In Chinese, the family name comes before the given name.
By English convention, it's the other way around.

In English text, however, I often see Chinese names with the family name before the given name, e.g., Xi Jinping instead of Jinping Xi.

Do you know why? This practice seems to be applied exclusively to big shots.

And academics of Chinese descent invariably have their names in the Western order on academic journals. Why the difference?

P.S. I can't believe people here don't know the answer to the question could be found in a reputable style guide!

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – J.R. Aug 10 at 22:06

Firstly I strongly disagree with the exclusively big shot insinuation. Also As seen in the examples below the Family name is normally given first for Chinese Citizens.

Secondly I do not think that a person who works for a relatively small Dutch Firm can be described as a Chinese Big Shot as depicted in comments.

big shot noun a person or an organisation with a lot of power or influence: Cambridge English Dictionary

Thirdly the reference's so far used as examples of texts written in English in non native English speaking country's publications

However to answer your question. In Honk Kong the use of names has been/become Anglicised. So we see references where the family name is in the second position.

Examples Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan

In main land China the vast majority of the time Western names are not used for some inexplicable reason (I do not accept the use of Chinese Characters as a valid reason when the same page of a newspaper or the same article on the Internet uses western characters) and the name of the western name becomes something unrecognisable like Beakehanmu or Adaier and is pronounced as such. However, in the west we (in the vast majority of cases) use the correct names of people or at least the excepted translation into Roman characters of that name, in the format given.


Poland's Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz

Kyrgyzstan's former President Almazbek Atambayev

Dong Yaxiu, a director at the National Bureau of Statistics

Pan Chenjun, analyst for animal protein at Rabobank.

Note I talk about the Chinese use of western names to demonstrate the point that names are manipulated in the far East on a regular and accepted basis. As opposed to the Anglo Saxon idea that your name is important and should not be used in vain. A western newspaper will publish an notice if they have mistakenly used a wrong or miss spelt name, Whilst a Chinese Newspaper will make up a name to represent a new Character on the international scene. This use of made up names is also used at an official level as well and to ordinary people not Just Big Shots. Reference my Driving License and Daughters Birth certificates.

All REFERENCES Yahoo new. 2019 08 09 or 09 08 2019 if your in England.

P.S. Answers are David Beckham and Adele

  • Your last example is actually Chenjun Pan: research.rabobank.com/far/en/authors/… – Apollyon Aug 9 at 5:43
  • And Director at the National Bureau of Statistics sounds like some sort of big-shot position. – Apollyon Aug 9 at 5:45
  • Wrong it's not in the western press. “China’s pork and hog prices are likely to break the previous record high in 2016 by the fourth quarter,” said Pan Chenjun, the report’s author and a senior analyst for animal protein at Rabobank. – Brad Aug 9 at 5:48
  • So we have Japanese use in English Texts and Dutch/Chinese use in English texts. Where are the English, English examples texts other than in my examples. Anyway this is a discussion for another place not in Comments. – Brad Aug 9 at 6:01
  • How about "Rabobank senior analyst Chenjun Pan said pork production would fall in China this year and next." scmp.com/economy/china-economy/article/3006601/… – Apollyon Aug 9 at 10:17

This phenomenon happens in many languages. Some have their family name first, others have the given name first. In many countries like China and Japan, the family name comes first, then middle name, then given name. English names are given - middle - family name. Rather than thinking "first/last name", you should think of it as "family/given name" and use the format of "family-middle-given" or "given-middle-family" depending on your language, location and local rules.


I am afraid I don't think OP is quite correct about,

This practice seems to be applied exclusively to big shots.

Let's go directly to the Chinese big one. For example, Mao-Zedong.. We don't even have to mention he was one of the big shots in the world history,, and his name is described as Mao Zedong, not Zedong Mao, the latter of which should be correct.

Then I would like to the minor or small "shot", for example, He Jin. I believe or bet quite few, almost to the zero, people know him, but famous to me because he was the first ranter of the last Han period, who virtually started the beginning of the Three Kingdom age,, which I believe would be famous to even native English speakers.

So I think, the rule or no rule is, native speakers don't give so much attention to the Asian "shots", how the name should be written?


The most plausible explanation has to do with maintaining cultural pride and authenticity.

Presidents represent a country, so they have their names arranged in the Chinese order as a symbol of national identity. This is supported by the observation that many presidents who can speak English themselves are accompanied by an interpreter in meetings with foreign guests. This is done again out of national pride: the presidents are expected to stick to the country's official language and customs.

Anglophone sinologists' works, be they translations of Chinese literature or academic works, also have transliterated names in the Chinese order. It is not that these sinologists don't know the internal order of Chinese names versus English names. They do, but in order to present Chinese names faithfully, they deliberately order the names in the Chinese way.

As an example, consider the following, where Sima is one of the rare bisyllabic Chinese surnames:

The Shiji quotes him approvingly more than once,63 and places his biography in the same chapter with Laozi's. There, strikingly, Sima Qian anthologizes almost an entire chapter of the Han Feizi.64 Furthermore, Sima Qian expresses ... See here

On the other hand, academics of Chinese descent who publish internationally keep to the Western name order because their primary concern is to reach as large an audience as possible. Therefore they choose to render names in an order accessible to English speakers.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.