Author's notes:

1. The information contained here is probably more than needed for the purpose of plopping a Chinese name into a game. It just so happens that etymology of Chinese names is a semi-hobby for the author (being Chinese herself) so indulge the author.

2. Naming practice in ancient China varies by social class (which is closely tied to one's occupations) so I would indicate the compatible classes under each name as well (Refer to Appendix notes for more details)

3. What distinguishes ancients names from modern Chinese names is that it is common for individuals of the upper classes to have three names:

  • A ‘little name' known only to family (parents, siblings, wife and other relatives of the same or older generation than the person) and meant as a stand-in name while parents ponder over the official name or meant as an affectionate term;
  • An official name for use in official documents etc.;
  • A ‘social name' called 'biao zhi or zhi' (biao can mean praise, model or example while zhi means word in Chinese) for friends and acquaintances to call him by once they reach adulthood whereas his official name is then called only by elders and when the person refers to him/herself. It was considered discourteous to refer to an acquaintance of the same generation as you by their official names. Others of lower classes such as prostitutes, actors and slaves might sometimes have ‘zhi' also (if they were originally of high birth since occasionally individual born to the upper class did fall down into these three positions due to political strifes, change of rulers etc. that occurred in ancient China) but on the whole, it is common for them to take on their own or adopt assumed names. For this purpose, a social name is also provided for these three particular low social classes.

For respectable females, usually their names are not known to outsiders but are rather referred to by their birth surnames or the surnames of their husbands and so I have omitted their social names. In practice, this might vary depending on dynasty since it appeared that it was after the Tang dynasty when the Chinese society became more discriminated against women. However, it is hard to say given that not many respectable women's full names were recorded in history, at least according to the author's knowledge.

There are also other subtleties in terms of the Chinese characters used and not used in names etc.

4. I was originally aiming for 101 but the need to come up two or three names for one entry really killed me. As a substitute, I've decided to add in themed scrolls at later dates as compensation so people can mix and match their own ancient Chinese names. Planned scroll additions include: 1) common Chinese surnames and their origins; 2) double Chinese (and other rare) surnames and their origins; 3) characters for male names ordered by theme and social class; 4) characters for female names ordered by theme and social class; 5) common prostitute names.

Gender neutral

Surname: Si Ma

Origin of Surname: taken from ancestor's official title. Si has the meaning of taking charge or refers to a government department. Ma means horse which in ancient days were used almost predominantly for purposes relating to war. Hence, Si Ma was basically the Minister of War.

Little Name: Ar Dou (M)/ Qiao Jia Er (F)

Meaning of Little Name : Ar is simply a prefix that is easy to the Chinese tongue wile Dou is a measurement unit for liquid or grain which is one decalitre but could also mean to fight against. Not exactly sure to what context a male was given such a little name by parents. For the female, Qiao has the meaning of dexterous or skilful while Jia Er is a surfix possibly translating to 'little sis'. In addition, there is a festival named Qiao Jia Dan while Qiao Jia refers to a goddess in folklore named Zhi Nu (Maiden of Weaving) who's skilful at weaving and Dan simply means day. The girl could be born on the seventh of July according to the Chinese calendar which was the very day of this festival.

Official Name: Lan

Meaning of Official Name : Orchid, often a character used in names of those in upper classes as it is one of the Four 'Jun Zi' among plants. The term Jun Zi originally meant royalty but it also had the meaning of individuals of high moral standards and virtue among scholars. The latter definition was closer aligned to the concept of Orchid as a 'Jun Zi'.

Social Name: Zi Shang (male only)

Meaning of Social Name: Zi means son but it can also be used as a term referring to that person (masculine form). Shang means up. The name conveys the wish for the male to ascend upwards or seek progression within himself.

Social Class: Guan (official)/ Shi (scholar)/ Shang (merchant, wealthy ones)

Surname: Kuang

Origin of Surname : There are four disparate sources in relation to this surnames: 1) it arose from a noble with the original surname of Huang who wanted to escape from war and asked his elder son to take on the surname of Kuang while his younger son to take the surname also pronounced Kuang but written differently and with a different meaning; 2) by royal decreed; 3) from the Kindom of Gu Kuang; 4) from the legendary figure of Guang Cheng Zi.

