Feeds

China runs out of surnames

93 million Wangs and rising

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

China has been forced to mull the possibility of allowing double-barrelled surnames - a break with the ancient tradition that citizens adopt one of a hundred single character surnames.

The majority of Chinese take their surnames from the list, considered "part of the country's cultural heritage", the Telegraph explains. So embedded is this tradition that "ordinary" Chinese people are referred to as laobaixing, or "old hundred names", and schoolkids have to learn the lot by heart.

In fact, other less common surnames bring the official total of permitted surnames to 161, but this doesn't do much to offset the fact that there are now 93 million Wangs in China - closely followed by 92 million Lis - something which is causing the authorities a bit of a problem.

One official explained that "there are so many people who share an identity that it is becoming confusing", while Beijing police household registration officer Guan Xihua offered: "Such names cause great trouble in daily life." Indeed, China Daily notes that the name Wang Tao is shared by no less than 100,000 people.

The solution is, the powers that be reckon, to allow double-barrelled combinations. China Daily gives the example of a baby whose dad's surname was Zhou, the mother's Zhu, and who could therefore be called Zhou, Zhu, Zhouzhu or Zhuzhou.

Another proposal to expand the surname roster is "lifting restrictions on what counts as a surname to allow a greater variety of characters, including from ethnic minority languages where currently the closest sounding Chinese surname is commonly used".

However, parents will still not be able to use the "unsimplified, old-fashioned characters still used in Taiwan and Hong Kong" or Chinglish surnames. Furthermore, the western alphabet is strictly off-limits, meaning no Fleur de Lis or Brooklyn Zhous in the foreseeable future. ®

Bootnote

The top ten Chinese surnames are: Wang, Li, Zhang, Liu, Chen, Yang, Huang, Zhao, Zhou, Wu.

Seven Steps to Software Security

More from The Register

next story
NSA man: 'Tell me about your Turkish connections'
Spooks ask Dabbsy to suggest a nice hotel with pool
Carlos: Slim your working week to just three days of toil
'Midas World' vision suggests you retire later, watch more tellie and buy more stuff
Motorist 'thought car had caught fire' as Adele track came on stereo
'FIRE' caption on dashboard prompts dunderheaded hard shoulder halt
Yahoo! Japan! launches! service! for! the! dead!
If you're reading this email, I am no longer alive
Plucky Rockall podule man back on (proper) dry land
Bold, barmy Brit adventurer Nick Hancock escapes North Atlantic islet
Russia sends SEX-CRAZED GECKOS to SPAAAAACE!
In space... no one can hear you're green...
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.