When reading songyuanyao's answer on Are people names always pronounced the same in Mandarin?, I suddenly wonder if Chinese has something similar to nanori in Japanese.

Basically, nanori is a special reading for a Japanese Kanji used in a name. Examples according to Wikipedia:

  • 希 usually has the pronunciation ki (or sometimes ke or mare). However, as a female name it can be pronounced Nozomi.

  • 飯田 (Iida) uses the special nanori reading of 飯 (ii) and a standard kun'yomi reading of 田 (da)

Now, taking the first example from songyuanyao's answer, for Hanzi 費, Wiktionary stated,

  • fèi with 6 meanings + 2 historical placenames + surname
  • with 1 historical placename + surname

Taking from this example, I concluded that it's used as a surname since it's preceded by a place name.

So I wonder, are there readings exclusive for a name without any preceding usage (meaningless/not used in historical names)?

2 Answers 2


There are some family names which are pronounced quite differently compared to normal usage. For example:

  • 华:usually: hua2, family name: hua4
  • 仇:usually: chou2, family name: qiu2
  • 单:usually: dan1, family name: shan4
  • 任:usually: ren4, family name: ren2
  • 纪:usually: ji4, family name: ji3
  • 解: usually: jie3, family name: xie4
  • 查:usually: cha2, family name: zha1
  • 区:usually: qu1, family name: ou1
  • 尉迟:usually: wei4, chi2, family name: yu4 chi2
  • 万俟:usually: wan4, si4, family name: mo4 qi2

Some of the pronunciations above are indeed exclusively to family names, but they are pronounced so with a reason. For example, however, I believe these pronunciation all have historical reasons, either a place, or 四声别义, or another character.

Besides, I think 名乗り(nanori) in Japanese also have a reason and not exclusively for names without other meaning. For example, 希 in female names reads nozomi, it's actually 訓読み(kunyomi) of 望, which has a similar meaning as 希. And ii is the classic form (雅語) of meshi for 飯. Therefore, the basis where your extension based on is also unstable.


So I wonder, are there readings exclusive for a name without any preceding usage (meaningless/not used in historical names)?

I think it is very unlikely to have a reading in a name with no meaning at all.

Take a look at the character 樂

The pinyin of 樂 in 快樂 (happy) is /le4/ ; in 音樂 (music) and surname, is /yue4/

Which mean when reading 樂 in a surname, it is different from the 樂 in 快樂, but is the same as the 樂 in 音樂.

As a surname 樂 also has a second pinyin /yao4/. (It means 'to love; be fond of; to delight in') 樂進 /yao4 jin4/ is an example.

Although the /yao4/ pinyin can only be seen in classical text nowadays. For example:'仁者樂山,智者樂水', we can't say 樂/yao4/ in 樂進 has no preceding usage.

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