Common Knowledge of Chinese Culture

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Names

About a month after birth  a feast is given,and the boy gets his "milk name," as it is called. this name clings to him through life, as in fact all his names do after they are once bestowed. This milk name is, if anything, more especially distinctive, as it is used by his relatives and neighbors, and in official matters if he has no "book name." On first going to school , the boy has another name given to him, the "book name." This name is used by his master and schoolmates, in official matters, and in any matters connected with literature. On marriage the young man takes still another name, his style or "great name," and this his father and mother and relations use as well as the milk name. On taking a degree, on entering official life, or on having official distinction or rank conferred on him, a man takes yet another name, known as the "official name." After death he is know by his posthumous name in the Hall of Ancestors.

Girls are left out in the cold as far as names are concerned. They have to be content with a milk name, a marriage name,and nicknames. They retain their own surnames when married; that is to say, a married woman considers her maiden surname as her own, and gives it as such; by courtesy she is addressed by her husband's surname. In official documents her two surnames are given one after the other,and the combination serves as her name; for example, a woman's maiden surname is Lei, her married surname is Chen. She would then be known as Chen Lei Shi, the Shi denoting that she belongs to the Lei family by birth.

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