Ancient Chinese style-names, et. al...

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Unread postby Yuan Seth » Tue Dec 10, 2002 3:07 am

I can't read characters..... :x I should find out how to read them. Is it easy?
袁 "Since the dawn of time every one will die,
Let the history books note my death with loyalty at heart." --Wen Tianxiang
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Unread postby Han Xin » Tue Dec 10, 2002 6:00 am

I am not sure if anyone could help me with this. Usually in ancient China, nearly every ordinary people don't even have a family or clan name and usually took the name of the village or city that the lived in as their family name. However, during TK time everyone seem to have a style name, is the style name given my their parents at birth or was given when they were a bit older? And why some figure during pre-Han period had only one-word style name (i.e. Liu Bang as Wei, and Xiang Wu as Ji) and nearly everyone later have a two-word styles name?
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Unread postby Starscream » Tue Dec 10, 2002 6:15 am

Han Xin wrote:is the style name given my their parents at birth or was given when they were a bit older? And why some figure during pre-Han period had only one-word style name (i.e. Liu Bang as Wei, and Xiang Wu as Ji) and nearly everyone later have a two-word styles name?

Style name is usually based on the actual (one word) name given by the parents and style name could be self-styled. Take Kong Ming for example. 亮 means bright and 孔明 means bright (or very bright according to Han Xin...how bright do u want?!). This is the same for Zhou Yu, whereby 瑜 and 瑾 means jade.

I don't know about the one word to two word change. Maybe it's the same as ancient poetry that used to be 4 words per line to 5 or 7 words per line. The more words there are, the more you can express an idea perhaps! But too many words would be clumsy, hence 2 becomes optimal for style. Not many people have styles in their names as well. It's usually those who had some bit of education would design a style for themselves.
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Unread postby Lady Wu » Tue Dec 10, 2002 5:34 pm

Another style-related trivia:
The first character in their style names often refer to which child they are in their family.:

Meng. Bo = Eldest -- Bofu (Sun Ce), Mengde (Cao Cao), Boyan (Lu Xun), Boyue (Jiang Wei), Mengqi (Ma Chao)

Zhong = 2nd child -- Zhongmou (Sun Quan), Zhongda (Sima Yi), Zhongyin (Dong Zhuo)

Shu = 3rd child -- Shubi (Sun Yi, younger bro of Sun Quan), Shuzhi (Chen Dao)

Ji = 4th or youngest -- Jichang (Ma Liang), Jiming (Sun Huan, younger bro of Sun Yi)

You = the baby of the family -- Youchang (Ma Su)

And about the characters Zi and Gong, which basically everyone else has, my theory is that Zi and Gong are both on their own as a respectful way to say "you" in classical Chinese, thus appropriate to be used when addressing somebody.
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Unread postby Yuan Seth » Tue Dec 10, 2002 9:33 pm

Whoa, never knew that. I am learning so much from this board, lol. So they gave themselves their own name, but put in it things like youngest and second child?
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Let the history books note my death with loyalty at heart." --Wen Tianxiang
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Unread postby Fan Kong » Tue Dec 10, 2002 9:46 pm

When did the current style of names - Last-middle-first come about? Like Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh and of course Pham Huy Kong. You don't really seem to see peolple w/ style names anymore either.

I've read that Vietnamese used to give name their children at birth, than they would name them again, maybe mostly males, when they reached puberty w/ a more "fitting" name. "Fitting" meaning what the child aspires to be, but more than likely what the parents want their child to become.

Also, children of same sex in teh same family seem to share middle names w/ one another. Example all the males will have middle name "Dinh", while all females would have middle name "Bich". I would assume this was a custom learned from Chinese?
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Unread postby Fan Kong » Wed Dec 11, 2002 12:51 am

Lady Wu wrote:There were a bunch of people with 2-character given names in by Han already, like Sima Xiangru (famous writer, early Han), Chun Yu-qiong of 3K, Ma Ri-chan (Grand Tutor of Emperor Xian or something), etc.

hmm...maybe i'm not clear enough....
Say today for example.......if Liu Bei had a U.S. driver's license, and lets just assume the U.S. prints people's name right by putting their surname before their given name. ie. my License says "Kong Huy Pham"......but in this case it says "Pham Huy Kong". Now, how would Liu Bei's name appear? As "Liu Bei" or "Liu Xuan De"?
Is the "Xuan" considered a middle name? is "De" considered a last? or would you only refer to him as "Xuan De"? Would you ever call him "Liu Xuan De"?

