Clarification on the Differences of Personal names(名) and Courtesy names(字).

I realize that i did a post about the clarification between the differences of Ancestral names(姓) and Clan names(氏) in the past. So to round it up, i will post some information about Personal names and Courtesy names for those interested even though nobody asked about it yet. This also don’t appear in Kingdom manga as i think it is to make the names of the characters easier to remember and not confuse the readers.
I found a pretty good article on it so i will just copy/paste it here for those interested to read. The same page also contains explanation of Ancestral and Clan names, titles and special names that can only be found on monarchs. Original article here:

The personal name (corresponding to Western “first names”, ming 名 and zi 字)

The ming 名 was a childhood name used until the age of 20 sui, when boys were “capped” (guan 冠) and became an adult. At that time they adopted an adult name or courtesy name, the zi 字. Girls underwent the “pinning” (ji 笄) ritual at the age of 15 sui and were then called with their courtesy name. Both terms are today combined (mingzi 名字) and mean the whole name, “first name” as well as family name. The ming was from adulthood on a very intimate name and only used by friends, but also when a person speaks of himself. Adressing someone else, the zi name was to be used. In biographies of famous persons, both names are mentioned, and the ming is rather used than the zi. The latter is used especially in tomb inscriptions or in letters with formal character. The ming was often a one-syllable word, the zi could be a one-syllable or a two-syllable word. Sometimes the courtesy name was only an extension of the childhood name, like the Ming period scholar Huang Sheng 黃盛 whose courtesy name was Huang Dasheng 黃大盛. In Chinese biographies, the family name is normally not repeatead when listing the courtesy name, like in: Han Yu, zi Tuizhi, Dengzhou Nanyang ren 韓愈,字退之,鄧州南陽人。 “Han Yu, courtesy name Tuizhi, came from Nanyang in the prefecture Dengzhou.” Both names, ming and zi, often had a similar meaning. Qu Yuan’s 屈原 zi name, for instance, was Yuan 原 “levelled, flat”, his ming was Ping 平 “even, flat”. Zhuge Liang’s 諸葛亮 ming was Liang 亮 “bright”, his zi was Kongming 孔明 “enlightened hole” (Kong 孔 standing alone can also be a family name, like that of Confucius). Yue Fei’s 岳飛 ming was Fei 飛 “flying”, his zi was Peng 鵬 “phoenix”. Ban Gu’s 班固 ming was Gu 固 “stable, secure”, his zi was Mengjian 孟堅 “rude and solid”. The zi name of Sun Wen 孫文, Wen being his ming, was Yixian 逸仙. He is therefore known in the West as Sun Yat-Sen (Yixian in Cantonese pronunciation), but not so in China, because telling him with the courtesy name would be too formal. Some persons have two courtesy names, like Wen Tianxiang 文天祥 who was called Songrui 宋瑞 or Lüshan 履善. Today, personal names (ming) can either be one syllable long or two syllables. Some personal names, especially that of girls, consist of a repetitive syllable, like Yuanyuan 圓圓 or Bingbing 冰冰. During history, personal names were also subject to changed à la mode, like Ruzi 孺子, Xiangru 相如 or Shizhi 釋之 during the Han 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) and Wuji 無忌 during the Tang period 唐 (618-907). There is no fixed repertoire of personal names like the “Christian” or biblical names in the West. Instead, families used to name their sons with words used in a certain poem, often written by an ancestor. Each generation obtained a new character as part of their name. Brothers so had often a common character in their name (like the brothers Lü Dazhong 呂大忠, Lü Dafang 呂大防, Lü Dajun 呂大鈞 and Lü Dalin 呂大臨) or at least a character with a similiar graphical element (like the brothers Su Shi 蘇軾 and Su Zhe 蘇轍, both with the element 車).
Young people today often adopt English names, partially because it seems more fashionable, and partly because Chinese names are not easy to pronounce for foreigners. The Hong Kong singer Lau Tak-Wah (Liu Dehua 劉德華), for example, calls himself Andy Lau. On the other hand, foreigners often adopt a Chinese name. Such names can vary in quality and can often at first sight be identified as that of a foreigner. The Jesuits in China accommodated to Chinese culture and had Chinese names. Matteo Ricci, for instance, was called Li Madou 利瑪竇 (Li for Ricci and Madou for Matteo).
Traditionally, the personal names of women are seldomly explicitly told in literature, yet there are also exceptions like Li Dewu qi Pei, zi Shuying 李德武妻裴,字淑英 “Li Dewu’s wife Ms Pei, courtesy name Shuying”. Even empresses are regularly called only with their family names, like Yehenala shi 葉赫那拉氏 “Ms Yehenala”, the Empress Dowager Cixi 慈禧太后 (Cixi is not her personal name but only her title, “Benevolent-Auspicous”, as Empress and Empress Dowager), or Xuanzong guifei Yang shi 玄宗貴妃楊氏 “Emperor Xuanzong’s honoured consort, Ms Yang”, who is known as Yang Guifei 楊貴妃 “Honoured consort Yang”. Yet some sources say that her personal name was Yuhuan 玉環. A concubine of Emperor Cheng of the Han dynasty was called Zhao Feiyan 趙飛燕 “Flying swallow” because of her dancing talents. Feiyan was surely not her real name.


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