I'm new and I only recently started getting more serious about learning Chinese. After doing research and talking to people, someone suggested that I should chose a Chinese name and that I should ask native speakers of Chinese what they thought, so that the name sounds natural and not a weird, sinified western name.

My first name is one of those kinds of western Christian names that can be translated into many different languages (Yochanan, Yuhanna, Juan, Jean, Giovanni, Ivan, Sean, Ian, Ianto, Johann, etc.), but it's confusing to me to translate into Chinese, because my parents named after the Apostle John, the person who, according to tradition, write the Gospel of John. In Chinese, different denominations use different translations for this name, and my family has both Catholics and Protestants, so it's hard to choose. I would prefer a more universal name and not one that's denomination-specific, but these are the ones I found on-line. Are these normal 名 míng names? Are they too strange? I'm also not sure how to read the last two, so I put question marks.

  • Protestant (基督敎新敎 Jīdūjiào xīnjiào) translation: 約翰 - Yuēhàn
  • Catholic (天主教 Tiānzhǔ jiào) translation: 若望 - Ruòwàng
  • Orthodox (正教 Zhèng jiào) translation: 約安 - Yuēān (?)
  • 'Nestorian' (景教 Jǐng jiào) translation: 曜輪 / 曜轮 Yàolún (?)

I have found historical people with these names: 王若望 Wáng Rùowàng (1918-2001) who was born 王壽華 Wáng Shòuhuá but took on the name 王若望 Wáng Rùowàng as a pen name (號 hào name or maybe a 字 zì name). I also found 马约翰 Mǎ Yuēhàn (1883-1966) who was a pioneer in modern Chinese sports and physical education. Lastly, I found a 'Nestorian' (Church of the East) bishop who lived in the 9th century during the Tang dynastay who was Bishop John, or 大徳曜輪 Dàdé Yàolún. But I don't know how nice or even normal sound for actual Chinese speakers.

For the last name 姓氏 (xìngshì), many sources on the Internet suggested that I should chose a last name that was only one syllable and sounded like my real name, which is also translatable into many languages (Andrew, Andreas, Andrés, André, Andrea, Aindreas, Andrei, et cetera). Since the first character in 安德魯 Āndélǔ is 安 Ān, which is already a famous Chinese last name 姓氏 xìngshì, I thought I should just pick 安 Ān.

So the possible options are:

  • 安約翰 - Ān Yuēhàn
  • 安若望 - Ān Ruòwàng
  • 安約安 - Ān Yuēān (?)
  • 安曜輪 - Ān Yàolún (?)

Is any one of these more natural and nicer-sounding than the others? I'm a man too, in case you were wondering, so I would prefer a name not too feminine sounding. Thank you so much in advance for your help.

  • 1
    may i ask your full name? and what’s your mother tongue? Feb 14, 2021 at 23:47
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    I don't know your family, but I don't think in general that picking the Protestant transliteration would be likely to offend Catholics, or vice versa. I would just pick whichever you like better.
    – user23661
    Feb 15, 2021 at 0:01
  • 1
    Cultural and religious sensitivities do play a part in this. Strong family and ecclesiastical traditions do exist, even in the Sinosphere, and may easily identify someone as belonging to a particular faith or confession. However, I don't think taking offence needs to be a major concern.
    – Michaelyus
    Feb 15, 2021 at 1:00
  • 1
    Consideration of tone pattern (平仄) is also important. 平平仄, 平仄平, 仄仄平 are good choices.
    – L Parker
    Feb 15, 2021 at 1:06
  • 1
    People can still name themselves 平仄仄 or 仄仄仄, but at quite a minority. Besides even pronouncing 仄仄仄 may be difficult; definitely not desirable in speech, let alone naming.
    – L Parker
    Feb 16, 2021 at 4:43

2 Answers 2


from the comment:

but I didn't want to just give my full name outright on the internet. My name is a mix of English and Spanish names

i see, then i started the process from “john andrew”.

the surname “andrew”, in spanish would be “andrés”, it sounds “similar” to “晏” or “顏” in cantonese, in which,

晏 (u+6641)[sound file] means “sunny, peaceful, late”, a less common chinese surname. however, most people know two mr 晏 in history: “晏嬰”, a famous statesman in spring and autumn period, and “晏殊”, a famous poet in sung dynasty.



顏 (u+984f) [sound file] means “colour, face, countenance, . . .), a common chinese surname. two most famous mr 顏 would be, imo: 顏淵 (aka 顏回), a disciple of confucius, and “顏真卿”, a famous calligrapher in tang dynasty, we imitate his writing even nowadays :)



the name “john”, the common translation is “約翰”; as tang ho said, “too common-place and text-book”. so, in latin, “john” would be “ioannes”, in cantonese, my association would be:

“曜恆” (glisten + eternal)

for religious corelation, you may explain it as “glistening over bethlehem (伯利)

“john” in english is similar to “莊” in cantonese, so another one: “莊敬” (reverence, respect); in which, it’s a common terms in classical chinese texts :)


alors, two suggested name options would be:


aan3 yiu6 hang4



ngaan4 jong1 ging3

have fun :)

  • 1
    To supplement, 晏曜恆 is 仄仄平 and 顏莊敬 is 平平仄. I like both very much, personally 顏莊敬 over 晏曜恆 despite its biblical connotation, but 莊 sadly does assume that John is pronounced with a /dʒ/, not the historical /j/.
    – L Parker
    Feb 16, 2021 at 4:50
  • @LParker, come on, think different, no need to be sad lah 😸 Feb 16, 2021 at 6:46
  • @水巷孑蠻 Thank you so much for your suggestions! I didn't even really factor in Cantonese pronunciation! I really appreciate this different angle at choosing a Chinese name. Feb 18, 2021 at 17:28
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    @IoannesAndreas, may i ask, out of curious, which name do you choose? Feb 19, 2021 at 0:13
  • @水巷孑蠻 - I have not chosen yet, because I do not know whether to chose a Mandarin name or a Cantonese name. I really like: 晏曜恆 - aan3 yiu6 hang4 (Cantonese) or 安曜輪 (or 安曜倫) - an1 yao4 lun2 (Mandarin). Feb 20, 2021 at 1:05

You have done a lot of research, and picking a name is entirely your personal choice, there are no right or wrong answer to it, just good or bad choices. Bad choice means something that sounds offensive or taboo, e.g. 徐定富 means '徐 + certain to get rich' but it sounds the same as 除定褲 (drop the trousers first) in Cantonese. Your four choices have no problem like that.

約翰 and 若望 are common transliterations of John. If you don't want your name to be too common-place and text-book, you can change to other similar-sounding characters

安約翰 --> 安逸瀚

安若望 --> 安若翰


安約安 sounds quite strange, almost like a tongue twist


安曜輪 is unique and sounds native, but 倫 is much more common and meaningful in names than 輪, so 安曜倫 would be a good choice.

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