Courtesy name

Last updated
Courtesy name (Zi)
It-Zi .png
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese (表) 字
Hanyu Pinyin (biǎo) zì
Wade–Giles (piao)-tzu
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese tự
Korean name
Revised Romanization ja
McCune–Reischauer cha
Japanese name
Hiragana あざな
Revised Hepburn azana

A courtesy name (Chinese :; pinyin :; lit. : 'character'), also known as a style name, [1] is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. [2] This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. [3]


The courtesy name would replace a man's given name as he entered adulthood. [4] It could be given either by the parents or by a private teacher on the first day of school. Women might adopt a zi in place of their given name upon marriage. [4] One also may adopt a self-chosen courtesy name.

A courtesy name is not to be confused with an art name (hào, Chinese :, Korean: ), another frequently mentioned term for an alternative name in Asian culture-based context. An art name is usually associated with art and is more of a pen name or a pseudonym that is more spontaneous, compared to a courtesy name.


The , sometimes called the biǎozì (表字) or "courtesy name", is a name traditionally given to Chinese men at the age of 20, marking their coming of age. It was sometimes given to women upon marriage. The practice is no longer common in modern Chinese society. According to the Book of Rites , after a man reaches adulthood, it is disrespectful for others of the same generation to address him by his given name, or míng. Thus, the given name was reserved for oneself and one's elders, whereas the would be used by adults of the same generation to refer to one another on formal occasions or in writing; hence the term "courtesy name".

The is mostly disyllabic, consisting of two Chinese characters, and is often based on the meaning of the míng or given name. For example, Chiang Kai-shek's (介石, romanized as Kai-shek) and ming (中正, romanized as Chung-cheng) are both from the hexagram of I Ching.

Yan Zhitui of the Northern Qi dynasty asserted that whereas the purpose of the míng was to distinguish one person from another, the should express the bearer's moral integrity.

Another way to form a is to use the homophonic character () – a respectful title for a man – as the first character of the disyllabic . Thus, for example, Gongsun Qiao's was Zǐchǎn (子產), and Du Fu's: Zǐměi (子美).

It is also common to construct a by using as the first character one which expresses the bearer's birth order among male siblings in his family. Thus Confucius, whose name was Kǒng Qiū (孔丘), was given the Zhòngní (仲尼), where the first character zhòng indicates that he was the second son born into his family. The characters commonly used are bó () for the first, zhòng () for the second, shū () for the third, and jì () typically for the youngest, if the family consists of more than three sons. General Sun Jian's four sons, for instance, were Sun Ce (伯符, Bófú), Sun Quan (仲謀, Zhòngmóu), Sun Yi (叔弼, Shūbì) and Sun Kuang (季佐, Jìzuǒ).

The use of began during the Shang dynasty, and slowly developed into a system which became most widespread during the succeeding Zhou dynasty. During this period, women were also given . The given to a woman was generally composed of a character indicating her birth order among female siblings and her surname. For example, Mèng Jiāng (孟姜) was the eldest daughter in the Jiāng family.

Prior to the twentieth century, sinicized Koreans, Vietnamese, and Japanese were also referred to by their . The practice was also adopted by some Mongols and Manchus after the Qing conquest of China.


ChineseFamily nameGiven nameCourtesy name
Lǎozǐ 老子Ěr Bóyáng 伯陽
Kǒngzǐ (Confucius) 孔子Kǒng Qiū Zhòngní 仲尼
Sūnzǐ (Sun Tzu) 孫子Sūn Chángqīng 長卿
Cáo Cāo 曹操Cáo Cāo Mèngdé 孟德
Guān Yǔ 關羽Guān Yúncháng 雲長
Liú Bèi 劉備Liú Bèi Xuándé 玄德
Zhūgé Liàng 諸葛亮Zhūgé 諸葛Liàng Kǒngmíng 孔明
Zhào Yún 趙雲Zhào Yún Zǐlóng 子龍
Lǐ Bái 李白Bái Tàibái 太白
Sū Dōngpō 蘇東坡Shì Zǐzhān 子瞻
Yuè Fēi 岳飛Yuè Fēi Péngjǔ 鵬舉
Yuán Chónghuàn 袁崇煥Yuán Chónghuàn 崇煥Yuánsù 元素
Liú Jī 劉基Liú Bówēn 伯溫
Táng Yín 唐寅Táng Yín Bóhǔ 伯虎
Máo Zédōng 毛澤東Máo Zédōng 澤東Rùnzhī 潤之
Chiang Kai-shek 蔣介石Jiǎng Zhōngzhèng 中正Jièshí 介石

See also

Related Research Articles

Chinese personal names are names used by those from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and other parts of the Chinese-speaking world such as Singapore. Due to China's historical dominance of East Asian culture, many names used in Korea and Vietnam are adaptations of Chinese names or have historical roots in Chinese, with appropriate adaptation to accommodate linguistic differences.

Generation name, variously zibei or banci, is one of the characters in a traditional Chinese given name, and is so called because each member of a generation share that character.

Sima is a Chinese family name. It is one of the rare two-character Chinese family names; most Chinese family names consist of only a single character. It is an occupational surname, literally meaning "control" (sī) "horses" (mǎ); in a similar way as the English surname Marshall is derived from the Frankish: "mare" (horse) + "skalkoz" (master). The family name originated from one of the offices of the Three Excellencies of the Zhou dynasty. The name has also been anglicised as "Szema".

