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Culture-Chinese family name

Help you understand Chinese family name.
© Shanghai International Studies University

姓(xìng) means family name. The left part 女(nǚ) means female. The right part 生(shēng) means to give birth to.

姓(xìng) originally is used by the children who have the same mother and share one family name, which may show that it has been matriarchal society in ancient China.

Nowadays it means family name. For example, 我(Wǒ )姓(xìng )张(Zhāng) means my family name is Zhang. In most situations, there is only one character in family name. Here are the most popular family names.

  • 李(Lǐ) (For example, in this course, the other two Chinese teachers’ names are 李亚梦 (Lǐ Yàmèng) 李惠(Lǐ Huì).)
  • 王(Wáng)
  • 张(Zhāng)(For example, in this course, the professor’s name is 张艳莉(Zhāng Yànlì).)
  • 刘(Liú)

If there are two characters in family names, it is called 复 姓(fùxìng),meaning compound family name. They may come from the titles of government position, occupation, fief and so on.

© Shanghai International Studies University
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