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Chinese Names

The naming traditions of the Chinese are designed to distinguish members of the family through successive generations. A family would create or adopt a poem, and each male would be given a name that consisted of the family's surname, a character from their family's poem, the generation name and another character as their given name. For the generation name, each subsequent generation would take the next character in the sequence. Registering the given name in the ancestral hall of the lineage group at the time when the couple were first married would ensure that the man would have a unique marriage name which identified his position in the lineage and their level of descent from the families common ancestor.
As for first names, there is naturally a much larger variety available for parents to name their kids. While family names are given and usually cannot be changed, the parents are free to give their children whatever name they like. Obviously, parents prefer to choose names that are auspicious or have a good meaning. Most Chinese given names contain one or two characters. They are written after the family name, and can be chosen later, with the help of the rest of the family. Parents will have at least a month before having to register their child, and the tradition of giving "little names" at birth means that time and care can be taken in choosing the given name. The "little name" is a form of nickname that can be used throughout a persons life by family and close friends, and often use two characters that repeat.

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