Little Name: Hang Sheng (M)/ Si Niang (F)

Meaning of Little Name : Hang is the short form for Hang Zhou the City while Sheng means birth. Clearly, the boy was born in Hang Zhou. For the female, she was the fourth in birth order since Si just means four while Niang can mean mother or a term referring to a young woman.

Official Name: Xiao

Meaning of Official Name : Dawn

Social Name: Yun Chang (male only)

Meaning of Social Name: Yun is cloud while Chang means long.

Social Class: Guan (official) / Shi (scholar)/ Shang (merchant)

Surname: Mai

Origin of Surname : A quite rare surname that means ‘wheat', taken on as a surname by descendants of one who was granted the land named Mai Qiu (Wheat Hill).

Little Name: Yu Er

Meaning of Little Name : Yu means Jade while Er refers to son or more generally child. It can be taken to mean ‘Little Jade'

Official Name: Yu

Meaning of Official Name : Jade

Social Name: Shen Zhi (M)

Meaning of Social Name: Shen means cautious while Zhi is a pronoun that is somewhat akin to the purpose of an exclamation mark (exclamation mark does not exist as a punctuation in Chinese). Suggests that the Elder or whoever granted the name might think the child a bit headstrong in nature or just as a general caution.

Social Class: Guan (official) / Shi (scholar)/ Shang (merchant)

Surname: Pak (Cantonese spelling)

Origin of Surname : the Chinese character for White. It source came from: 1. *the clan name of a royalty of the Old Chu Kingdom in the Era of the Spring and Autumn Warring States; 2. from the name of a royalty of the Qin Kingdom of the same era; 3. The name of a state in the Tang dynasty which was adopted as surname by local inhabitants; 4. The Mongolian surname Chagan that meant 'white' changed to the Chinese form; 5. The Muslim surname of ‘white' changed to the Chinese form

Little Name: Ah Wan/Lam E (Cantonese spelling)

Meaning of Little Name : simply one word taken out from the child's official name and mixed up with a prefix (Ah, just a sound) or suffix (E, meaning son or more generally child)

Official Name: Wan Lam (Cantonese spelling)

Meaning of Official Name : Wan means cloud while Lam is the colour blue

Social Name: Yin Hing (M and upper social class only)

Meaning of Social Name: Yin means a man of virtue and capability while Hing is the term for a high official in ancient times (although it is also a pronoun used between two people on intimate terms with each other such as couples or very close friends)

Social Class: All-rounder, the official probably being sparked by the child being born on a day with a blue sky and white clouds


Surname: Dong Fang (meaning the East)

Origin of Surname : originating from the *Bagua created by Fu Xi (reputedly the ancestor of all men according to Chinese creation myth) in which the East direction was considered the most prestigious of all. One of Fu Xi's direct descendants who was born in the Zhen position which corresponds to East on a Bagua and therefore took on the surname Dong Fang for himself and his descendants ever afterwards

Little Name: Meng Sheng

Meaning of Little Name : Meng means dream while Sheng means birth. The child was born after his father had died, casting some doubt onto his paternity.

Official Name: Shuo

Meaning of Official Name : the New Moon, commemorating when he was born

Social Name: Man Qian

Meaning of Social Name: Both characters have the meaning of graceful, with Man also meaning prolonged.

Social Class: Guan (official)/ Shi (scholar)/ Shang (merchant)

Surname: Wang

Origin of Surname : taken from ancestor's title where Wang is the Lord of a fief. It is one of the ten most common surnames for a Chinese.

Little Name: San Lang

Meaning of Little Name : San is Three while Lang is simply the term for referring to a man (as in masculine man). He was likely the third in terms of birth order among his direct cousins who share the same grandfather as him.

