Kwan Generation Name Poem - Introduction

Kwan generation poem in Chinese 修德象賢 君必汝顯 宏仁定國 崇勳則天 開基澤懋 繼業光先 祚胤恆錫 創守永傳

Those two lines of Chinese characters is the Kwan generation name poem. If you're asking,"What in the world is a generation name poem?!?!", here's the answer.

What most of y'all already know:

Chinese siblings and cousins sometimes share a common character in their given name, usually the first syllable of their given name. In some families all the boys would be assigned one character, and all the girls another character.

What I didn't know until I started this family tree:

In the past a person's first name was not randomly selected; it was based on their family's generation name poem.

Since a person's rank in relation to other members of the family is an important part of their identity, many Chinese lineages adopted the practice of assigning a different name to each generation in order to help distinguish between members of different generations. To help remember the order of the generation names, the names were grouped into groups of four and written as a poem.

The Kwan generation poem consists of 32 characters, and each character denotes a generation. For example a person of the 4th generation would be assigned the 4th character in the poem, and his son would be the 5th character in the poem. Thus two people of the same lineage, can immediately tell if they were cousins from the same generation, or uncle/nephew from different generations, simply by knowing each other's name. Once you reached the 32th character, the cycle would start over, and the next generation would be named after the first character in the poem.

What I found out that totally confused me:

If you're looking at the poem and thinking, "wait a second, my name isn't based on the poem," well hold tight, because this is when things get confusing.

In the past some Chinese families followed the tradition of assigning the male members of the family two or more names. Males were given one name at birth, and adopted a new generational based name when he got married. For example my grandfather was given one name at birth and was given a new generational poem based name after he got married.

But as time went by, things changed. My father's generation did not adopt a generation based name after marriage. In fact the practice of adopting a new name after marriage is on the decline throughout China.

And if you're female, you can forget about this whole generation poem name thing. Since women were destined to marry out, leave her birth family, and join her husband's family, women did not adopt a name from the generation poem.


I have no idea how far back this Kwan poem dates, so people from different branches of the Kwan family might have a different poem. If your family has a different poem, and you don't mind sharing that info, please email me at .

Visit Siyi Genealogy site to learn more about generation name poem.