NEWS > Life
100,000 Chinese share one name "Wang Tao"
2006-01-26 01:51:30 Xinhua English

BEIJING, Jan. 26 (Xinhuanet) -- At least 100,000 Chinese people, about the population of a small city, share the same name -- "Wang Tao", probably the most common name in China.

These Wang Taos include both men and women, commoners and celebrities. The popular ones consist of a top ping pong player, at least two footballers, noted painters, photographers and an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

"The figure is just an estimation based on rough statistical data we collected from nationwide household registration departments," said Wang Daliang, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

"Identical names are common in China because there're just 2,000 common family names and 3,000 widely used given names."

According to a recent CAS survey, "Li", "Wang" and "Zhang" are the top three popular family names in China, respectively accounting for 7.4 percent, 7.2 percent and 6.8 percent of the population.

Besides, the Chinese people's centuries-old preference for one-character given names has led to growing namesakes.

Actually, a formal Chinese given name should consist of two characters instead of one. One's full name customarily contains his family name, a middle name that is often spelled out in the family pedigree to be shared by everyone of the same generation, and his first name.

China's first law governing its citizens' names debuted in the Qin Dynasty (221 - 207 BC), banning commoners, mountains and rivers from being named after the emperor.

"The tradition of having a middle name started at that time. Heads of families were responsible to change middle names for their next generation when they trimmed the family tree once every 30 or 60 years," Wang said.

When Wang Mang, a former imperial minister of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-24 AD), usurped the throne and founded the short-lived Xin Dynasty (8-23), he ruled out middle names as a means of reform.

But in a country with 1.3 billion people, Chinese parents are facing a new type of competition today -- how to come up with unique names for their children. As a result, some parents resort to rare characters that are not even included in contemporary Chinese dictionaries, while others give their children awkward names up to four characters. Enditem

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