A Chinese style name, sometimes also known as a courtesy name (zì), is a given name to be used later in life. After 20 years of age, the zì is assigned in place of one's given name as a symbol of adulthood and respect. Primarily used for male names, one could be given a zì by the parents, or by their first personal teacher on the first day of family school, or one may adopt a self-chosen zì. The tradition of using style names has been fading since the May Fourth Movement in 1919. There are two common forms of style name, the zì and the hào.
Zì (adult name)
The zì, sometimes called the biǎozì or "courtesy name", is a name traditionally given to Chinese males at the age of 20, marking their coming of age. It was sometimes given to females upon marriage. As noted above, the practice is no longer common in modern Chinese society. According to the Book of Rites (Traditional Chinese: 禮記; Simplified Chinese: 礼记), after a man reaches adulthood, it is disrespectful for others of the same generation to address him by his given name, or míng. Thus, the given name was reserved for oneself and one's elders, while the zì would be used by adults of the same generation to refer to one another on formal occasions or in writing; hence the term 'courtesy name'.
The zì is mostly disyllabic (comprises two characters) and is usually based on the meaning of the míng or given name. Yan Zhitui (顏之推) of the Northern Qi Dynasty believed that while the purpose of the míng was to distinguish one person from another, the zì should express the bearer's moral integrity.
The relation which often exists between a person's zì and his míng can be seen in the case of Mao Zedong (Traditional Chinese: 毛澤東; Simplified Chinese: 毛泽东), whose zì was Rùnzhī (Traditional Chinese: 潤之; Simplified Chinese: 润之). These two characters share the same radical - 氵, which signifies water. Both characters can mean "to benefit" or "to nourish".
Another way to form a zì is to use the homophonic character zǐ (Chinese: 子; pinyin: zǐ) - a respectful title for a male - as the first character of the disyllabic zì. Thus, for example, Gongsun Qiao's zì was: Zǐchǎn ((Traditional Chinese: 子產; Simplified Chinese: 子产), and Du Fu's: Zǐméi (子美).
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