Official Name: Meng

Meaning of Official Name : Ferocious

Social Name: Jing Lue

Meaning of Social Name: Jing means view while Lue can refer to strategy, possibly a name given to him by his teacher or superior concerning the important aspects of becoming a war strategist

Social Class: Guan (general)/ Nong (farmer)

Surname: Meng

Origin of Surname : taken from ranking within one's own family. Meng was a term used to denote the eldest son within a family

Little Name: Er Gou

Meaning of Little Name : Er is Two while Gou is Dog. Because child mortality rates used to be high in ancient times, many parents gave their children a ‘cheap name' involving animals at birth in the hopes that the child would be more resilient in terms of survival. It might also have the connotation that the child was 'born through (the Will of) Heaven and raised up by Heaven'. Also, the child was second in birth order.

Official Name: Ze Lin

Meaning of Official Name : Ze has the meaning of a water source or more generally moist. Lin is heavy rainfall. It is likely a name not given by the parents but by some educated person (maybe a village Elder or teacher). The name could convey wish for good rainfall that is important to farmers and could also additionally be the result of a Chinese fortune teller divining that the child's life lacks the element of Water and the name was a compensation for this.

Social Class: Nong (farmer)/Li (Mayor underling)/Zhu (prison guard)

Surname: Lu

Origin of Surname : name of an ethnicity in ancient days, also mistakenly thought of the surname of the most famed craftsman (Father of Craftsmen) in ancient China who was of this ethnicity

Little Name: Xiao Hong

Meaning of Little Name : Xiao means small/little while Hong is the colour red. The child probably had a red birthmark.

Official Name: Kuan

Meaning of Official Name : wide or broad, possibly a wish for the child to be broad-minded which is needed to attain high levels within the craft

Social Class: Gong (craftmen)

Surname: Wu

Origin of Surname : taken from the name of a State, usually meaning that ancestor was of peasantry and adopted the name of his own state for convenience or as a sign of patriotism. One of the ten most common Chinse surnames

Little Name: Chang Sheng

Meaning of Little Name : Chang means long while Sheng means birth or living. Conveys wish for the child to have a long life.

Official Name: Lin

Meaning of Official Name : Lin is the female of the sacred beast Qi Lin in Chinese myth. In particular, the term Lin Er is a term of praise equivalent to saying ‘an outstanding son'.

Social Name: Feng Xian

Meaning of Social Name: Feng means revering or attending to while Xian refers to ancestors. Clearly a name advocating filial values.

Social Class: Guan (official)/ Shi (scholar)/ Shang (merchant)

Surname: Yan

Origin of Surname : A rather ancient surname that either comes from the descendants of Huang Ti (head of the Five Kings in Chinese legends) or from a group of nomadic people who founded the Kingdom of Jin (the Chinese character for Gold) who abbreviated the most prestigious surname among their culture (that of their sovereign) Wan Yan into Yan

Little Name: Da Zhuang

Meaning of Little Name : Da means big while Zhuang refers to being robust in terms of health or substantial in terms of bodily build. A name indicative of being born of the class of Nong (farmers).

Official Name: Dong

Meaning of Official Name : Winter, possibly he was born in Winter.

Social Name: Yan Ru Yu

Meaning of Social Name: Ru means like while Yu is jade. Taken from a phrase in which the term 'Yan Ru Yu' means beauties or in the literal sense, 'one whose appearance is like jade'. An assumed name reflecting the fact that he plays a female part (in Chinese opera which is more like a stage play, there are five broad categories of roles to play and each actor was usually only limited to studying, and therefore playing, one role only)

Social Class: You (actor)

Surname: Yu

Origin of Surname : either from the descendants of You Yu (capable official in the period of the Spring and Autumn Warring States) who have adopted his name as their surnames or the name of the land granted to the third son of Yu (the one who resolved the Great Flood) which was Yu Shan (Mt. Yu)

Little Name: Po Liu

Meaning of Little Name : Po here means old woman whereas Liu means stay. In ancient Chinese, people were superstitious. If something unnatural happened at a baby's birth, the parents might abandon or even kill the newborn. The name might indicate that an old woman persuaded one or both the parents to keep the child instead.

