Teacher Lemi
[Cultural Insight] What do you know about Chinese name? Chinese names are made of Chinese characters, as in 汉字 (hanzi). Chinese last name, we call it 姓氏 (Xing shi). The relationship between 姓 and 氏 is worthwhile to dwell on.

【The origins of 姓】

has already existed in early matrilineal community (母性氏族社会), which features female-organized clans as the early main social structure. A lot of kids during that era shared the common point as we call “只知其母, 不知其父” (zhi zhi qi mu, bu zhi qi fu) which literally means “you only know your mom, but you don’t know about your dad”. This phenomenon represented the fact that the notion of family marriage didn’t yet exist. In terms of the status, females were relatively more authoritative and they were in charge of their tribe / clan. Therefore, we could always see the symbol “女” (female). You may check online and see the pic that, the pictograms of 女 looks like a woman who carries both of her hands on her chest.

The awareness of female’s importance also existed within the names of chief or emperor. Besides 龙的传人, Chinese people also frequently call themselves as 炎黄子孙 (yan huang zi sun), which means the offspring of Yan and Huang. 黄帝 (Huang Di) and 炎帝 (Yan Di) were two important chiefs of their clans who defeated another clan led by 蚩尤 (Chi You) in early Chinese history.

However, 黄帝’s last name wasn’t 黄(huang), but 姬 (ji); 炎帝’s last name wasn’t 炎(yan) either, but 姜 (jiang). Both 姬 and 姜 have the symbol of “女” as the radical of their names. As well as the first emperor of 秦朝 (Qin Dynasty), 嬴政(Ying Zheng) whose last name also carries 女 at the bottom of the character. Chinese people symbolically regard both Huang di and Yan di as our ancestors, indicating that the two of themselves hold a very important status among Chinese culture and history.

May 5, 2019 3:31 PM
Comments · 3
Many chinese names do carry a meaning as well! I find it so interesting
May 5, 2019
Culturally meaningful and profound^^
May 5, 2019
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May 5, 2019
Teacher Lemi
Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), English, French, German, Japanese, American Sign Language (ASL)
Learning Language
English, French, German, Japanese, American Sign Language (ASL)