The evolution of Chinese names

gf writing

This is my Chinese name as written by Melody. I don’t know how to write my own Chinese name except for the middle character (coz it has less strokes and thus, is easier to remember). The translation is “Fu Huai Bin” – pronounced “foo why bin” but it’s written as Poh Huai Bin officially coz that’s how the Heng Hua translate the Chinese character for “Fu”.

Poh (the first character) is my family name a.k.a last name. It’s inherited and does not have any significance to it. Someone told me a very interesting anecdote about family names though – he said that we don’t actually have family names. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (actually, just Ancient China) we only have one name e.g.


Those are feudal times, so the lesser ones amongst us went to work for the richer (land owning) ones. Let’s say that I was born in a very poor family and went to work for a landowner named Poh. Back then, it wouldn’t be a 9 – 5 job but some backbreaking Biblical toil and labor stuff.

chinese name 1

Now, there are probably a lot of Bins out there so I’ll be called Poh’s Bin – to avoid being confused with, say, Tiong’s Bin. Thus, my name will literally be “Poh Ah Bin” e.g. The Bin from The House of Tiong.

Once, I’ve made it big and have my own property, I will have my own plot of land and have slaves working under me e.g. Fong, Tang, Ching, Hong. Tang will be called Bin Ah TangTang from The House of Bin“.

chinese name 2

Over the years, we evolved with the times and started getting customized names. However, the Chinese never dropped the surname (family name) so the ones that are in current circulation were the rich and land owning folks from the feudal times.

I don’t know how historically accurate the anecdote is, but it’s quite interesting nevertheless. Anyway back to my name, the Poh doesn’t actually mean anything – it’s the family name/last name so my name would be Huai Bin.

phb chinese

Huai means Caring
Bin is made up of two words – Wen (Scholar) and Wu (Warrior)

so my name is The Caring Scholar-Warrior from The House of Poh.

…but please, just call me Huai Bin. πŸ˜‰

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