June 12, 2007 / 5:33 AM / 12 years ago

What's in a name? Maybe a lot more soon in China

BEIJING (Reuters) - Police in China, where most of the 1.3 billion people share just 100 surnames, are considering rules which would combine both parents’ family names to prevent so much duplication, state media said on Tuesday.

The report gave no details of the Public Security Ministry’s motives for seeking the change, but use of so few names by so many often sows confusion and must presumably hamper police work.

“By adopting both parents’ names, 1.28 million new surnames will be added, which will greatly solve the problem of name duplication,” Xinhua news agency said, citing the regulations.

At least 100,000 people share the name “Wang Tao”, the China Daily said, citing the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

“Such names cause great trouble in daily life, and the new regulation can vastly reduce name repetition,” a household registration officer was quoted as saying.

“Names should have more than two Chinese characters but less than six.”

China has 1,601 surnames in total. According to the new regulations, Arab numbers, foreign languages and symbols that do not belong to Chinese minority languages would all be banned.

“Names should not contain contents that would harm the country or nation’s dignity, breach customs or easily cause public’s misunderstanding or bad reaction,” Xinhua quoted the regulation as saying.

People over the age of 18 would be allowed to change names only once, it added.

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