Appendix A: Some Chinese Customs In The New Territories: Succession
By Chinese custom there is no such thing as testamentary
disposition of property. All a man's will can do is permit his
widow(s) to remarry, and to moralise for the sons' edification.
It is doubtful whether by English law a NT domiciled person
can make a valid will disposing of NT property otherwise than as custom would have directed anyhow. See the Report
of the Chinese Law and Custom Committee.
The custom is that land is inherited by all the sons of the
deceased, whether by a kit fat or tin fong wife
or by a concubine. They all inherit as tenants in common.
In some cases, the father of the eldest grandson receives a
double or larger share. Since daughters marry and join their
husband's family, they do not qualify for inheritance. In
some cases the widow or concubine will also inherit, but this
is by arrangement among the parties and it is usual for the
widow or concubine to have control over the land only in the
capacity of manager of a Tso. This ensures that the land
cannot be disposed of without the consent ofthe members of
When the sons have married and started families, they may
divide the property amongst themselves. Often one share is
retained in the name of a Tso, so as to provide income for
Where there are no sons, the property is inherited by the
nearest male relative ofthe deceased. This is often a nephew,
brother, uncle or cousin, and excludes all daughters. A son is
usually adopted for the purpose of inheritance.
Where there are no children and no close relatives, a widow
on occasion may occupy her late husband's property,
provided there are no family or clan objections, but more
often the family will regard the adoption of a son as essential
for purposes of inheritance.
Cases have been known where a rich landowner during
his lifetime has assigned property into the name of a
thrifty concubine. Although under the English law of real
property, the concubine would thereby be free to dispose of her property as she pleased, the custom is that she may not
alienate the land but may enjoy its benefit only during her
lifetime, after which the property reverts to the Tso or
Leaving aside maternal instincts, which often lead a childless married
woman to adopt a boy or girl, the primary purpose of adoption under
Chinese custom is to provide a male for the inheritance of land, and
for worshipping the ancestors. It is a business transaction rather than
an emotional satisfaction.
Generally, a nephew or clansman of a younger generation
is adopted. In many cases, however, the generation of the
adopted child is not important. He may even be of the same
age as the adoptive parents.
Adoption need not take place during the lifetime of the
adoptive parents. One or other of the adoptive parents may
have died, and I have met a case where both parents had
been dead a year before adoption took place.
Adoption is a formal process that not only requires action on
the part of the adoptive parents but also requires the approval
of the elders of the family and the clan, who normally signify
it by attending a feast to eat ceremonial pork. This explains
an adoption after the death of the adoptive parents.
The adopted person renounces all rights of succession and
inheritance in his natural family. Instead, he acquires these
rights in the family by which he has been adopted.
Occasionally, an adopted son attempts to renounce his
adoption. I have met one case of this where all parties
agreed and which was accordingly approved. Whether the
renunciation revests in the son the succession rights in his natural family which he lost by adoption is a difficult question
and I think must depend on the particular circumstances of
Ching Sheung or Sheung Tin land
This is land bequeathed by the original owner or set aside by
his inheritors for the specific purpose of ancestral worship.
It is usually held in the name of a clan that bears the original
owner's name. Rent and proceeds from the land are devoted
primarily to the worship of ancestors, and secondarily to the
education of members of the clan, relief of poor members,
marriage and funeral expenses of members etc.
The land cannot be alienated without the consent of the
representatives and elders of the whole clan.
The land is normally cultivated by distribution amongst
members of the clan or by lease to a member.
Land held by clans
Portions of property owned by a clan are sometimes
leased to a family within the clan. These families have
often cultivated the same fields for generations, paying an
annual rent to the clan accountant. Sub-letting is frowned
upon and generally forms grounds for cancelling the lease.
Alternatively, the various families of a Tso may cultivate
the land for a year at a time in rotation and at a fixed annual
Another method of leasing Tso property within the clan
is to hold an auction where the highest bidder for the annual
lease is granted the tenancy for the following year. Money
derived from the bid is devoted to ancestral worship etc. as
stated in paragraph 3(a) above.
Proper granting of leases by the trustee of the clan is not
a regular feature and generally forms a large Proportion of
land disputes by reason of its omission.
The first and most important step is to discover the status of the
parties, i.e. are they properly married by Chinese custom or are they
cohabiting under some lesser bond?
