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Chinese name
Picking a name for your baby is never easy in any language, but I believe it cannot be more difficult than picking a Chinese name. If you want to register your mixed child in China, you will need to pick a name consisting of Chinese characters and based on the surname of the Chinese parent. In the Netherlands there are lists of popular given names, but in China it's much more complicated.

Apparently there are no lists of the top-100 Chinese boy- and girl-names in China. This is because there are no typical names such as Scott, Peter, Sophia like we have in the West. In China a given name can be composed of (almost) any Chinese character. And there are of course many characters! The way Chinese parents approach this problem is they first think about what character traits they would like their baby to have. For example strong, smart, kind etc. Then they try to find characters that match these traits and see if it sounds good in combination of the surname. The surname is normally pronounced first so for example the surname Li or Wang needs to be combined with 1 or 2 additional characters.

As a foreigner you will never be able to pick a Chinese name, beyond just copying others or composing some simple characters. Some names will sound very 'tu' (uneducated) to a Chinese. Others have a very strange meaning or do not fit the surname. Basically the only thing you can do as the Western parent, is say if you like the sound and meaning :) It's very common for Chinese parents to use a dictionary and just read many pages until they come across some characters that sound good and have a good meaning. Another approach is to go to people specialized in reading horoscope, picking names etc. Based on the birth-date, birth-time, names of the parents, character traits they will then give you some suggestions for a name.

Although lots of time is spent on picking a good given name, the name is not actually used that often. Normally the parents or family members will also pick a nickname and just use this to call the child. It might be related to the given name, but might also be totally unrelated. For example one little boy in my wife's family is called 'wukong' after a famous character (monkey-king) in a TV-series.

Because of the difficulty of picking a name, many parents will wait till after birth to think about the name. This saves them at least half the effort. On the Medical Birth Certificate (MBC, you get this in the hospital where you deliver the baby) you apparently don't need to write the final name of your baby yet. They will just write "mom's daughter" or "mom's son" on it and only when you register the Hukou (officially within 30 days of birth), you need to decide on a Chinese given name.
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Last Updated ( Sunday, 06 February 2011 )
 
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