A courtesy name (Chinese: 字, zi), also known as a style name, is
a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given
name. This practice is a tradition in East Asian cultures,
including China, Japan,
Korea and Vietnam.
Formerly in China, the zi would replace a male's given name when he
turned twenty, as a symbol of adulthood and respect.
It could be given either by the parents or by the first personal
teacher on the first day of family school. Females might substitute
their given name for a zi upon marriage. One also may adopt a
self-chosen courtesy name.
China the popularity of the custom has declined to a large extent
May Fourth Movement
May Fourth Movement in 1919.
A courtesy name is not to be confused with an art name (hào, Chinese:
號, Korean: 호), another frequently mentioned term for an
alternative name in Asian culture-based context. An art name is
usually associated with art and is more of a literary name or a
pseudonym that is more spontaneous, compared to a courtesy name.
Compare this usage with the Roman practice of supplying a Cognomen
like the name
Caesar which originally may have only designated someone
with a thick head of hair.
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The zì, sometimes called the biǎozì（表字）or "courtesy name",
is a name traditionally given to Chinese males at the age of 20,
marking their coming of age. It was sometimes given to females upon
marriage. The practice is no longer common in modern Chinese society.
According to the Book of Rites, after a man reaches adulthood, it is
disrespectful for others of the same generation to address him by his
given name, or míng. Thus, the given name was reserved for oneself
and one's elders, while the zì would be used by adults of the same
generation to refer to one another on formal occasions or in writing;
hence the term "courtesy name".
The zì is mostly disyllabic, consisting of two Chinese characters,
and is usually based on the meaning of the míng or given name. Yan
Zhitui of the
Northern Qi dynasty believed that while the purpose of
the míng was to distinguish one person from another, he asserted that
the zì should express the bearer's moral integrity.
The relation which often exists between a person's zì and míng may
be seen in the case of
Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), whose ming was
Zhōngzhèng (中正，Romanized as Chung-cheng) and zi was Jieshi
(介石，Romanized as Kai-shek). Thus he was also called 蔣中正
(Chiang Chung-cheng) in some contexts.[clarification needed]
Another way to form a zì is to use the homophonic character zǐ (子)
– a respectful title for a male – as the first character of the
disyllabic zì. Thus, for example, Gongsun Qiao's zì was Zǐchǎn
(子產), and Du Fu's: Zǐměi (子美).
It is also common to construct a zì by using as the first character
one which expresses the bearer's birth order among male siblings in
his family. Thus Confucius, whose name was Kǒng Qiū (孔丘), was
given the zì Zhòngní (仲尼), where the first character zhòng
indicates that he was the second son born into his family. The
characters commonly used are bó (伯) for the first, zhòng (仲) for
the second, shū (叔) for the third, and jì (季) typically for the
youngest, if the family consists of more than three sons. General Sun
Jian's four sons, for instance, were
Sun Ce (伯符, Bófú), Sun Quan
Sun Yi (叔弼, Shūbì) and
Sun Kuang (季佐,
The use of zì began during the Shang dynasty, and slowly developed
into a system which became most widespread during the succeeding Zhou
dynasty. During this period, women were also given zì. The zì given
to a woman was generally composed of a character indicating her birth
order among female siblings and her surname. For example, Mèng Jiāng
(孟姜) was the eldest daughter in the Jiāng family.
Prior to the twentieth century, sinicized Koreans, Vietnamese, and
Japanese were also referred to by their zì. The practice was also
Manchus after the Qing conquest of China.
Kongzi (Confucius) 孔子
Sunzi (Sun Tzu) 孫子
Cao Cao 曹操
Guan Yu 關羽
Liu Bei 劉備
Zhuge Liang 諸葛亮
Li Bai 李白
Su Dongpo 蘇東坡
Yue Fei 岳飛
Yuan Chonghuan 袁崇煥
Liu Ji 劉基
Tang Yin 唐寅
Mao Zedong 毛澤東
Chiang Kai-shek 蔣介石
^ Tianjun Liu, Xiao Mei Qiang (2013). Chinese Medical Qigong.
p. 590. ISBN 1848190964. Mencius (371—289 BCE), born in
Zou county (Shandong province), first name Ke, style name Zi Yu, was a
famous philosopher, educator, politician, and expert on the Qigong
life nurturing of
Confucius in the Zhanguo Period.
^ Origins of Chinese Names. 2007. p. 142. ISBN 9812294627.
In ancient times, besides having a surname and a given name, one would
have a courtesy name "Zì" as well. The courtesy name was the proper
form of address for an adult. On reaching 20 years of age, young men
would "put on the hat" as ...
^ Names of Persons and Titles of Rulers