Kitfat marriage. This is the traditional form of marriage
and assumes that the parties were single and unmarried
beforehand. Essential features are exchanges of horoscopes
etc. beforehand by the respective families, negotiations by a
go-between, signing of the red paper of betrothal, bridal chair
(or taxi) from the bride's home to her groom's, and a feast at
the groom's house to announce the fact of marriage. It is not
usual to omit any of these details, of which the red paper is
perhaps the most important. However, there are occasional
cases where the red paper is replaced by a certificate signed
by both parties and by witnesses to the ceremony.
Tin Fang marriage. Where one of the parties to a kit
fat marriage dies or is formally divorced, the surviving
spouse may subsequently contract another formal marriage
which is quite distinct from concubinage. It carries all the
force of a kit fat marriage.
Concubine. A concubine has a recognised legal status under
Chinese custom and should not be regarded as an immoral
plaything. Although a rich man, apart from his kit fat
wife, may take more than one concubine in a fashion that
leaves little doubt as to his uxorious mettle, one of the
commoner purposes of taking a concubine is to provide
the sons that the kit fat wife has perhaps failed to produce. The introduction of a concubine into a household is
nonnally a fonnal process involving due recognition by the
family and friends. It is an open matter, like marriage, and
implies nothing indiscreet. As far as possible, husbands try
to provide separate households for a wife and a concubine,
who on the whole tend to fight occasionally. Attempts to
claim status as a second wife, a level wife (p 'eng tsai) or any
other variation, should be resisted. Some experts state that by
custom a Chinese is monogamous. As a rule he has only one
customarily recognised wife or principal spouse; any other
women with whom he co-habits being either a concubine (in
the Chinese customary sense) or a kept woman.
Kept women, i.e. women who regularly live with a man
without being kit fat or tin fang wives or a
concubine, are most frequently met amongst refugees from
CT. They differ clearly from concubines in that there is no
recognised ceremony for their entry into the household.
More often their presence is concealed from the wife, at any
rate until the birth of a child. Away from their homes and
any social conscience born of fear of ridicule by friends or
relatives, refugees tend to fonn relations with each other on
a very temporary basis. They drift together and drift apart
without much difficulty. Having discovered the status of the
parties, the dispute can be investigated. As far as possible,
it is best to avoid laying blame too heavily on any party
since the ultimate object is to persuade them to drop their
differences and return home ready to give married life
another chance. Too much airing of grievances and bitterness
destroys any atmosphere for reconciliation. I often suggest
a trial period varying from a week to a month. If, however,
things are hopeless, then the only solution is a divorce or separation. A divorce affects only kit fat and tin fang
marriages. Where a woman is a concubine or kept, the
parties are free to separate when they please. The divorce
or separation of the parties is only the first step. The real
trouble comes in dividing up the children and the property.
Customarily, sons are returned to the husband, provided
he is fit to look after them and maintain them. Daughters
remain with the mother. Powers to assist are contained in the
Infants Custody Ordinance (Cap. 13) which is not worried
about marriage of the parents. Division of property often
founders on the question of return by the woman of the
clothes and gold ornaments given her as wedding presents
by her husband. There is no hard and fast rule in the matter
but, in general, where I have thought the woman at fault, I
have tried to persuade her to return the presents.
Occasionally a dispute concerns maintenance of the wife by her husband.
Provided the parties are properly married, powers are contained in the
Separation and Maintenance Orders Ordinance (Cap. 16).
Amongst NT villagers, virginity in brides is highly prized and
loss of it before marriage may fonn grounds for return of a wife to
her parents after consummation. In some parts of the interior, it is the
custom that only virgins may ride to their future husband's home in
a bridal chair. Non-virgins, e.g. widows, are required to advertise the
fact by a pedestrian progress under a black umbrella to which is tied
a piece of red ribbon.
Marriage by proxy
Although it is rarely met, there is a form of customary
marriage by proxy, which has all the force of, and to all
intents and purposes is, a kit fat marriage. The bride
comes to the groom's house and all the ordinary procedure of
a wedding is observed, except that the groom is represented
by a cockerel. Without being sure, I assume that this custom
arose from a regular absence of overseas Chinese from their
homes. Certainly, it is the bride who is always present; there
is no customary marriage by proxy where the bridegroom is
present and the bride absent.
The actual details of the marriage ceremony may be
obtained from the SCA where Mr D. R. Holmes compiled
an interesting record from a recent case.
Sam P'o Tsai
Asam p'o tsai is a young girl who has been reared
by a family not her own with the specific object of marrying
her to one of the sons of that family. The practice is normally
confined to poorer households which fear that, when their
children reach marriageable age, the family may not be
in a financial position to exchange the necessary gifts for
betrothal. Failure to observe tradition in this respect would
involve loss of face. A young girl will therefore be handed
over to the family of the boy whom she is due to marry.
