Updated：2008-04-27 16:46 | Source：
The names of Chinese people have their own tradition and characteristics. Unlike westerners, the family name in China is put first, followed by the given name. A woman usually does not take her husband's family name upon marriage. The given name has usually consisted of one or two Chinese characters. However, in order to avoid too many duplicated names, newly-born babies can now be given names of three characters.
Chinese names are meant to convey special meaning, with the given names often expressing best wishes on the new-born. Some imply the birth place, birth time or natural phenomenon, like Jing (Beijing), Chen (morning), Dong (winter) and Xue (snow); Some embody the hope of virtue, like Zhong (faithful), Yi (righteous), Li (courteous) and Xin (reliable) while others express the wishes of life, like Jian (health), Shou (longevity), and Fu (happiness).
Altogether some 22,000 family names have been used in China, but over time, some of them have disappeared and only 3,500 are commonly used nowadays. The most popular three surnames in China are Li, Wang and Zhang, occupying about 7.9%, 7.4% and 7.1% of the Chinese population, respectively. There are 270 million Chinese people who has one of these top three surnames.
Among all the Chinese family names, 100 common ones cover almost 87% of the total population. Of these, 19 are more popular than others, including Li, Wang, Zhang, Liu, Chen, Yang, Zhao, Huang, Zhou, Wu, Xu, Sun, Hu, Zhu, Gao, Lin, He, Guo and Ma, and represent about half of all Chinese people.
Some Chinese people have compound surnames, consisting of two Chinese characters, like Ou Yang, Tai Shi, Duan Mu, Shang Guan, Si Ma, Dong Fang, Du Gu, Nan Gong, among others. Presently, there are 81 compound surnames that are known to exist in China.
All Chinese people have equal rights to use their own names, which are legally protected. Generally speaking, a child is always entitled to the surname of his father. However, children nowadays in China do not have to use their father's surname; they can adopt that of their mother. Nicknames are often used in their childhood or by their confidants.
(source: http://www.travelchinaguide.com/essential/chinese-name.htm )
Editor : 李受恩