Twentieth Century Impressions of Hongkong, Shanghai, and other Treaty Ports of China/Ceremonies/Nomenclature


A Chinaman may have five names or more. One name is given to him in childhood by the father; another by his teacher when he is old enough to go to school; a third he adopts for the convenience of his friends when he arrives at manhood; and a fourth at marriage. This last is the name by which he is registered in the ancestral hall, or temple devoted to ancestral worship. Should he become an officer in the employment of the Government he will receive an official name, which may be one of the names by which he has been known formerly, or may be a new name altogether. In China a business is generally carried on under a name different from that of the proprietor, but in Hongkong this custom is falling into desuetude, and not infrequently now a man employs his own name in the designation of his premises.

Girls generally have only two names — one a maiden name, or "milk-name," as it may be more literally rendered from the Chinese ; the other a school name. Upon her marriage a girl places the surname of her husband before her own, so that, to anglicise an illustration, if a Miss Adam married a Mr. Smith, she would become Mrs. Smith-Adam. Children receive the father's surname, or, more properly speaking, the surname of the father's family or clan. In all Chinese names the surname is written first, and is followed by the individual names, as in an alphabetical directory. A similar arrangement is followed in addressing letters — the province is written first, followed by the town, street, and number or name of the house, and, last of all, the surname and name of the individual.