Sometimes the bargain is free, sometimes a token payment
is made, sometimes quite a large sum of money changes
hands. The money is usually wrapped in red paper to ensure
a lucky transaction. There is no fixed age for the entry of
the girl into her new home. It may be when she is only a few years old or it may be when she is up to fifteen years
old. She becomes, until marriage, just another worker in the
The sam p'o tsai is traditionally carried into her
new home on the back of a woman, under an open umbrella
to which is tied a piece of red cloth. Sometimes, however,
an older girl will be transported in a bridal chair. Crackers
are fired and there is a sacrifice of chicken and pork to the
ancestors, as well as a burning of joss sticks to inform the
ancestors of the arrival of the girl into her new family.
At the son's coming of age (between sixteen and eighteen),
the couple are ready to be married, provided the girl is
sufficiently developed. If not, the ceremony is deferred. The
ceremony usually takes place at midnight or in the early
hours of the morning in the temple or in the house, with the
object of informing the ancestors. Being ancestor worship,
which can be performed only by males, the girl remains at
home out of the way and no members of her family may
be present. A large sieve, usually of bamboo, is placed on
the ground. In the centre of it, the bridegroom stands on a
rice measure with red cloths draped over his left
and right shoulders. He wears a felt hat with silver flowers
around it or a feather. In olden times, a Chinese tall hat was
worn but, when this fell out of fashion, the felt hat was
adopted as the most respectable of modem headgear. The
feather represented the old Imperial custom of presenting a
feather to the best scholars.
Shortly after this ceremony, and on the same day, comes
the actual wedding, which is known as the crowning, when
relatives and friends of both families are invited. Relations
are given cups of tea by the bridal couple. The important feature is that the marriage dates from this ceremony, not
from the time of entry ofthe sam p 'a tsai into her new family,
although a girl will sometimes say that she was married, for
instance, at the age of six.
There is no traditional requirement for the sam p' a tsai
to marry the son. I have met several cases where the girl
declined marriage and the parties agreed to separate.
Brought up in a brother and sister atmosphere, the boy and
girl may lack the right approach to marriage.
Customary agricultural leases
In the absence of a written agreement to the contrary,
leases of agricultural land are normally on an annual basis.
Payment of rent may be in cash or in 'kuk' either in one
lump sum or after each of the two rice harvests. Most leases
It is common practice for members of the lessee's family to
take over his lease in the event of his death. Acceptance of
rent by the lessor in these cases implies recognition of the
Sub-letting is a practice more common amongst immigrant
vegetable farmers than paddy farmers. It is rare to find
an original lease that prohibits sub-letting and in general
landowners do not seem to object to it as long as their rents
come in. In some cases, they even collect rent direct from
It is customary for a landlord to reduce the fixed rent in
respect of a harvest which has been particularly poor, but
discretion is entirely in the hands of the landlord and request
must be made by the tenant himself before the crop is
actually harvested, so that the landlord may have a chance of examining the crop to check the truth of the claim.
The termination of an annual lease of paddy land is affected
customarily by the landowner giving notice, either verbal or
written, to the tenant between the time of collecting rent after
the second harvest (October / November) and the Winter
Solstice (December). The land should then be handed back
by the tenant to the landlord at the end of the first moon of
the following year, in the case of paddy land.
Leases of vegetable land are customarily for a period of
twelve months from the beginning of the first moon to the
end of the twelfth moon. No set period of notice is required
for recovery of the land, but in general the landlord should
give sufficient notice to ensure that the tenant does not plant
further crops which would carry him beyond the end of the
year. Two to three months' notice is probably adequate. Less
notice would not be wrong but it might be unreasonable
unless the landlord either gave compensation for standing
crops or allowed an extension of the lease until the crop was
Payment of rent for vegetable land is usually in cash in
lieu of paddy. Traditionally, paddy land was regarded as
more valuable than vegetable land. Since 1950, a reversal
in values has taken place and the lack of clear-cut custom
regarding vegetable land often gives rise to difficulties.