Official Name: Liu

Meaning of Official Name : Pure gold, the inspiration might come from the second character of his little name since their pronunciation is exactly the same

Social Class: Nong (farmer)/Gong (craftmen)/Li (Mayor underling)/Zhu (prison guard)

Surname: Yang

Origin of Surname : From the name of land granted to individuals (originally derived from the surname Ji of the founder of the Zhou dynasty or the place name Yang which has same pronunciation but different writing) or assumed surname by various minor ethnicities. It is one of the ten most common surnames for a Chinese

Little Name: Xiao Bao

Meaning of Little Name : Xiao means small while Bao means treasure, literally 'Little Treasure', indicating that he is a younger son and is treasured by the family

Official Name: same as social name

Social Name: Shi Mo

Meaning of Social Name: Shi means to serve while Mo means ink. The name is an indication that his master is of the Guan (official) or Shi (scholar) class and probably this servant's role was a bit like an assistant scribe eg. prepared ink for his master and served his master food and drink within the study etc.

Social Class: Nu (slave)

Surname: Mu Rong

Origin of Surname : A few sources including: 1. A particular descendant of Huang Ti adopted this surname to encapsulate his hopes of spreading Chinese culture far and wide; 2. Taken from the name of a temple; 3. Taken from a prominent tribe name among a group of nomadic people known as the Xian Bei or the surname awarded by royal decreed among this people

Little Name: Shan Wa

Meaning of Little Name : a name suggesting that the child was born under the class of Nong possibly or anyway in recent regions where there're mountains as the character Shan reflects. Wa just means child in colloquial terms.

Official Name: Shan

Meaning of Official Name : Mountain

Social Class: Nong (farmer)/Li (Mayor underling)/Zhu (prison guard)

Surname: Chan (Cantonese spelling)

Origin of Surname : one of ten most common Chinese surnames. It originally came from name of the land granted to the heir of the legendary King Shun in the Zhou dynasty on which he built the kingdom of Chan (or Chen by Mandarin spelling) which was adopted as surname by the descendants of this heir. However, a lot of people of other ethnicities change their own surnames to the Chinese form, either of their own accords or because they are conquered by the Chinese. These ethnicities include the Mongolians, Manchurians and two other nomadic people (people that later created the Kingdom of Jing and the Xian Bei).

Little Name: Ah Fuk (Cantonese spelling)

Meaning of Little Name: Ah is just a meaningless sound that acts as a prefix for easy calling while Fuk means luck. It might be that this little name was given to offset the hereditary occupation of the family.

Official Name: Chong (Cantonese spelling)

Meaning of Official Name : Heavy, again probably stemming from superstition- the belief that a ‘heavy' name is need to keep a tight rein on the bad luck accompanying the family occupation.

Social Class: Bin (undertaker)

Surname: Huang

Origin of Surname : One of the ten most common Chinese surnames. Mainly derived from the Kingdom of Huang who descended from the Yings (surname of founder of the Qin dynasty) or the assumed surname by various minorities in China

Little Name: Xiao Liu

Meaning of Little Name : Xiao means small while Liu is six, literally 'Little Six', probably reflecting his birth order and suggesting that his birth class was either farmers or craftsmen i.e. uneducated.

Official Name: same as social name, reflecting the fact that he might have been sold young and was raised up by the owner of his particular group (single actors usually belong to a fixed group which is usually owned by a leader who is himself an actor of senior age or a retired actor).

Social Name: Jian Quan

Meaning of Social Name : Jian means sword while Quan means spring or is an ancient term for coin, possibly a reflection of the role that he plays (male warrior)

Social Class: You (actor)

Surname: Qian

Origin of Surname : the Chinese character for money, one of the ten most common Chinese surnames. Descendants of someone was a Federal Treasurer took their ancestor's official title as their surname

Little Name: Ye Sheng

Meaning of Little Name : Ye means night whereas Sheng means birth, literally 'Night Born'

Official Name: Same as social name, given by his master

Social Name: Lu Er

Meaning of Social Name: Lu can mean luck but in general is associated with the wages of government officials who were paid in fabrics (before there was currency). Er is simply a suffix which by itself meant son or child. The master of this slave is probably superstitious (wanted to invite luck into the household) or is of the Shang (merchant) class.

Social Class: Nu (slave)

Surname: Liu

Origin of Surname : one of ten most common Chinese surnames, also the surname of the founder of the Han dynasty. By royal decreed, some generals and officials changed their surnames to Liu (a sign of the Emperor's favour). Those with this surname might also be the descendants of someone with this surname who has the ability to tame dragons. Minorities with certain surnames (Du Gu, He Lian, Ye Luu) also commonly change to the surname Liu.

