3.1.2. Chinese and Korean names

Usage. The surname precedes the given name. In most cases, the whole name is used (not just the family name). The thing is complicated by the fact, that many Chinese living abroad often change the order of their name or use their given name as a surname, etc. The discussion below can help you to determine, which part of a name is the given name and which part is the surname. If you are in doubt annotate them all as given names (Y).

Surnames. There are relatively few surnames in China (200 most common surnames account for >96% of all surnames). Most of them consist of one syllable (Wang, Li, Chen, etc.) Only few surnames consist of two syllables (Ou-yang, Mo-qi, Si-ma, Pu-yang). Married women do not get their husband's surname.

Given names. Mostly two syllables, often connected with a dash (however sometimes separated by a space).[1] Some given names can be widely used, some are unique. Often it is impossible (for a non-Chinese speaker) to say whether it is a name of a male or a female. The second syllable is usually used in informal addressing. The first syllable can be shared by all siblings. In traditional China a person had several given names during his/her life.

Most common Chinese surnames (in Pinyin / Czech transcription): Cai / Cchaj, Chen / Čchen, Deng / Teng, Gao / Kao, Guo / Kuo, He / Che, Hu / Chu, Huang / Chuang, Li, Liang, Lin, Lü, Ma, She / Še, Sun, Tang / Tchang, Wang, Wu, Xie / Sie, Xu / Sü, Yang / Jang, Ye / Jie, Zhang / Čang, Zhao / Čao, Zheng / Čeng, Zhu / Ču


Korean names. Most Korean names look and behave similarly to Chinese names. The most common Korean surnames (45% of the population) are Kim, Lee (often spelled as Rhee, Yi, Li), and Park.


Analogical annotation may be suitable for other Far-Eastern names as well (e.g. Vietnamese). It does not apply to Japanese. Japanese are similar in their preference to indicate surname in the first position and given name in the second but the order is usually swapped in Czech texts and if not, non-Japanese speakers have little clues to decide. Both names usually use one to two Chinese characters each but they may be pronounced (and transcribed) using much more syllables (packed in two words, one for the given name and the other for the surname). One clue is that given names of Japanese women often take the suffix -ko.

Example 3.2. Chinese and Korean names

  • Teng Siao-pching - Teng_;S Siao_;Y - pching_;Y
  • Kim Ir-sen - Kim_;S Ir_;Y - sen-2_;Y

[1] Chinese names are usually transcribed using a Chinese-Czech transcription system (a mutation of Wade-Giles). Pinyin is rarely used. In pinyin, the given name would be concatenated to one token instead of three (two words and the dash).