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HISTORY OF FOREIGNERS GETTING CHINESE NAMES

The earliest trend of foreigners in China picking a Chinese name can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907) in history. Abeno Nakamaro, a Japanese diplomat to the Tang Dynasty, was conferred the name of 晁衡 (Chao Heng) by Emperor Xuanzong and he served as an official of the imperial court for more than 50 years until his death. In Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 – 1912), the European missionaries 汤若望 (Johann Adam) and 南怀仁 (Ferdinand Verbiest) were regarded highly by the imperial court. In the Republic of China, European and American people in China stirred up the trend of picking a Chinese name, including the American ambassador 司徒雷登 (John Leighton Stuart) and the scholar 费正清 (John King Fairbank). After the founding of new China, the unified transliteration rules for foreigners were established and the standards were controlled by the Xinhua News Agency. After the reform and opening up, the rigid rules of translating John into 约翰 and Mary into 玛丽 could no longer meet the individualized needs of foreigners in the increasingly close international contacts and the trend of picking an authentic Chinese name was popular again.

TRANSLITERATION OF FOREIGN NAMES

Transliteration is the common way used to name a foreigner in China. It’s based on the sound of the name in the original language and not on the meaning of the name. The present US ambassador in China Max Baucus named 马克斯.鲍卡斯 in Chinese is translated directly from English into Chinese. However, most of the Chinese people think it lacks innovation and is not a good Chinese name. Here are more typical examples of foreign names transliterated into Chinese characters:

No.NameTransliteration (Pinyin)
1Anderson安德森 (ān dé sēn)
2Andy安迪(ān dí)
3David大卫 (dà wèi)
4John约翰 (yuē hàn)
5Steve斯蒂夫 (sī dì fū)
6Lisa丽莎 (lì shā)
7Monica莫尼卡 (mò ní ká)
8Iris艾丽丝(ài lì sī)
9Wendy温蒂 (wēn dì)
10Emily艾米丽 (ài mǐ lì)

SOME OF THE BEST CHINESE NAMES FOREIGNERS USE

Nowadays, foreigners are more likely to pick a Chinese name by combining the transliteration with the free translation in accordance with the rules of Chinese people in picking a name. The elegant Chinese names are very common among the diplomats in Guangzhou. For example, Rebecca Needham, the New Zealand Consul General in Guangzhou, has a Chinese name 陈立恩 (Chen Lien) which is authentic and elegant. Ole Lindholm, the Denmark Consul General in Guangzhou, has a Chinese name 林宏 (Lin Hong) which is Sinicized, simple and close to the pronunciation of the primitive name. However, the Chinese names of consuls in Guangzhou are not always elegant and restrained. Carlos J. Marin, the Chile Consul General, has an aggressive Chinese name 龙啸天 (Long Xiaotian).

HOW TO GET AUTHENTIC CHINESE NAMES FOR EXPATS IN CHINA

1.    Determine your goal. Your basic goal is to pick a very authentic Chinese name and hope that this name can highlight your characteristics.

2.    Firstly, choose the right surname. I strongly recommend you to choose a surname from the book of Hundred Family Surnames. This is very important to ensure that your name will not be regarded as the name of a place or an item by Chinese people.

3.    Choose a brief name. Your full name shall be in two or three Chinese characters. The surname is a Chinese character and the given name may be one or two Chinese characters.

4.    Ask for help. The differences between Chinese and western cultures shall be taken into consideration in picking a proper Chinese name and you can ask for help from a Chinese.

5.    Don’t pick the name same with a celebrity. In China, it is very conceited to pick the name same with a celebrity. In ancient times, the civilians could not have the same name with the emperors and this tradition is deep-rooted in Chinese culture.

6.    Try a few more names. The name you pick will be used in your whole life, so take some time to pick a good name.

GOOD CHINESE NAMES FOR FOREIGNERS

Following are some of the good examples of Chinese names for foreigners mainly with the meaning of strong will.

No.English NameTransliterationChinese Name (Pinyin)
1Kenneth, Keith肯尼思铿石 (jiān shí)
2Ziegler兹勒自克 (zì kè)
3Steven斯蒂文自成 (zì chéng)
4Robert, Robin罗伯特若柏 (ruò baǐ)
5Roger, Rodger罗杰若剑 (ruò jiàn)
6Kent肯特恳挚 (kěn zhì)
7Lincoln, Lionel林肯立行 (lì xíng)
8Galen盖伦刚劲 (gang jìn)
9Joel,John约翰坚恒 (jīan hēng)
10Josh宙斯坚毅 (jīan yì)
11Garth加寺斯刚汉 (gang hàn)
12Charley查理持立 (chí lì)
13Wayne韦恩纬恒 (wěi héng)
14Harley, Henry享利恒励 (héng lì)
15Harry, Hilary哈瑞鸿力 (hóng lì)

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