Little Name: Xiao Kong

Meaning of Little Name : Xiao means small or little whereas Kong means empty, probably just a theme following on from his official name.

Official Name: Yin

Meaning of Official Name : Hidden from view or lurking/dormant. In this context, might be taken as ‘nameless' (as some kind of superstition safety guard against the supernatural)

Social Class: Bin (undertaker)


Surname: Yao

Origin of Surname : a surviving surname from the time when ancient China was a matriarchal society

Little Name: Yu Jia Er

Meaning of Little Name : Yu means jade, Jia means older sister, Er refers to a son or more generally child. Jia Er acts as a gender-specific suffix roughly translating as 'little sis' while being named Yu conveys that her birth family is wealthy or influential.

Official Name: Jing Shi

Meaning of Official Name : Jing means quiet while Shi means to contemplate, conveying the wish for the child to have an introverted and thoughtful nature. Again, this is a signal that her birth family was well off.

Social Name: Shi Shi (*a double name with both characters being the same)

Meaning of Social Name: Shi means teacher, but might have too much meaning since it's an assumed name. However, it could be that she wanted to maintain a little of her official name although the Shi character in her official name is different from the Shi characters in her social name

Social Class: Chang (prostitute)

Surname: Ou Yang

Origin of Surname : taken from the name of the fiefdom of Ou Yang Ting to which ancestor was Lord of

Little Name: Da Ya

Meaning of Little Name : Da means big while Ya can refer to a little girl or a maid. She was the eldest daughter of her parents.

Official Name: Chun Hua

Meaning of Official Name : Chun is Spring while Hua means flower, possibly the girl was born in Spring

Social Class: Nong (farmer's daughter)/ Gong (craftsman's daughter)/ Shang (daughter of a merchant family that is not well off in wealth/status)

Surname: Kwok (Cantonese spelling)

Origin of Surname : A variety of sources including: 1. The surname of the two bodyguards of Yu who resolved the Great Flood; 2. Taken from the residence as the character itself meant the outer city; 3) from the name of the land given to the younger brother of legendary king Huang Ti; 4) adopted surname of a Muslim merchant who came to China in the early days of the Ming dynasty.

Little Name: Siu Mui (Cantonese spelling)

Meaning of Little Name : literally 'Little Plum'

Official Name: same as her social name

Social Name: Wan Sau (Cantonese spelling)

Meaning of Social Name: Wan means clouds while Sau means embroider, a name given by her owner

Social Class: Nu (slave)

Surname: Duan

Origin of Surname : A reduction from the surname Duangan*

Little Name: Yue Ya Er

Meaning of Little Name : Yue is the Moon while Ya means tooth, together it refers to the crescent Moon. She was probably born at night where a crescent Moon can be seen in the sky.

Official Name: Yin

Meaning of Official Name : Abundant or rich

Social Class: Shang (wealthy merchant's daughter)

Surname: Zhao

Origin of Surname : originating from one of the Five Kings in legend- Shao Hao (son of Huang Ti), one of the two most common Chinese surnames and also the surname of the founder of the Sung Dynasty before the reign of the grandson of Genghis Khan in China.

Little Name: Lan Er

Meaning of Little Name : Lan is orchid, which is considered to be ‘a man of virtue' among plants and well liked among those of high standings in society. Er is a suffix meaning child in general.

Official Name: Yue

Meaning of Official Name : Mysterious gem or pearl, again indicating that she was of high upbringing

Social Name: Qin Cao

Meaning of Social Name: Qin refers to the Chinese zither (a horizontal string instrument) while Cao means conduct. The term is the name of a famous book on the techniques of playing this instrument, indicating her skills at it.

Social Class: Chang (prostitute)

Surname: Huo

Origin of Surname : originated from the sixth son of Zhou Wen Wang (founder of the Zhou dynasty) who was given the right to rule over land in the Huo state/kingdom and his descendants have taken up the name of their state as surnames

Little Name: Chu Yi

Meaning of Little Name : Chu means beginning or original while Yi is the character for One. It refer to the First (as a date). The child was possibly born the First of a particular month

Official Name: Xiao Xue

Meaning of Official Name : Xiao means little/small while Xue means snow, together it is also one of the Twenty Four Jie Qis, which are elements of the traditional Chinese calendar that capture seasonal and climate changes.