Song (Chinese surname) Surname list

Song is the pinyin transliteration of the Chinese family name 宋. It is transliterated as Sung in Wade-Giles, and Soong is also a common transliteration. In addition to being a common surname, it is also the name of a Chinese dynasty, the Song Dynasty, written with the same character.

King Zhou of Shang King of Shang dynasty

King Zhou was the pejorative posthumous name given to Di Xin, the last king of the Shang dynasty of ancient China. He is also called Zhou Xin. He may also be referred to by adding "Shang" in front of any of his names. In Chinese, his name Zhòu (紂) also refers to a horse crupper, the part of a saddle or harness that is most likely to be soiled by the horse. It is not to be confused with the name of the succeeding dynasty which has a different character and pronunciation.

According to Sima Qian, Confucius said: "The disciples who received my instructions, and could themselves comprehend them, were seventy-seven individuals. They were all scholars of extraordinary ability." It was traditionally believed that Confucius had three thousand students, but that only 72 mastered what he taught. The following is a list of students who have been identified as Confucius's followers. Very little is known of most of Confucius's students, but some of them are mentioned in the Analects of Confucius. Many of their biographies are recorded in the Sima Qian's Shiji. The Six Arts were practiced by the 72 disciples.

Zhòng Rén is traditionally held to be a Shang dynasty King of China but recent archaeological evidence has thrown this into doubt.

Meng (surname) Surname list

Meng is a Chinese surname. Meng is a shi surname or clan name (氏), as opposed to the xing (姓) category of surname, ancestral name. Meng is of the type of surname which was a member of the list of names denoting seniority within a certain family: in ancient usage, the characters of meng (孟), zhong (仲), shu (叔) and ji (季) were used to denote the first, second, third and fourth eldest sons in a family. These were sometimes adopted as surnames. Of these, Meng is the best known, being the surname of the philosopher Mencius. It is the 94th name on the Hundred Family Surnames poem.

Bi Gan

Bi Gan or Bigan was a prominent Chinese figure during the Shang dynasty. He was a son of King Wen Ding, and an uncle of the last Shang king, Di Xin. He is immortalized as a Taoist deity. His surname was "Zi" (子).

Zhong (surname) Surname list

Zhong is pinyin transliteration of several Chinese surnames, including Zhōng (鍾/钟), Zhòng and Zhòng (仲), etc. These are also transliterated as Chung. It is sometimes transliterated as Cheong or Choong in Malaysia. In Indonesia, it is transliterated as Tjung or Tjoeng.

The Six Healing Sounds or Liu Zi Jue (六字訣) is one of the common forms of Chinese qigong, and involves the coordination of movement and breathing patterns with specific sounds.

Wen (surname) Surname list

Wen is the pinyin romanisation of the Chinese surname 文 (Wén).

Kong (孔) is a Chinese and Korean surname. It can also be written as Kung in Taiwan, Hung in Hong Kong, Khổng in Vietnam, and Gong in Korea. There are around 2.1 million people with this surname in China in 2002, representing 0.23% of the population. In 2018, it was the 97th-most common surname in China. It is the 25th name on the Hundred Family Surnames poem.

This article contains the family trees of members of the Sun clan, who ruled the state of Eastern Wu (229–280) in the Three Kingdoms period (220–280) in China.

Three Huan

The Three Huan refers to three aristocratic clans, all descendants of Duke Huan of Lu, in the State of Lu, which dominated the government affairs, displacing the power of the dukes, for nearly three centuries during the Spring and Autumn period. They are the Jisun (季孫) or Ji, Mengsun (孟孫) or Meng, and Shusun (叔孫) clans.

Ji (surname 季) Chinese surname 季

is the Mandarin pinyin romanization of the Chinese surname written 季 in Chinese character. It is romanized as Chi in Wade–Giles, and Gwai in Cantonese. Ji is the 142nd most common surname in China, with a population of 960,000. It is listed the 134th in the Song dynasty classic text Hundred Family Surnames.

Zigao may refer to:

Shang Qu, courtesy name Zimu, was a disciple of Confucius. He studied the I Ching from Confucius, and is credited with the preservation and transmission of the classic.

Li Zhuan, courtesy name Qinzhong, was a Chinese politician and of the state of Shu Han in the Three Kingdoms period of China.

Shu is a Chinese surname. It is 43rd in the Hundred Family Surnames, contained in the verse 熊紀舒屈. Šumuru sinicized their clan name to the Chinese surnames Shu (舒), Xu (徐) or Xiao (蕭) after the demise of the Qing dynasty.


  1. Tianjun Liu, Xiao Mei Qiang (2013). Chinese Medical Qigong. p. 590. ISBN   978-1848190962. Mencius (371—289 BCE), born in Zou county (Shandong province), first name Ke, style name Zi Yu, was a famous philosopher, educator, politician, and expert on the Qigong life nurturing of Confucius in the Zhanguo Period.
  2. Origins of Chinese Names. 2007. p. 142. ISBN   978-9812294623. In ancient times, besides having a surname and a given name, one would have a courtesy name 'Zì' as well. The courtesy name was the proper form of address for an adult. On reaching 20 years of age, young men would 'put on the hat' as ...
  3. Names of Persons and Titles of Rulers
  4. 1 2 "Qū lǐ shàng" 曲禮上 [Summary of the Rules of Propriety Part 1]. Lǐjì禮記[ Book of Rites ]. Line 44. A son at twenty is capped, and receives his appellation....When a daughter is promised in marriage, she assumes the hair-pin, and receives her appellation.