Chinese baby names that reflect moments in history

Chinese general Zhu De (1886-1976).
Chinese general Zhu De

Many Chinese babies are given names that reflect current events. As time goes by, these current events become past events, in turn making Chinese names a lens through which to view historical Chinese events/attitudes.

During the post-Civil War 1950s, when Chinese parents had “hopes for a prosperous country,” popular baby names included:

  • Dongfeng, meaning “eastern wind”
  • Guangqiang, meaning “strong nation”
  • Jianguo, which refers to the establishment of the People’s Republic
  • Jianhua, which also refers to the establishment of the People’s Republic
  • Minzhu, meaning “democracy”
  • Qiangguo, meaning “strong nation”

While the Korean War (1950-1953) was being fought, popular baby names included:

  • Kangmei, meaning “resist U.S. aggression”
  • Weiguo, meaning “guard China’s territory against infringement”
  • Yuanchao, meaning “aid the Korean people”

Yuanchao was the name chosen by Zhu De (above), former commander-in-chief of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, for his eldest grandson (b. 1951). It’s also the name of the current Vice President of the People’s Republic of China, Li Yuanchao (b. 1950).

During the years of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), when Chinese parents wanted to demonstrate “their loyalty to the revolution,” popular baby names included:

  • Weidong, meaning “protect Dong” [Chairman Mao Zedong]
  • Weihong, meaning “protect red”
  • Wenge, meaning “cultural revolution”
  • Xuenong, meaning “learn from the peasants”

From in the 1990s and early 2000s, while China was gearing up for Summer Olympics in Beijing, popular baby names included:

  • Aoyun, meaning “Olympics”
  • Shen’ao, meaning “bid for the Olympics”

Some of the names above were given to hundreds of thousands of babies in China. Combine that with the relatively small number of Chinese surnames, and the result is oodles of people with identical full names, which I’m sure gets pretty confusing…

P.S. Here’s a post about how to pronounce Chinese names.

Sources: China’s history is spelled out in baby names, Chinese name – Wikipedia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.