Hu JinTao...."Hu" is his last name......"Jin" is his middle name?....."Tao" is first name and what his friends and family would call him?

I didn't know they do it in Vietnamese families too! It's a Chinese thing, I guess. Like me and all my girl cousins on my dad's side have the middle character Feng, meaning "Phoenix", and all the boys are Qi, or "to open".

So say this was back in RTK days, would "Feng" be part of the a name similar to "Liu Bei" or "Xuan De"? That may be too confusing
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Unread postby Lady Wu » Wed Dec 11, 2002 1:19 am

Oh ok, I see what you mean now.

So that guy, first emperor of Shu, his family name is Liu and his legal given name is Bei. His driver's license would say, "Bei Liu" in the US and "Liu Bei" in countries that do names right. His genealogical records, student ID, marriage certificates (if those things existed in RTK times) etc would all say "Liu Bei". Middle names as we know it in the west don't have correlates in Chinese culture.

However, in ancient China you don't call people directly by their given names -- it's very rude and presumes some authority over that person. So style names were used to address people. If I were Liu Bei's mom, his archenemy, or the g/f he just ditched, I can call him "Liu Bei" to his face. If I've been chums with him through school, I'd call him "Xuande", and if I'm talking with Gongsun Zan and want to bring up Liu Bei, I'd say "Liu Xuande did such and such..." Otherwise, in formal occasions, you would address someone by their last name and their title/rank/fief. So, if I met Liu Bei at a cocktail party, and wanted to start a coversation with him, I'd use one of the following: Huangshu (Imperial Uncle), Liu Yuzhou (he's had Yuzhou under his rule), Jiangjun (General), etc.

In modern day, people don't care about avoiding people's given names any more. Hu Jintao might be slightly ticked off if you talk to him and called him by his full name instead of "Mr Hu" (at least...). Jintao is a given name, just like Bob or Billy or Derek. Jin means something and Tao means something else on their own, but you wouldn't really break the two apart normally. Another example: my given name is Fung Lam (decided to go Cantonese there), Fung is common across all the girls in my generation, so my parents sometimes call me Lam as short for Funglam. But my friends will call me "Wu Fung Lam". "Fung Lam" is my given name just like "Bei" was Liu Bei's given name, but while Guan Yu and Zhang Fei will kick your a$$ if you attempted to call their big bro by "Liu Bei", in modern culture it's ok to address me by my family name+ middle name (I still insist on being addressed Lady Wu, though, since this is an RTK forum... :wink: )

Does this answer your question?
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Unread postby Yuan Seth » Wed Dec 11, 2002 1:40 am

I never knew that. I always thought it was normal to call someone in this order normally. Title-Surname-Given name Thanks for the explanation, Lady Wu.
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Unread postby rcsha » Wed Dec 11, 2002 1:49 am

Fan Kong wrote:I've read that Vietnamese used to give name their children at birth, than they would name them again, maybe mostly males, when they reached puberty w/ a more "fitting" name. "Fitting" meaning what the child aspires to be, but more than likely what the parents want their child to become.


It wasn't just the Vietnamese who did this, for instance the Chinese and Japanese (who had a major influence from the Chinese of old) would do the same thing. For instance a boy's name is Daisuke Kenshin (traditional spelling) Kenshin is a "boy's" name, so when he turned 15 he was then given a "man's" name. for instance it mihgt be changed to Daisuke Ieyasu, or such. Same with Liu Chan of the 3K times, he was A-Dou, or however it was spelled in Pinyin, however he was later took on the name of Gongsi. A-Dou was his childhood name, whereas Gongsi was later his style name.
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