In the past, recovery of land by a landlord was an unusual
occurrence and tenancies often continued for several
generations. With the general increase of agricultural
activity since 1949 (after the influx of industrious refugees),
tenancies are more frequently called in. Sometimes a mere
pretext covers the real reason that a hardworking tenant
has spent much capital in improving poor land which the landlord now wishes to lease again at a higher rent. It is
always wise before intervening in tenancy cases to be sure
that a good reason exists for recovery of the land. These
reasons might be that the tenant is a poor one who makes
little use of the land; the tenant has failed to pay rent or
has otherwise committed a breach of conditions, e.g. illegal
temporary structures; the landowner is short of land and
has a large family. Where it is necessary on the facts to find
in favour of the landlord, it is often easier to persuade the
tenant to comply by offering to find him alternative Crown
It is a recurring feature in many cases that tenants tend to sink
capital into land, particularly with chicken farms, without
having any real lease to protect them. Rapacious landlords
take advantage of this and often deliberately refuse to issue
written leases. I have had no success whatsoever in trying to
educate tenants in this respect.
Bodies are normally buried in an earth grave (huet chong) for five years or so. At the end of that time, they are
usually exhumed and the bones arranged in an earthenware
funerary pot (kam tap). Richer families and clans will
sometimes install the exhumed bones in a masonry grave
(shan fan) instead of a funerary pot.
Huet chong and kam taps are always sited in
groups on hillsides or ground where the fung shui is
good. It is not usual to build or cultivate near these areas.
The choice of site of a shan fan is again dictated
by fung shui. Considerable sums of money may
be spent in fees for the fung shui sin shang and in construction, although workmanship is rarely first
class. The site is usually high up, commanding a view of
water in some form or other, and on a ridge or spur which
represents, for instance, a dragon, snake, shrimp or crab in
its formation. The principle is that the animal represented
is a beneficial one which will guard the deceased who, in
his turn, will watch over the interests of his descendants on
this earth if sufficiently propitiated in the next world by his
earthly descendants. This conception is important because it
explains the strenuous objections usually met where the fung
shui of a burial place is disturbed. The commonest
objections are against the cutting or digging of the ridge or
spur at any point directly above the grave itself, since this
will destroy the creature whose influence is protecting the
Important graves are frequently ones of recorded ancestors
or founders of a clan. These graves are normally flanked
by two small shrines (hau to), one on either side at a
distance of roughly twenty feet, and sometimes one above as
well. Their object is to persuade the earth god to look after
A shan fan sometimes falls into disuse and neglect
by reason of the disappearance of all descendants or
through other reasons. A sure sign of this is the removal
of the pei shek or stone plaque on which details of
the deceased are recorded. At the two grave-worshipping
festivals of Ching Ming and Chung Yeung.
It is normal to tidy up huet chong kam tap,
and shan fan and to decorate them with patches of
white lime and lucky money as well as joss sticks.
Standing with one's back to the pei shek of a shan fan and facing the same way as the grave, a half circle
in front with a radius of ten yards is normally sacrosanct.
Disturbance of the ground is regarded with strong disfavour.
Traditionally, the left arm of this half moon is protected by a
green dragon and the right arm by a white tiger.
The degree of fung shui involved is relative and, in
some cases where there apparently exists no strong feeling
on the subject, a road or cutting may be allowed right up
against a grave. At other times, very strong objections
indeed may be raised. Generally, the strongest feelings lie
with clans that have sufficient land and money to carry on
traditional ancestor worship and to keep the proper spirit
Ancestral graves are not necessarily in the same vicinity as
the village where the descendants live. Sometimes they are
far apart. For instance, the large Man clan of San Tin
has graves at Tsuen Wan and Castle Peak,
which are visited at the two festivals by a lengthy motorcade
of lorries containing worshippers, a band, and enormous
quantities of food and drink. This separation of distance
represents only the dictates of good Jung shui and
does not mean that the clan has shifted its village at some
past stage in history.
|t often occurs that an owner of building land or of
agricultural land to be converted to building status applies
for leave to start building at once without waiting for the
completion of normalities, e.g. scrutiny of plans, signature
of papers, etc. His grounds for wishing to cut procedure
short are that a lucky day for building is approaching and that he cannot afford to miss the opportunity. Attempts of
this sort, however importunate, can usually be resisted by
instructing the applicant to continue with house building
ceremonies without actually doing any building itself.
The ceremonies themselves are of three separate types and
need not necessarily take place in any particular order or on
the same day. There may be a different lucky day for each.
They are equally practised amongst Cantonese and Hakka. Their expenses, particularly of entertainment, are
such that they form a large part of building costs and to
some extent must be reckoned as a deterrent to permanent
buildings, at any rate amongst poorer villagers.
