Choosing a Chinese Name as a Student

Getting a Good Mandarin Name

Young boy writing mandarin Chinese on blackboard
Iain Masterton / Getty Images

Students of Mandarin usually adopt a Chinese name. There are a few reasons for this:

  • It provides a glimpse into Chinese culture
  • It makes introductions easier when visiting Chinese-speaking countries
  • It provides good tonal and pronunciation practice.

Western names can be transcribed into Chinese, and this is often done for celebrities and politicians. Elizabeth Taylor is known in Chinese-speaking countries as yī lì shā bái tài lè (伊莉莎白泰勒).

Choose a "Real" Name

Such a name, however, is not a Chinese name, which usually consists of three characters. Many people from Mainland China use two-character names.

There is an art to choosing good names, and many parents consult a fortune-teller to name their newborn child. A good name is expected to pave the way to a successful and prosperous life.

Students of Mandarin don’t need to consult a fortune teller. You can ask a Chinese-speaking friend to give you a name, or you can consult a name book or use online and offline tools.

Tools for Choosing Mandarin Names

Whichever name you choose, it should be fairly easy to write and easy to pronounce. It’s no good if you can’t say your own name!

Many of the online resources for picking Chinese names are next to useless. They usually translate a given name and don’t include a surname. But the Mandarin Tools website has a highly recommended tool for choosing a Chinese name.

An offline version of this tool is available as part of DimSum Chinese Tools.