Posthumous name

A posthumous name (諡號/謚號 Pinyin: sh ho; Romaji: shigō/tsuigō; Revised Romanization of Korean: siho) is a honorary name given to royalty in some cultures posthumously, that is, after the person's death. The posthumous name is commonly used when naming most Chinese royalty, most Korean royalty, almost all Vietnamese royalty and all the emperors of Japan, except the four most recent emperors, Akihito, Hirohito (the Showa emperor), the Taisho emperor and the Meiji emperor. Posthumous names in China and Vietnam were given to honor lifetime accomplishment: many people who were not related to the emperor have posthumous names. An example is Sun Yat-Sen who is called Father of the Country (國父 Guf).



Having their origins in the Chinese Zhou Dynasty, posthumous names were used 800 years earlier than temple names. The first person named posthumously was Ji Chun (姬昌), named by his son Ji Fa (姬發) of Zhou, as the "Civil King" (文王). The use of posthumous names was stopped in the Qin Dynasty, because Qin Shi Huang proclaimed that it is disrespectful for the descendants, or "later emperors" (嗣皇帝) to judge their elders, or the "prior emperors" (先帝). The practice was revived in the Han Dynasty after the demise of the Qin Empire.

Chinese emperors

All Chinese posthumous names for rulers end in one or two of the characters for "emperor", huangdi (皇帝), which can be shortened to di; except about a dozen or so less recognized ones who have had only di and no huang.

Starting with Emperor Xiaowen of Han China (more commonly "Emperor Wen"), every single Han emperor, except the final one of the Eastern Han, has the character of "filial" (孝 xio) at the beginning of his posthumous names. "Filial" is also used in the full posthumous names of virtually all emperors of Tang, Song, Ming and Qing Dynasties. For Qing emperors, 孝 xio is placed in various position in the string of characters, while those Qing empresses who were given posthumous names, 孝 xio is always initial.

The number of characters in posthumous increased slowly. The emperors of the Tang Dynasty have names in between seven to eighteen characters. Those in the Qing Dynasty have over twenty characters, for example, Kangxi's name is The Emperors of Order who Observes the Heavenly Rituals with a Solemn Fate, Destined to Unify, Establishes with Extreme Talented Insights, Admires the Arts, Manifests the Might, with Great Virtue and Vast Achievement, Reaches Humanity, Purely Filial" (禮天隆運定統建極英睿欽文顯武大德宏功至仁純孝章皇帝 lǐ tiān lng yǔn dng tǒng jin j yīng ru qīn wn xiǎn wǔ d d hng gōng zh rn chn xio zhāng hung d).

The woman with the longest posthumous name is Empress Cixi, who is "The Empress who is Admirably Filial, Initiates Kindness, with Blessed Health, Manifests Much Contentment, Solemn Sincerity, with Longevity, Provides Admiration Prosperously, Reveal Adoration, Prosperous with a Merry Heaven, with a Holy Appearance" (孝欽慈禧端佑康頤昭豫莊誠壽恭欽獻崇熙配天興聖顯皇后 xio qīn c xī duān yǒu kāng y zhāo y zhuāng chng sho gōng qīn xin chng xī bi tiān xn shng yn xiǎn hung hu).

Posthumous names can be praises (褒字) or depreciations (貶字). There are more praises than depreciations, so posthumous names are also commonly called respectful name (尊號 zūn ho) in Chinese. Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian outlines extensively the rules behind choosing the names. Some of those guidelines:

  • Praises
    • Those having a persistent and reasonable governance(剛強直理) are called "Martial" (武 wǔ). (This is one of the most honourable names.)
    • Those who sympathize with the people and recognize their needs (憫民會椅) are called "Civil" (文 wn). (This is one of the most honourable names.)
    • Those who respect the talented and value righteousness (尊賢貴義) are called "Reverent" (恭 gng).
    • Those who are kind and benevolent in nature(溫柔賢善) are called "Benign" (懿 y).
    • Those who aid the people out of righteousness(由義而濟) are called "Admirable" (景 jǐng).
    • Those who treat the people compassionately with a gentle quality (柔質慈民) are called "Compassionate" (惠 hu).
    • Those who eliminate destructions and purge cruelty (除殘去虐) are called "Tang" (湯 tāng). (Possibly named after the revered ruler Chengtang (成湯), the founder of the Shang Dynasty.)
    • Those who make the people feel satisfied with their policies (安民立政) are called "Constructive" (成 chng). (Again, possibly named after Chengtang.)
    • Those who are considerate and far-sighted (果慮果遠) are called "Brilliant" (明 mng).
    • Those who preach their virtue and righteousness to the people(布德執義) are called "Majestic" (穆 m).
    • Those who are aggressive to expand their realm(辟土服遠) are called "Exploratory" (桓 hun).
    • "High(ly respected)" (高 gāo) is particularly reserved for the founders of dynasties.
  • Depreciations
    • Those who lived short lives without much accomplishment (短折不成) are called "Passed Away Prematurely" (殤 shāng).
    • Those who have a constant twinge of depression (often due to political plights)during their governance(在國遭憂) are called "Pitiful" (愍 mǐn).
    • Those who lose their spouses and pass away at their early age (蚤孤短折) are called "Lamentable" (哀 āi).
    • Those who are obliged to make sacrifices to their ancestors (肆行勞祀) are called "Mournful" (悼 do).

However, most of these qualifications are subjective, repetitive, and highly stereotypical; hence the names are chosen somewhat arbitrarily. Such names are usually given by modern Chinese historians, according to their good deeds or the bad ones.

Japanese emperors

Japanese posthumous are also called "emperor names" (帝号). Almost all Japanese emperors' posthumous names have two Kanji characters, a few have three. Some names are given several generations later—this is case for Jinmu and Antoku. Others are given immediately after death, like Monmu. Many have style like the Chinese, for example

  • Jinmu (神武) "Divine Might"
  • Nintoku (仁徳) "Humane Virtue"
  • Ojin (応神) "Answering the Gods"

Some have Japanese style:

  • Naming after a place where the emperor was born or lived.
  • Naming after an emperor whose admirable characteristics resemble those of an earlier one, by adding the character Go (後) "latter."
  • Combining characters from previous emperors.

Korean Emperors & Kings

Although Korean emperors and kings had elaborate posthumous names, they are usually referred to by their temple names today.

Non-royal posthumous names

It was common in China, Vietnam and Korea for persons of note to be given posthumous names even when those persons lacked any relation to royalty:

Often immediate ancestors of the first emperor of a dynasty were typically given posthumous names even though they themselves were not royalty.

  • Liu Zhijia (劉執嘉), a Qin farmer who was given the name Tai Shang Huang (Emperor Emeritus, 太上皇) "Absolute Superiority," just because he was the father of Han Gaozu.

An exception to insignificant ancestor-naming is Lao Zi, the claimed ancestor of the Li family of the Tang Dynasty, was named posthumously (see the "Lao Zi" article). He has been culturally important after death.


To combine an emperor's temple name and posthumous name, place temple first.

The process of naming somebody posthumously is in Chinese called "retroactively posthumously naming" (追謚).

A fuller description of this naming convention for royalty appears in the Chinese sovereign entry.

See also

External link

fa:نام پسامرگ ja:諡 zh:諡號


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