young male adult? Is 俊 a legitimate surname or should I stick with 楚?

    I am afraid they are a bit outdated since I created them by taking characters from a passage in 詩經 🤣. Also, since its in classical Chinese I am not quite sure about how to combine the characters.

    Thanks once again 😁

    1. Katie Coy
      Reply

      Hi Alden,

      Thank you so much for your comment. It is so impressive that you read 诗经 (詩經)! We suggest that you stick with the surname 楚,and 楚尔德 (楚爾德) is a very cool name. For instance Oscar Wilde is translated 奥斯卡·王尔德 in Chinese.

      Thanks,
      The LTL Team

  31. Hi! Do you know if 信心 can be used as a girls name? Is 李信心 an acceptable name or should I use different characters? I really like the xinxin pronounciation so I would like to have that as my name.

    1. Katie Coy
      Reply

      Hi Ella! The name 李信心 would sound a little unusual so we would instead recommend one of the following names: 李鑫 李欣 李馨, if you really like the sound of xinxin for all these names you can repeat the xin for example 李欣欣.

      Hope that helps,
      The LTL Team

  32. Hello, I wanna know 遇熹 & 宋雾曦 are beautiful names or not. I chose 遇 as surname & 熹 as given name. Also in 宋 & 雾曦。But, I’m not sure then. If they aren’t good, please help me what to change suitably.

    I’m creating novel, so I need a perfect CP name tho. Thank you so much.

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      They are all good to be honest Tara.

      We had a chat around the office and the general view was 遇熹 is amazing and the favourite, but all of them would fit just fine 🙂

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  35. I am Mark, what’s my Chinese name

  36. Ah every aspect of Chinese culture is so interesting to learn about, since the history has so much depth! I tried to keep my Chinese name as close to my English name meaning as possible. My family name relates to birch trees and my given name means joy / happiness. So, combining these, I came up with: 林怡然 (Lin Yi Ran), 林靜怡 (Lin Jing Yi) / 林靜熙 (Lin Jing Xi) / 林靜辉 (Lin Jing Hui). I added Jing because it speaks to my personality. Huān Yǒng also caught my eye. Do these options sound okay?

    1. LTL Team HQ
      Reply

      That sounds perfect Sara, nicely done 🙂

  37. Grace
    Reply

    Hi! I have given myself a Japanese name 恵(Megumi) as it’s meaning is similar to my Western name. I wanted to include 惠(Hui4) in my Chinese name somewhere. I was thinking about 惠姸 (Huìyán) or 贤惠 (Xiánhuì) or 惠良 (Huìliáng) or something along those lines.

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      Those are great options Grace! Lovely work.

      惠 means kindness in Mandarin so that’s a great inclusion to your name.

  38. Excellent article!

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      Thanks Leo

  39. Hi,
    my name is Tapio H., and about 10 years ago, I chose with locals in Beijing together following name 郝泰博 (Hǎo Taì Bǒ). I like the translation, and I thought it fits my name.
    However, always and where ever I went in China, this name made the people laugh and smile, and yet they always said, its a good name, when I asked why they are laughing.
    Therefore, I am unsure about the name, due to all the laughing about my name.
    What do you think, is it a good name?
    And now, I live in Taiwan, can I use it here?
    All the best, Tapio

    1. LTL Team HQ
      Reply

      Hi Taipo, we don’t understand the laughing at all! As Chinese natives speakers we like this name a lot.

      郝泰博 hǎo tài bó – 郝 as a first name starts H which suit yours and 泰博 not only suits Tapio, but also means “well wishes” and “well being”

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  41. Navodya Dissanayaka
    Reply

    My Chinese name is 邓思雅. Is this Chinese name beautiful for girl. What does it mean?

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      Our team think it’s a really nice name. It means gives a feel of elegance which is perfect for female name 🙂

  42. May Thant Thant Kyaw
    Reply

    I want a Chinese girl name and I am interested in the Chinese language so I am starting to learn.

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      Our Chinese speaking team recommend 梅岚岚.

      The surname 梅 (mei) sounds like your name May and 岚 is the name of a mountain 🙂

  43. 황 로희
    Reply

    Hi i just got my korean name rohee which means she whose intuition will allow her to light up even the darkest unknown of universe.

    I really like the name and found that it will become (my fam surename)huang lu-xi in chinnese.

    But i dont know the hanzi version of luxi. Is this the correct character? 路凞 (1st character is road, 2nd character is bright, glorious)

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      The characters for your name would be 露曦.

      Great choice by the way!

  44. Liam
    Reply

    I’m curious about the use of two names to create a single name. Example: for a male, would “Min Jie” or “Jie Min” be accurate for meaning “a clever hero”? I want to be as accurate as I can be, but the web has shown a lot of different meanings for these two names

  45. Sue Mah
    Reply

    My Chinese name is
    Mah Li Fong
    What are the Chinese characters

  46. 嘉欣
    Reply

    It’s really nice to learn more about my culture! My chinese name is 嘉欣,it was picked by my grandparents apparently. I’m not too sure of the meaning but I know it means something along the lines of joy.

    I’m really amazed at the careful consideration on chinese names. I hope I can give my future children good chinese names too someday even if I’m not that good at chinese.

    1. Max Hobbs
      Reply

      Love to hear that! Yes Chinese names really have so much thought process, it makes the names incredibly meaningful. Your name is also really nice, your family chose well!

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