Chinese Protestant names and the construction of Christian identity in China

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Personal names in Chinese societies have much more social and political significance than in Western societies. This paper will explore names (both milk names and formal-legal names) and naming practices in a Chinese Protestant community in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and will analyse the roles which names play in the building of Protestant communities. Based on extensive ethnographic data, this paper will analyse the different categories of Protestant names such as biblical character names, and scriptural names and explain the motivations of Protestant Christian parents who choose to name their children with religious names. The paper will also discuss the role of church leaders who are often tasked with naming children. I will argue that as name-givers, church leaders fulfil the function of family elder in the larger church family. The paper will further analyse the multiplicity of roles which these Protestant names play in church communities: how names serve as a reminder of the gospel message and the Christian identity of the parents, the name-bearer and the wider church community; how Protestant names serve as a protector of the child until they come into a ‘proper’ understanding of the faith; and of how such names serve to lead and guide the bearer in shaping their Christian identity. As the first focused study of Protestant Christian names in the PRC, this paper will further our understanding of how the identities of Christians are formed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 14 Jan 2019
EventGenerational Legacies: The Family in Chinese Christianity - Purdue University, West Lafayette, United States
Duration: 4 May 20205 May 2020


ConferenceGenerational Legacies: The Family in Chinese Christianity
CountryUnited States
CityWest Lafayette
Internet address

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