Social Class: Nong (farmer's daughter)/ Gong (craftsman's daughter) / Shang (daughter of a middle class merchant family)

Surname: An

Origin of Surname : people from an Empire in the Persian region or a kingdom lying in the region referred as the 'Lands of the West' in ancient China have taken up this surname. Alternatively, An arises from a shortened version of the surname An Chi in the Northern Wei Dynasty

Little Name: Yan Yan (*a double name with both characters being the same)

Meaning of Little Name : Yan means beautiful which could be an adjective to describe either a woman or the smile of a female. It was likely that the child had a charming smile (at least in her parents' eyes).

Official Name: Min

Meaning of Official Name : Nimble

Social Class: Guan (official's daughter)/ Shi (scholar's daughter)

Surname: Li

Origin of Surname : 3 sources: 1. Changed from the surname of Ying which was the surname of the founder of the Qin dynasty, the first dynasty to have united all of China under one ruler; 2. Adapted in writing form from an official whose role was much like a Supreme Court Judge in ancient days. His official title contained the character Li that had the same pronunciation; 3. The descendants of Lao Zi (the founder of Taoism who was apparently also given title as a court official) took the name of his official position as a surname. One of the ten most common Chinese surnames.

Official Name: same as her social name, birth name and little name unknown

Social Name: Chun Tao

Meaning of Social Name: Chun means spring while Tao means peach, common name given to a maid

Social Class: Nu (slave)

Surname: Lau (Cantonese spelling)

Origin of Surname : the Chinese character for Willow. One origin of it was the name of the land where Lau Ha Wei (a man considered of high virtue, in particular, he was known to have warmed a woman who came to seek refuge from a cold night by letting her sit on his lap and cover her with clothes without endangering either of their reputations) was given his title (Lau Ha which taken literally meant below the Willow). His descendants took the name of this place as their surnames. The other source referred to the capital of the old Chu Kingdom before the Qin dynasty. Apparently, the descendants of the Chu Lord changed their surnames to avoid their enemies.

Little Name: Huen E (Cantonese spelling)

Meaning of Little Name : Huen is the name of a type of sweet-smelling grass while E is the same character as Er in Mandarin which meant son or child. Huen grass probably has a soothing smell because it is also known as the ‘Grass of Forgotten Worries'

Official Name: Mo Yau (Cantonese spelling)

Meaning of Official Name : Mo means without whereas Yau means anxiety or worries

Social Class: Guan (official's daughter)/ Shi (scholar's daughter)

Surname: Zhang

Origin of Surname : one of the ten most popular Chinese surnames. It has three origins: 1. From the grandson (or some say, fifth son) of Huang Ti (Emperor Huang) whose official position involved supervising the making of bows and arrows. In this role, he has to make an offering to the Star of Zhang (or the Hydra in European constellation terms) and hence have adopted Zhang as a surname; 2. The descendants of an official in the Era of the Spring and Autumn Warring States whose name was Zhang; 3. Various other ethnicities adopting Zhang as a surname including the Manchurians, Mongolians, Tibetans, the Miao, the Yao and many others.

Little Name: Ya Dou

Meaning of Little Name : a somewhat derogatory term referring to a girl since it also meant a maid (usually sold as a slave in ancient times) that is quite common in villages or a farmer's family

Official Name: Mei

Meaning of Official Name : Enchanting (having some association with seduction in meaning)

Social Name: Ru Shi

Meaning of Social Name: taken by parts of a poem that roughly translates to 'when I gaze upon the mountain it appears graceful to me, I believe the same applies when the mountain gazes at me' where Ru Shi is the 'same applies' part.

Social Class: Chang (prostitute)

Surname: Sau (Cantonese spelling)

Origin of Surname : In the Xia Dynasty, there was a feudal lord who had created a kingdom called 'Nine'. At its destruction, the survivors of the Kingdom took over this word as their surname which is composed of the character that means 'man' as in human (in amended form' and the character of 'Nine'.

