If you are learning Mandarin, your teacher or laoshi must have given you a Chinese name that's derived from your real name. If you have yet to have one, have you ever wonder what your name sounds like in Mandarin? Before we go into finding the suitable Chinese name for ourselves, let's first understand how Chinese name works.
The Format of Chinese Name
Chinese names follow a fixed naming format in which the family name appears before the given name. This is based on traditional Chinese culture, in which the family name indicates the heritage of the family and is highly treasured. In terms of length, Chinese names are often made up of two or three Mandarin characters. While the given name is usually one or two characters long, the family name often only has one. There are a few exceptions when the given name may have four or more characters, although this is not frequent.
For example, the full name of the famous Chinese philosopher Confucius is Kong Qiu (孔丘), where Kong is his family name and Qiu is his given name. Similarly, the full name of the Taiwanese actor from "Someday or One Day (想见你)" is Hsu Kuang Han (徐光汉) or widely known as Greg Hsu in which his family name is Hsu and Kuang Han is his given name. If we were to address the actor, we should call him "Mr. Hsu" instead of "Mr. Kuang Han".
Chinese Women's Surnames
In Chinese tradition, married women usually preserve their maiden name as their family name rather than using their husband's. This differs from the Western practise of women adopting their husband's surname after marriage. However, family names are significant in Chinese culture, as demonstrated by the fact that Chinese children usually inherit their father's family name.
In Hong Kong, some married women opt to keep their maiden name while adding their husband's family name to the front of their full name. For example, if the woman's name is Zhang Zi Yi and her husband's family name is Lee, her name after marriage would be "Lee Zhang Zi Yi". This is quite similar with some Western practice such as the famous Hollywood celebrity, Kim Kardashian who changed her name to Kim Kardashian West when she was married with Kanye West. They embrace their marital status while keeping their individuality and family heritage in this way.
Choosing the Right Mandarin Character to Name Ourselves
It's quite important to pick the ideal Mandarin character that captures our personality, beliefs, and objectives while deciding on a Chinese name. There are 3 main aspect we need to consider when deciding a Chinese name: character that sounds the closest to our name, character that bring good meaning and make sure the character suits our gender.
If we use the common Malay name "Aisyah" as example, we would choose "爱莎 (ài shā)“ for her Chinese name because
the pronunciation of 爱莎 is almost 100% identical with Aisyah
the character 爱 has the meaning of love which is very positive
typically 莎 is used for woman while 沙 is used for man when it comes to choosing Mandarin character for the sound "sya/sha"