The lucky day is chosen by the geomancer, comparing
the applicant's time and date of birth against the Chinese
almanac, which records which days are luckiest for
performing certain things. As this method of selection is
employed in various other domestic circumstances, e.g.
marriage, opening a business etc., a record of a child's
name and date of birth is of particular importance for its
On mun consists of setting up the front door on the
building site itself. Three lengths of bamboo, to which is
attached a piece of red paper with the characters,
are erected in the shape of a doorway, i.e. two uprights and
one crosspiece. No feast or celebration is required.
Sheung leung is the more important ceremony and
involves the erection of the main ridge-pole of the roof.
Several days before the actual ceremony, two unpainted
wooden uprights are set up on the building site. On the
lucky day chosen, a red painted beam, which is traditionally
of China fir, is placed between two tables or stools. The applicant and his family will worship the centre ofthe beam,
praying for prosperity within the new house. The youths of
the village, most of whom will already be assembled, are
then invited to hoist the beam up to the two uprights and
to lash it on. Meanwhile, drums and gongs will be beaten.
When the beam is erected, red string will be used to attach
the following to it: a piece of red cloth; some small taros
(a big taro has many small ones around it, symbolising a
mother with many children); two small bags of red cloth,
one containing kuk and the other mai (representing
riches in much rice); a red bamboo sieve (the numerous
holes represent mouths of a large family); two bundles of
red chopsticks (the Cantonesefaai chi for chopsticks
is punned into faai chi, meaning quick sons); several
onions (Cantonese chung is punned into chung meng, meaning clever); several garlic bulbs (Cantonese
suen tau is punned into, meaning ingenious);
one pair of black trousers (Cantonese is punned intofoo
kwai, meaning rich); two paper lanterns (Cantonese
tang m is punned into tim ting, meaning getting a
son). A feast is then held, to which the applicant invites
clansmen, friends and relatives, and specially baked cakes
are distributed to children. In due course, the remainder
of the house is built around the beam. The various articles
attached to it are left hanging, except that for some reason
the pair of black trousers is usually detached.
Tin Kei represents digging the foundations. A small
channel is first dug to one side of the building site and a
number of stones or bricks are placed on top of each other
inside the channel.
When the house is completed, a form of house-warming is held. Two red-painted rice measures are filled,
one with kuk and the other with mai, and candles
and joss-sticks placed standing in the rice. Worshipping
takes place at the shrines of the earth god t'o tei and
kitchen god within the house. If the applicant can still afford
it, he holds a feast for friends and relatives, who often bring
presents of mirrors and furniture.
Some Fung Shui problems
Certain localities, particularly hills, are sometimes regarded
as throwing out good or bad influences, according to the
animal that the locality represents. In the same manner ,
strong objections are frequently raised to the opening of
windows in a house that faces some other house or temple.
The window represents the open mouth of a tiger, ready to
swallow up the occupants of the building facing it. A lamp
flashing in the direction of a house is equally obnoxious.
Antidotes to these evil rays or influences are often difficult
to apply. One method is for the aggrieved householder to
put up a paat kwa or eight-sided diagram on the
outside of their house. Alternatively, a mirror sometimes
will suffice to reflect the evil rays. A third method is to erect
some effective barrier in between, such as trees or bamboos,
with a temporary wall until the trees have attained sufficient
height and bushiness to form an effective screen
These objections are for the most part confined to Cantonese
rather than Hakka. However, because of their greater
belief in animism, Hakka are the more concerned
with fung shui, trees and rocks, damage to which
they will strenuously oppose.
|Before the lease of the NT to the Crown in 1898 and the
coming of British law, the question of which party to a
dispute was telling the truth was customarily settled by a
form oftrial by ordeal in a temple. Both parties would attend
at a mutually agreed temple, never a clan temple or
Tsz t 'ong with witnesses and all interested villagers.
Each party would then pray to the temple god to affirm the
truth of his statements in the dispute and inviting the god to
do the supplicant an injury if he were not in fact telling the
truth. Each party in turn would then attempt to strike off the
head of a live cock (colour unimportant) with a single stroke
of a chopper. If the head were severed cleanly, the party
thereby proved his case. An incomplete severance would
show the hollowness of the party's statements, probably
because guilty knowledge caused his hand to shake.
In practice, it was seldom that both parties were required to
chop off the cock's head. Usually the guilty party would feel
himself unable to invite the god's wrath in the preliminary
worshipping and would back out. This implied a perhaps
greater belief in the omnipotence of the gods than is apparent
nowadays when the modem age and Christianity have taken
some of the edge off ancient traditions.
