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Compilation of Chinese Given Names to Be Published

Not sure what to name your newborn son or daughter, or maybe even looking for a new name, then help will soon be on hand.

BEIJING, June 3, 2004 (China Daily)

Compilation of Chinese Given Names to Be Published

Not sure what to name your newborn son or daughter, or maybe even looking for a new name, then help will soon be on hand. A compilation of thousands of Chinese given names, some rare and dating back through Chinese history, is to be published.

The move is also aimed at preserving those not so common given names and prevents them disappearing altogether.

It is also necessary for solving the problem of an increasingly computerized society and the limitations of existing databases which store Chinese characters.

The list, expected to include 12,000 characters or so, will be released for public consultation next year, before being issued by the State Language Commission and the Ministry of Public Security, said Li Bing, a language expert, in a telephone interview.

In recent years, more and more parents prefer to trawl the pages of a dictionary or ancient poetry in search of a rarely used word with a good meaning and one which is unusual.

"My daughter's name is Wu Shiqing. In Chinese, the character shi is rarely used, meaning water that is so clear that it can be seen through," said Wang Yingchao, 32, who has a 3-year-old daughter.

"We picked this name from six candidates, because we all agreed that this one is the most beautiful and special," said Wang.

Parents racking their minds to find the perfect name have their reasons.

In Chinese, a name usually has two to three characters, therefore the chance of people having the same name in the most populous country on earth is quite high, especially names with only two characters.

A survey carried out in Shenyang, the capital city of Northeast China's Liaoning Province in the 1980s found there were no less than 3,000 people named Wang Wei and another 3,000 named Shen Jie.

However, choosing rarely seen Chinese characters for a name can lead to trouble, not only for the authorities when it comes to issuing a resident's permit, but also for the person concerned.

"As most of the rare characters are not included in the current computer database of Chinese characters, they cannot be printed correctly on an identity card, a bank account, a plane ticket, or a passport," explained Li.

Aware of this problem a few Peking University students suggested that the current computer database of Chinese characters be expanded to solve the growing problem.

"The computer database of Chinese characters is certain to be expanded later according to the new list, but it is not necessary to build a database with all the Chinese characters in," said Li, who, together with other language experts has spent two years working on it.

The largest Chinese dictionary at present includes some 56,000 Chinese characters, a number of which are no longer in modern usage.

In addition, the range used by people nowadays is somewhat limited.

Statistics show the average college educated Chinese can recognize an average of 5,000 characters, while graduates of the Chinese language know on average a mere 7,000 characters.

Another survey found that 3,500 commonly used characters can cover 99.48 percent of those appearing in newspapers, magazines and other modern publications. Those words which make up the remaining 0.52 percent are from seldom used names of places and people.

"The list will include quite a number of rarely seen characters, some of which people prefer as given names," Li said.

It is likely that parents will be encouraged to choose names for their children from the list once it has been finally drawn up and issued, but those who have already registered a name before the deadline but not included in the list before that date will not have to change it.

Japan already has a law in respect of names, which requires people to use widely used characters when naming their offspring.

But such a law seemingly will not be made in the near future in China, although some Chinese legislators and policy advisers submitted motions for the drawing up of such a law several years ago.

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Last Update 09 août 2013