A style name, also called courtesy name (字, Chinese: zì; Japanese: azana), is a name usually given to a man when he reaches twenty years of age. Style names are either given by the parents or chosen by the man later in life. Since the style name respects the owner's adulthood, it was used in place of their given name by people born in the same generation. Calling someone by their given name was considered rude if the speaker was the same age as the addressee. After a man had his style name, his given name was reserved for his elders and himself. Creating these names was a common practice in Imperial China and was not largely extended to other cultures.
Women sometimes obtained style names after they were married. Unlike men, however, their new names were kept privately for their husbands and were rarely written in historical records.
The practice of making style names have been fading since the New Culture Movement in China.
Creating Style Names
Style names usually consist of two syllables and two characters, and would be used after the surname. Such as Zhuge Liang and his style name, "Kongming". To properly address him with his style name, it would be used as "Zhuge Kongming".
Forming a style name generally depended on a man's given name or order of birth. One way to tie a style name to a man's given name is to use an alternate interpretation or a radical version of their given name. Using Zhuge Liang as an example again, his given name is written with the character "radiant" (Liang, 亮), which can be a synonym for "bright" (Ming, 明). His style name uses the character in Kongming (孔明). "Kong" (孔) means "great" or "open" and is the surname of Confucius (孔夫子 Kong Fuzi "Master Kong"), whose teachings are the basis for Confucianism.
A secondary example of creating a style name is using characters with an opposing meaning of a man's given name. In Lu Meng's case, his given name is literally used with the character for "cover" or "shelter" (Meng, 蒙). Therefore, the opposite meaning of hiding something would be to make it "bright" (Ming, 明); hence his style name Ziming (子明).
Another way to form style names is to have the man's new name make a connection with their given name. This is different from using synonyms or antonyms since these characters may interact in some way with one another. Zhao Yun's given name literally means "cloud" (Yun, 雲). A literal translation of the characters used within his style name may mean "child dragon" (子龍 Zilong). At a glance, the characters are not related to one another. Within Chinese mythology, however, dragons are said to summon clouds to them.
Characters in this set: "Bo" (伯), "Meng" (孟), "Zhong" (仲), "Shu" (叔) and "Ji" (季) were used to denote the bearer's position in the order of birth among siblings: "Bo" (伯) for eldest son by the principal wife, "Meng" (孟) for eldest son by a concubine, "Zhong" (仲) for second son, "Shu" (叔) for third, and "Ji" (季) for fourth. For examples, Sun Jian's and Lady Wu's four sons, from eldest to youngest: Sun Ce, Sun Quan, Sun Yi, and Sun Kuang bore the style names Bofu (伯符), Zhongmou (仲謀), Shubi (叔弼), and Jizuo (季佐), respectively.
Of course, not all style names follow these traits. Style names may also exhibit no change in its construction from a man's given name. Scriptures may note a man's religious name as their sort of style name.
In the Games
In Koei's titles, style names are often used as a simple way of forming a bond between characters. It implies that the speaker highly respects the addressee. Here are a few general examples that appear in Koei's titles.
- speaker → addressee
- Liu Bei → Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Zhuge Liang
- Cao Cao → Cao Pi, Cao Ren
- Sun Quan → Zhou Tai
The characters in the Dynasty Warriors series individually refer to themselves by family name and style name whenever possible. When the speaker declares his intentions in this manner, it is a sign of his unshaken integrity and determination that he has in his words. The series changes when these proclamations are used, but it is often spoken when a character is challenging his competition (i.e. Zhang Liao calls himself "Zhang Wenyuan/Chō Bun'en" during the Battle of He Fei).
While style names are present in the Asian scripts for games, they are omitted in most of the English translations possibly due to contextual complications. Players are more likely to see them used in English in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series.