Little Name: Siu Fa (Cantonese spelling)

Meaning of Little Name : literally 'Little Flower'

Official Name: Ka Shun (Cantonese spelling)

Meaning of Official Name : Ka means family while Shun means agreeable, conveying the wish for a harmonious family

Social Class: Nong (farmer's daughter)/ Gong (craftsman's daughter) / Shang (daughter of a small merchant family)

Surname: Lan

Origin of Surname : the character for the colour blue, having several sources: 1. A surname of many different ethnic minorities but certainly one of the four most common surnames among the She (distributed around South parts of China); 2. Originated from a tribe known as the Dong Yi (also known as Lan Yi) who likes to dye their clothes blue who lives on the Peninsula of modern day Shan Dong region in Eastern China; 3. Changed from various other surnames based on title of land granted to ancestor

Little Name: Si Niang

Meaning of Little Name : Si is Four while Niang is a term referring to a young maiden (but also a term for Mother), denoting her birth order

Official Name: Yu

Meaning of Official Name : Fine Jade

Social Class: Guan (official's daughter)/ Shi (scholar's daughter)/ Shang (daughter of a prosperous merchant family)

Surname: Qiu

Origin of Surname : the character for ‘fur coat', it has 3 sources: 1. The descendants of a government official responsible for leatherwork and winter clothing in the Zhou dynasty, taken from his title; 2. Originally of the Ji surname (surname of the sovereign of the Zhou dynasty) but changing to the name of the land granted to a particular branch; 3. Changed from a surname with same pronunciation but different writing to elude enemies (the Sau spelling surname from entry 2 spots above)

Little Name: San Ya

Meaning of Little Name : San is Three while Ya refers to a little girl or a maid, common little name for a girl born in a village denoting birth order

Official Name: same as her social name, given by master

Social Name: Dong Mei

Meaning of Social Name: Common name given to a maid, meaning 'Winter plum blossom'

Social Class: Nu (slave)

Appendix Notes (corresponding to places marked with *):

1. In general, there are four classes within the rank of ‘good citizenry'. Ranked according to prestige (even though the one to which the term was attributed to never meant for the four classes to be compared and ranked), they were:

  • 'Shi' (originally referring to generals and soldiers but later misinterpreted as/become a term referring to scholars and particularly government officials with administration duties as the Chinese society favours learning over martial prowess)
  • 'Nong' (farmers)
  • 'Gong' (craftsmen)
  • 'Shang' (merchants): in some dynasties, merchants were frowned upon and listed outside the ranks of ‘good citizens'.

Above the ‘good citizenry' are government officials ('Guan') and royalty.

There were also four (five) 'cheap occupations' that are not allowed to marry those of 'good citizenry' and become officials. These occupations had a high chance of becoming ‘hereditary' but is not a certainty. Also, individual born to poor farmers might be forced to take up one of these ‘cheap occupations' sometimes. They include:

  • 'Chang' (prostitutes)
  • 'You' (actors of Chinese opera and all its various local variations, all male in ancient times)
  • 'Li' (underlings to the Mayor of a small Town that encompass those that have policemen duties as well as others with administrative duties. Either way, they do not have official titles like the Mayor)
  • 'Zu' (prison guards)
  • 'Bin' (undertakers)- it's mainly the fact that people think of undertakers as ill-luck. I think it varies by dynasty whether they are listed under the ‘cheap occupations'.

Then below these ‘cheap occupations', there are slaves ('Nu') and certain class of criminals who are considered part of the 'cheap citizenry' whose brand actually carries over to later generations.

2. Bagua- octagonal instrument used in the practice of Fengshui which was concerned with how architecture and placement of objects around the household affects one's welfare and luck

3. While filial loyalty is considered important and the need to carry on one's surname to later generations particularly so, there are occasions for changing one's surname. For example, this might be to assume a new identity to evade pursuit in times of turmoil, to avoid overlapping with the name of the current ruler but sometimes, this might be for personal dissatisfaction as well.

Login or Register to Award Moonlake XP if you enjoyed the submission!