The custom is now quite rare, although a case occurred in
Tai Po in 1948, under the auspices of the then District
Officer. Present statutory penalties for breach of oath in
judicial proceedings and statutory declarations have almost
wholly replaced this custom.
Money loan associations
Debt disputes frequently arise as a result of money loan associations. Without a clear idea of their workings, it is
impossible to understand the inevitable ramifications of
Such associations are normally formed by groups of persons
in close daily contact with each other so as to create mutual
trust and confidence. Examples are employees or fokis of a
shop or even government servants in the same office. The
object of the association is to pool the financial resources of
the members, with the gambling prospect of each member
at some stage being able to use these resources for his own
benefit. Each member will eventually get back roughly the
same amount of money as he put into the association.
There are of course variations, but generally the procedure
is for a number of persons to club together for a set period
which corresponds to the number of persons (e.g. ten persons
for ten months). The period can begin at any time and regular
meetings are held throughout. In the commonest form of the
association, each member will at the first meeting pay to the
chairman, who is usually the instigator of the scheme, an
agreed sum of money, for example $50.
At the second meeting, all members will in secret tender
to the chairman on slips of paper the amount of interest
which they are prepared to offer on each member's share.
The member who tenders the highest interest, say $5 on $50
shares, is awarded all the members' shares for that meeting.
The members are then required to pay over their share ($50)
less the highest amount of interest tendered, i.e. $50 less $5
= $45. The winner therefore collects $45 from each member
for that meeting. When a member has secured the highest
tender, he is thereafter regarded as a dead member and at all
further meetings has to pay the full share to the successful tenderer whilst himself being debarred from tendering again.
In this manner, each member in turn will eventually at some
stage become a successful tenderer. At the last meeting, the
one remaining member will collect his full amount back
again and he will have profited by the interest accruing on
the sums loaned to each successful tenderer during the set
In the above form of the association, the chairman collects
the fixed sum in full from each member at the first meeting,
repaying the same amount at each subsequent meeting to the
successful tenderer. He gets in effect an interest-free loan.
In a different form, the chairman may be in the nature of a
professional, charging the successful tenderer each month a
commission usually fixed at 50% ofthe fixed sum. This type
of chairman is really acting as a sort of paid manager.
In any form of association, the chairman gives each member
at or before the first meeting a booklet containing the names
of members and simple rules, including a liability on the
chairman in the event of a member dying or backing out.
The aim as far as possible is that each member should at some
stage during the set period have the use of the combined
shares of all the members. In effect, he is borrowing money
at a low rate of interest without knowing exactly when the
loan will come. It is the appeal of this gambling element
which makes these associations so popular amongst wageearning
The drawbacks are numerous. It is preferable that each
member should appear at each meeting if he is not to be
deprived of his chances. No member can back out of the
association until the full period has elapsed, since otherwise
the sum won by the successful tender will be depleted. Most disputes arise by reason of a successful tenderer attempting
to back out at an early stage, having obtained a sum of
money by means which are hard to define as either larceny,
false pretences or embezzlement.
Throughout his life, a Chinese will often use a bewildering
series of names or aliases, each of which usually denotes
some stage in life. The practice between men and women is
When a child is born, he or she is given a milk name,
chosen well before the full moon feast which normally takes
place when the child is a month old. This milk name is used
by the child's family and relatives.
At the full moon feast, the parents choose a proper name for
the child and then worship the gods (Goddess of Mercy -
Kwun Yam; Queen of Heaven - Tin Hau; Kwan
Tai, etc.) who are informed of the name and asked to
give their blessing to its holder.
When the child first goes to school, he or she is traditionally
required to kneel before the teacher who invokes the aid of
Confucius to assist the child in studying and who gives the
child a school name. This school name is used by
pupils and teachers in school but at home does not normally
displace the milk name which the family will continue to
On marriage, a man will give up his milk name and will be
given an adult name by his fellow clansmen. Usually
the second name will be that of the second name of the clan ,
e.g. TANG Ping Cheung after the TANG Ping Hak
Finally, in entering business or commerce, a man will
frequently assume yet another name, 'pit tsz' (Jj~ ~), for
purposes of business only.
Apart from the milk name, proper name and school name,
a girl will at marriage assume her husband's clan name in
front of her own, e.g. HO Fung Ling, on marrying
TANG Man Lin, becomes TANG HO Fung Ling
The reluctance of married women to reveal their full maiden
name often leads them to leave off their final name and
instead to add the suffix 'shi'.