I often get tripped up when reading names of Chinese people, and trying to work out if they are male or female. Is there a good rule of thumb to follow to determine which is which?
In a previous post "How do we choose the correct characters for a westerner name?", I listed some characters that I think are popular in names nowadays. Remember, characters don't express the gender, so there are only some "rough clues" to guess the gender of the person.
One example would be “芳”, which means "fragrance,good smell".It's very common to be seen in a woman's name as in 梅艳芳(a last female singer from HongKong) and 谢杏芳(a famous female badminton player). However, I few cases, it appears in a man's name. I.e. 单田芳(a famous Pingshu performer. Note: here 单 pronounces shàn as a family name)
I agree with point 1 in 景洛弘's answer, that meanings could be a clue, but I don't agree with point 2, because in chinese, many characters share the same sound.
Counterexamples to point 2:
ye. There is a famous actor 刘烨(liu2 ye4).
li. li could be “力(li4)", which means "strength". There was a famous linguist 王力(wang2 li4).li could also be "莉(li4)",and “茉莉” means "jasmine". There is a famous actress 牛莉(niu2 li4).
hong. Hong could be "宏(hong2)“, which means "huge". There is a famous comedian 黄宏(huang2 hong2). Hong could also be "虹(hong2)", which means "rainbow". There is a famous actress 陶虹(tao2 hong2).
In my experience, it mostly depends on two things: