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When learning Chinese you will inevitably run into the problem with Chinese names. Which name comes first ? Or even more complicated : “Is this the last or first name ?”. This article is supposed to help out with some confusions and hopefully make it a lot easier for you.

Family Comes First

Chinese names are written in a reverse order, which means the personal name comes second. This order shows the traditional importance towards ones family clan, the individual is not as important as the family from which he comes from. However Chinese people who have names with two syllables are never refered with just one syllable. If the family name is “Gong Li”, it is referred as “Gong Li”.  Most of the Chinese names however have just one syllable. (Chai, 2014)

Chinese people abroad would write their surname with capital letters to help western people to tell the surname apart from the personal name e.g. WANG Wei.

Preserving The Family Line

Chinese women contrary to the west do not take their husbands surnames but keep their maiden names their whole life. Children generally take surnames of their fathers. Under special circumstances e.g. the family line of a woman would die out if one child would not take the mothers name, some families would use maternal surname. This is more likely to occur if the family has more than one child (families before the launch of the One Child Policy). (Chai, 2014)





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