Naming taboo

Naming taboo
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 避諱
Simplified Chinese 避讳
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese alphabet húy kỵ
Hán-Nôm 諱忌
Korean name
Hangul 피휘
Hanja 避諱
Japanese name
Kanji 避諱
Hiragana ひき

A naming taboo is a cultural taboo against speaking or writing the given names of exalted persons in China and neighboring nations in the ancient Chinese cultural sphere.

Kinds of naming taboo

Methods to avoid offence

Avoidance of naming taboo: Example of omitting a stroke. The last stroke of each character of Kangxi Emperor's given name "玄" (xuán) and "燁" (yè) is omitted.

There were three ways to avoid using a taboo character:

Naming taboo in history

Throughout Chinese history, there were emperors whose names contained common characters who would try to alleviate the burden of the populace in practicing name avoidance. For example, Emperor Xuan of Han, whose given name Bingyi (病已) contained two very common characters, changed his name to Xun (詢), a far less common character, with the stated purpose of making it easier for his people to avoid using his name.[2] Similarly, Emperor Taizong of Tang, whose given name Shimin (世民) also contained two very common characters, ordered that name avoidance only required the avoidance of the characters Shi and Min in direct succession and that it did not require the avoidance of those characters in isolation. However, his son Emperor Gaozong of Tang effectively made this edict of Emperor Taizong ineffective after his death by requiring the complete avoidance of the characters Shi and Min, necessitating the chancellor Li Shiji to change his name to Li Ji.[3]

The custom of naming taboo had a built-in contradiction: without knowing what the emperors' names were one could hardly be expected to avoid them, so somehow the emperors' names had to be informally transmitted to the populace to allow them to learn them in order to avoid them. In one famous incident in 435, during the Northern Wei Dynasty, Goguryeo ambassadors made a formal request that the imperial government issue them a document containing the emperors' names so that they could avoid offending the emperor while submitting their king's petition. Emperor Taiwu of Northern Wei agreed and issued them such a document.[4] However, the mechanism of how the regular populace would be able to learn the emperors' names remained generally unclear throughout Chinese history.

Since every reign of every dynasty had its own naming taboos, the study of naming taboos can help date an ancient text.

In other countries

In Vietnam, the family name Hoàng (黄) was changed to Huỳnh in the South due to the naming taboo of Lord Nguyễn Hoàng's name. Similarly, the family name "Vũ" is known as "Võ" in the South.

Japan was also heavily influenced by the naming taboo. In modern Japan, it concerns only the Emperor of Japan, whom people only refer as Tennō Heika (天皇陛下, his Majesty the Emperor) or Kinjō Heika (今上陛下, his current Majesty). Ancient Japanese people had so much respect for this custom that historians forgot the actual names of many historical figures or even sometimes the correct pronunciation, as many Han characters have multiple pronunciations. For example, the son of Oda Nobunaga, Oda Nobukatsu, is often called Oda Nobuo; but it mainly concerns more ancient historical figures like Murasaki Shikibu, whose actual name may forever remain a mystery.

Many Aboriginal Australian cultures avoid the names of deceased persons, both verbally and in written language. For this reason, the names of many notable Aboriginal people were only recorded by Westerners and may have been incorrectly transliterated.

See also


Further reading

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 9/25/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.