Vol. 50 No. 3 (2002)
Research Article

Generation Names in China: Past, Present, and Future

Published 2002-09-01



Traditional Chinese names are composed of three parts: the family name, a generation name, and a given name. The male generation name marks the position of the bearer in the sequence of generations within a clan. Until the middle of the 20th century, most Chinese men used their generation names regularly. Since then the use of generation names has been greatly reduced by social and cultural change in China, especially by urbanization, the breaking of traditional ties to the land, the perceived feudal aspect of generation names, and the influence of the policies of Mao Zedong. We. report on the incidence of generation names in fourtime periods from 1940-1983. The major finding is that generation names decreased significantly until the 1960s; since 1976 their use has increased, but not to pre-1950 levels.


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