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
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
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
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