Saturday, October 4, 2008

Chinese titles

In , Hong Kong, Macau, , Singapore, and other societies around the world, an honorific title is attached after the family name of an individual when addressing that person. Aside from addressing colleagues or family of equal or lesser rank, it is considered impolite to refer to others by their name only.

Honorific titles

The most common honorific titles are similar to the English Mr, Sir, Mrs, Ms, Miss, Madam, etc. The Chinese titles, unlike in English, are also used to bring people closer rather than to keep distance between one another. They always follow the name of the person and can stand alone.


* Xiānshēng 先生 : This is a term commonly used as a respectful form of address for all men and male law enforcement officials. It can either follow the surname or the given names . In common speech, the former is more common , but in formal contexts, the given names are often used as if they were the two character courtesy name . This can be combined with formal titles to indicate even more respect . It is the same as ''sensei'' in Japanese, though its use is much less restrictive, more like how ''san'' would be used in Japanese. It is also used as a title for a man of respected stature.

*Gōng 公 : Today, this respectful honorific is mainly applied to deceased male relatives. In imperial times, it was a equivalent to duke . Whenever it is used, it always follows the surname of the person being referred to .


* Xiǎojiě 小姐 , Miss: This honorific is used to refer to young and unmarried women. It follows the surname of the woman or can be used alone as a title of address. Today, however, it is most associated as a slang term for "prostitute" or in restaurants addressing waitresses.

* Tàitai 太太 : This honorific is used to refer to married women. It is added after the surname of the husband or can be used alone as a title of address. It is used in familial and personal relations, but completely absent in formal business contexts since it emphasizes age and marital bond.

* Nǚshì 女士 : This title follows a woman's name. The use of this honorific has grown in popularity in the late 20th Century, since it is age and marital status independent and does not connote that women are inferior to men. It is always the preferred term in more formal contexts, especially if the age or marital status of the person being noted is not known.

* Fūrén 夫人 : Traditionally used to refer to a lady of high rank, the term has fallen into disuse since the late 20th Century except in formal contexts, , or to translate names of females in other languages derived from the surname of their husband . It is used following the husband's full name or surname, or can be used as title on its own . It can also be used to address female law enforcement officials.

Occupational titles

Chinese people often address professionals in formal situations by their occupational titles. These titles can either follow the surname of the person in reference, or it can stand alone either as a form of address or if the person being referred to is unambiguous without the added surname.


* L?oshī 老師 , when addressing a teacher.

* Xiàozh?ng 校長 , when addressing the school headmaster or principal. Chinese does not have specific titles for heads of universities , so this term is applied in higher education as well. Generally, the word ''zh?ng'' is added to an institutional name to refer to the leader of that institution.

* Jiàoshòu 教授 , when addressing a professor.

The use of the term equivalent of "" is less common in Chinese as it is in English. The term ''boshi'' is used both as a honorific title and a name for the degree. Like in English, holders of a doctorate can have the title added to the end of their names, but use of the undistinguishing ''xiānshēng'' or ''nǚshì'' is much more prevalent.

Government and politics

* Tóngzhì 同志 : This term is commonly used by political party members to address each other. Its use expanded to all segments of society during the rule of Mao Zedong. It is still used by leaders of the Communist Party of China on formal occasions, and to a much lesser degree, leaders of the Kuomintang.

* Wěiyuán 委員 : This term can be used to refer to any member of a committee or council. This was especially prevalent in the system of party and state committees the Kuomintang used to govern China in the 1930s and 1940s. The Communist Party of China also operates under a system of parallel committees, but prefer the more proletarian term ''tóngzhì'' .

* Zhǔxí 主席 : Leaders of certain organizations such as political parties use this title. Notably, it applied to Chairman Mao who was referred to as ''Máo Zhǔxí'' as head of the Communist Party of China.


* Yīshēng 醫生 , most commonly used when addressing a doctor; used for practitioners of both Western and traditional Chinese medicine.

* Yīshī 醫師 , is a more formal title when addressing a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine.

* Dàifū 大夫 , an older title used to address high officials in ancient times, now used colloquially when addressing a doctor.

Martial arts

A list of titles when addressing a martial arts master . The titles below are listed by the Standard Mandarin pronunciation which is the national language in China. In the West, the titles are more commonly known by their pronunciation which are given in brackets.

* Shīfu 師父 , used when addressing one's own martial arts instructor. But can also be used for teacher/instructors of other kind.

* Shīgōng 師公 , used when addressing the teacher of one's Shifu.

* Shīmǔ 師母 , used when addressing the wife of Shifu.

* Zōngshī 宗師 , technically the founder of a discipline or branch , used when addressing a great master.

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