The recent news shows that the name of a high-ranking official 谌贻琴 is pronounced Shen4 Yi2 Qin2, but as far as I know, a famous writer 谌容 and a famous badminton player 谌龙 are called Chen2 Rong2 and Chen2 Long2 respectively. An old saying in China goes, 同姓的人五百年前是一家, but now the spelling remains the same, the sound has changed under the same system, is it the same surname or not?

Also in the same news, another senior official called 郑栅洁 is pronounced Zheng4 Shan1 Jie2, but most of the time 栅is pronounced Zha4 as in 栅栏.

A former industry minister 苗圩 is pronounced Miao2 Wei2, but 圩 is known pronounced Xu1.

The surname 覃 has two sounds, Qin2 and Tan2.

A famous linguist 何其莘 is called He2 Qi2 Xin2, rather than He2 Qi2 Shen2 as in 莘莘学子.

How can a name be determined in pronunciation?

  • In short, to be exactly accurate, ask oneself how to pronounce its name, otherwise if one is a celebrity, follow the common address. Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 20:19

2 Answers 2


Many characters have different pronunciations based on which definition is being used, and a few characters have pronunciations specific to names. Most characters have nothing name specific to their pronunciation.

In this way, it is actually not that different from English: some names are easier to guess the pronunciation than others, but only by asking/being told can you know the pronunciation for sure.

Just like in English the name Monica could be commonly pronounced Mon-ih-ca or Mon-ee-ka, or some other less common pronounciation. Or the name Jack could be written Jak or Jaque.

Those with Chinese names usually introduce the characters by their meaning/use in a way that makes the characters and pronunciation clear. You can always make an educated guess on the pronunciation based on knowledge of Chinese names, but its normal to be wrong sometimes if you haven't been properly introduced etc.

For an extremely common example take the character 樂 which has two very common meanings, each with very different pronunciations. When used for a word or properly introduced context makes it clear.

However whether looking at a family name or given name nothing indicates whether to use the music/yue or happy/le pronunciation. Both are equally likely. There are also other far more rare/regional pronunciations that are unlikely to be encountered. That does not mean its impossible-- perhaps someone's name is pronounced yao and you never could have guessed anyway.


[shèn; ㄕㄣˋ] is a Chinese surname. It is pronounced [chén;ㄔㄣˊ] when it means "believe", "sincere" or "faithful".

has multiple pronunciations. It is pronounced [zhà;ㄓㄚˋ] only when it means "bar grid". https://www.zdic.net/hans/%E6%A0%85

has two pronunciations [xū;ㄒㄩˉ] and [wéi;ㄨㄟˊ]. The former pronunciation is used in describing "a place for local/country fair", such as 赶圩(赶集); the latter pronunciation means "dyke", and is used similarly to "围", which is more likely to be chosen for making a meaningful name.

The surname is pronounced [qín;ㄑㄧㄣˊ]. Though it could be pronounced [tán;ㄊㄢˊ], there is no record of a person with that.

, when used as a surname, is pronounced [shēn;ㄕㄣ], the same pronunciation for "many,众多". It also has a pronunciation of [xīn;ㄒㄧㄣ] for the location "莘庄(in Shanghai)", which is likely adopted by a person who was born nearby.

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