chinese personal names are names used by those from mainland china, hong kong, macau, taiwan, and the chinese diaspora overseas. due to china's historical dominance of east asian culture, many names used in korea and vietnam are adaptations of chinese names, or have historical roots in chinese, with appropriate adaptation to accommodate linguistic differences.
modern chinese names consist of a surname known as xing (姓, xìng), which comes first and is usually but not always monosyllabic, followed by a personal name called ming (名, míng), which is nearly always mono- or disyllabic. prior to the 20th century, educated chinese also utilized a "courtesy name" or "style name" called zi (字, zì) by which they were known among those outside their family and closest friends.
from at least the time of the shang dynasty, the chinese observed a number of naming taboos regulating who may or may not use a person's given name (without being disrespectful). in general, using the given name connoted the speaker's authority and superior position to the addressee. peers and younger relatives were barred from speaking it. owing to this, many historical chinese figures—particularly emperors—used a half-dozen or more different names in different contexts and for different speakers. those possessing names (sometimes even mere homophones) identical to the emperor's were frequently forced to change them. the normalization of personal names after the may fourth movement has generally eradicated aliases such as the school name and courtesy name but traces of the old taboos remain, particularly within families.