Chinese style name

A Chinese style name, sometimes also known as a courtesy name, is an extra name that could be used in place of the given name. It could be given by one's parents or adopted later in life by oneself. The tradition of adopting style names faded out since the May Fourth Movement and is rarely practised today. There are two common forms of style name, the zi and the hao.



Zi (Simplified Chinese: 字; Traditional Chinese: 字; Pinyin: z), or sometimes called Biao Zi (Simplified Chinese: 表字; Traditional Chinese: 表字; Pinyin: biǎo z), is a name given to Chinese males at the age of 20, marking their coming of age, or sometimes to females when they are married. According to the Book of Rites (礼记), after a man becomes an adult, it is disrespectful for others of the same generation to address him by his given name. Therefore, the given name is reserved for oneself and one's elders, while zi would be used by adults of the same generation to refer to one another in formal occasions or writings, and thus the term "courtesy name".

Zi is mostly disyllabic (consisting of two characters) and is usually based on the meaning of the ming or given name. Yan Zhitui (颜之推) of Northern Qi Dynasty believed that the given name is used to differentiate one from another, while zi expresses one's moral integrity.

The relation between zi and the given name is evident in the case of Mao Zedong (毛泽东), whose zi was Runzhi (润之). "Ze" (泽) and "run" (润) share the same radical - 氵, which signifies water. At the same time, both characters could also mean "to benefit" or "to nourish".

Another possible way to form a zi is to place "zi" (Simplified Chinese: 子; Traditional Chinese: 子; Pinyin: zǐ) - a respectful title for a male - as the first character of the disyllabic zi. For example, Gongsun qiao's zi was (子产), and Du Fu's zi was Zimei (子美).

It is also possible to place in front of zi a character which expresses one's rank in one's family. For instance, Confucius, whose Chinese name was Kong Qiu, was the second son of his family. Therefore, his zi was Zhongni (仲尼), where "zhong" means ranking second among brothers.

The use of zi began sometime in Shang Dynasty and became most popular during Zhou Dynasty, and slowly developed into a system. During Zhou Dynasty, women were also given zi. However, zi for a female was mostly formed by putting together a character signifying her rank in the family and her surname.

Prior to the 20th century, sinicized Koreans and Japanese also used zi. In Korean, zi is translated as cha (자), and in Japanese, as azana or ji.

Zi of some famous people:

  • Confucius
    • Family name: Kong
    • Given name: Qiu
    • Zi: Zhongni
  • Zhuge Liang
    • Family name: Zhuge
    • Given name: Liang
    • Zi: Kongming
  • Li Po
    • Family name: Li
    • Given name: Bai
    • Zi: Taibai
  • Sun Yat-sen
    • Family name: Sun
    • Given name: Wen
    • Zi: Zaizhi
  • Mao Zedong
    • Family name: Mao
    • Given name: Zedong
    • Zi: Runzhi


Hao (Simplified Chinese: 号; Traditional Chinese: 號; Pinyin: ho) was an alternative courtesy name to zi. It was most commonly three or four characters long, and perhaps first became popular due to people having the same names. Hao was usually self-selected and it was possible to have more than one. It had no connection with one's given name or zi, but was often a very personal, sometimes whimsical choice perhaps embodying an allusion or containing a rare character, as might befit an educated literatus. Hao was also often used in the title of a writer's collected works.

External Links

See also



  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools