The Chinese names are based on the nation's ancient culture, which is used even today when naming a baby. There are a number of factors, like birth date, astrological principles, importance of the five elements (metal, wood, water, fire and earth) in the baby's character as defined by the fortuneteller, the form, pronunciation, meaning of the name, etc. A good name would have harmony between its birth date and the elements in its life; a character with as few strokes as possible, and a character the meaning of which changes with time. Names usually emulate resonant qualities which are perceived to be either feminine or masculine. Females sometimes are given name with a repeated character, while in case with males this is not so common. It is also observed that sibling's names are usually linked somehow.
This ancient Chinese names system is followed today not only in China, but also throughout Asia and even parts of Europe. In China the family names are written first. The women keep their names after marriage. However, the children take the names of the father. Chinese names have one or two characters, and are written after the family name. The Chinese alphabet is actually a number of characters or strokes with picturisation. The Chinese surnames are said to originate in the pre-historical matriarchal society. The name often has four parts, the family name, the given name, the alias and the style. The alias is important; as this is the name a man is known among his friends, while the style is used when he enters adulthood as a respect for his best-shown quality.
Chinese names are rarely used within the family. Rather the relationship is stressed to show the connection of each member to another. These connections are distinguished by the father or mother's side as well. The family title is used only when a member called is older than the caller. The younger person can never call an elder by his/her name. Children are usually called by their given names, or nicknames. Outside the family, people are addressed as per title, like mother of so-and-so, or wife of so-and-so. In China it is common to address one as "young one" or "old one". Actually, since the old are highly respected, calling one as "the old one" actually shows respect. In some families one or two characters in the personal name is shared by all the members of a generation. The type of names is worked out in advance, in an elaborate listing in the form of a poem.
When it comes to Chinese names translation, since the Chinese alphabet is actually a system of strokes, it is impossible to translate. To overcome this, the Chinese most often use one Western name in addition to their Chinese names. The Western name is usually placed before the Chinese name taking care that the relative order and the family-given name is preserved. For example, Soong Chu-yu would become Reginald Soong Chu-yu.
Among the Chinese Americans, it is customary to be referred by their Western name since there isn't actually any real Chinese name translation available.