Posthumous name

Posthumous name

p="shì hào"
qn="thụy hiệu"
A posthumous name is an honorary name given to royalty, nobles, and sometimes others, in some cultures after the person's death. The posthumous name is commonly used when naming royalty of China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan.

Posthumous names in China and Vietnam were also given to honor lifetime accomplishments of many people who did not have hereditary titles, for example to successful courtiers.

In the Japanese tradition, an emperor is now regularly given a posthumous name that corresponds to the name of his reign. A non-royal deceased may be given a posthumous Buddhist name known as "kaimyo", but is in practice still referred to by the living name.

A posthumous name should not be confused with the era name and temple name.


Having their origins in the Chinese Zhou Dynasty, posthumous names were used 800 years earlier than temple names. The first person named posthumously was Ji Chang, named by his son Ji Fa of Zhou, as the "Civil King". The use of posthumous names was stopped in the Qin Dynasty, because Qin Shi Huang proclaimed that it is disrespectful for the descendants, or "later emperors" to judge their elders, or the "prior emperors" (先帝). The practice was revived in the Han Dynasty after the demise of the Qin Empire.

Chinese emperors

All Chinese posthumous names for rulers end in one or two of the characters for "emperor", "Huángdì" (皇帝, i.e. emperor), which can be shortened to "Dì"; except about a dozen or so less recognized ones who have had only "Dì" and no "Huáng".

Starting with Emperor Xiaowen of Han China (more commonly "Emperor Wen"), every single Han emperor, except the first one of the Eastern Han Dynasty, has the character of "filial" (孝 xiào) at the beginning of his posthumous names. "Filial" is also used in the full posthumous names of virtually all emperors of the Tang, Song, Ming and Qing Dynasties. For Qing emperors, 孝 xiào is placed in various position in the string of characters, while those Qing empresses who were given posthumous names, 孝 xiào is always initial.

The number of characters in posthumous names was increasing. The emperors of the Tang Dynasty have names in between seven to eighteen characters. Those in the Qing Dynasty have twenty-one characters. For instance, that of the Shunzhi Emperor was "The Emperor of Order who Observes the Heavenly Rituals with a Solemn Fate, Destined to Unify, Establishes with Extreme Talented Insights, Admires the Arts, Manifests the Might, with Great Virtue and Vast Achievement, Reaches Humanity, Purely Filial" (體天隆運定統建極英睿欽文顯武大德弘功至仁純孝章皇帝, Audio|Chinese-Emperor Shunzhi posthumous name.ogg|Listen to pronunciation: tǐ tiān lóng yùn dìng tǒng jiàn jí yīng ruì qīn wén xiǎn wǔ dà dé hóng gōng zhì rén chún xiào zhāng huáng dì).

The woman with the longest posthumous name is Empress Cixi, who is "The Empress who is Admirably Filial, Initiates Kindness, with Blessed Health, Manifests Much Contentment, Solemn Sincerity, with Longevity, Provides Admiration Prosperously, Reveal Adoration, Prosperous with a Merry Heaven, with a Holy Appearance" (孝欽慈禧端佑康頤昭豫莊誠壽恭欽獻崇熙配天興聖顯皇后 xiào qīn cí xǐ duān yòu kāng yí zhāo yù zhuāng chéng shòu gōng qīn xiàn chóng xī pèi tiān xīng shèng xiǎn huáng hòu).

Posthumous names can be praises (褒字) or deprecations (貶字). There are more praises than depreciations, so posthumous names are also commonly called "respectful name" (尊號 zūn hào) in Chinese. Sima Qian's "Records of the Grand Historian" outlines extensively the rules behind choosing the names. Some of those guidelines:

* Praises
** Those having a persistent and reasonable governance(剛強直理) are called "Martial" (武 wǔ). (This is one of the most honourable names.)
** Those who sympathize with the people and recognize their needs (憫民會椅) are called "Civil" (文 wén). (This is one of the most honourable names.)
** Those who respect the talented and value righteousness (尊賢貴義) are called "Reverent" (恭 gòng).
** Those who are kind and benevolent in nature(溫柔賢善) are called "Benign" (懿 yì).
** Those who aid the people out of righteousness(由義而濟) are called "Admirable" (景 jǐng).
** Those who treat the people compassionately with a gentle quality (柔質慈民) are called "Compassionate" (惠 huì).
** Those who eliminate destructions and purge cruelty (除殘去虐) are called "Tang" (湯 tāng). (Possibly named after the revered ruler Cheng Tang (成湯), the founder of the Shang Dynasty.)
** Those who make the people feel satisfied with their policies (安民立政) are called "Constructive" (成 chéng). (Again, possibly named after Chengtang.)
** Those who are considerate and far-sighted (果慮果遠) are called "Brilliant" (明 míng).
** Those who preach their virtue and righteousness to the people(布德執義) are called "Majestic" (穆 mù).
** Those who are aggressive to expand their realm(辟土服遠) are called "Exploratory" (桓 huán).
** "High(ly respected)" (高 gāo) is particularly reserved for the founders of dynasties.

* Deprecations
** Those who lived short lives without much accomplishment (短折不成) are called "Passed Away Prematurely" (殤 shāng).
** Those who have a constant twinge of depression (often due to political plights) during their governance (在國遭憂) are called "Pitiful" (愍 mǐn).
** Those who lose their spouses and pass away at their early age (蚤孤短折) are called "Lamentable" (哀 āi).
** Those who are obliged to make sacrifices to their ancestors (肆行勞祀) are called "Mournful" (悼 dào).

However, most of these qualifications are subjective, repetitive, and highly stereotypical; hence the names are chosen somewhat arbitrarily. Such names are usually given by court historians, according to their good deeds or the bad ones.

Japanese emperors

The posthumous names of Japanese emperors are called "teigō" (帝号, lit. "emperor names"). In addition to the appellation "Ten'nō" (天皇, lit. "heavenly sovereign", usually translated as "Emperor") that is a part of all Japanese emperors' posthumous name, most consist of two kanji characters, although a few consist of three. Some names are given several generations later—this is the case for Emperor Jimmu and Emperor Antoku, for example. Others are given immediately after death, like that of Emperor Mommu.

Many have Chinese-style names, for example:
* Emperor Jimmu (神武天皇 "Jinmu Ten'nō", lit. "Divine Might")
* Emperor Nintoku (仁徳天皇 "Nintoku Ten'nō", lit. "Humane Virtue")
* Emperor Ōjin (応神天皇 "Ōjin Ten'nō", lit. "Answering the Gods")

Some have Japanese-style names. For example:
* those who were named after the place where the emperor was born, lived or frequented:
** Emperor Saga (嵯峨天皇 "Saga Ten'nō"), named after a palace (院 "in")
** Emperor Ichijō (一条天皇 "Ichijō Ten'nō"), named after an official residence (邸 "tei")
** Emperor Kōmyō (光明天皇 "Kōmyō Ten'nō"), named after a temple
** Emperor Higashiyama (東山天皇 "Higashiyama Ten'nō"), named after a hill
* those who were named after an emperor whose admirable characteristics resemble those of an earlier one by adding "Go" (後, lit. "latter") as a prefix to the earlier emperor's name:
** Emperor Go-Ichijō (後一条天皇 "Go-Ichijō Ten'nō")
** Emperor Go-Daigo (後醍醐天皇 "Go-Daigo Ten'nō")
** Empress Go-Sakuramachi (後桜町天皇 "Go-Sakuramachi Ten'nō")
* those who were named by combining the characters from two previous emperors' names:
** Empress Gemmei (元明天皇 "Genmei Ten'nō") + Empress Genshō (元正天皇 "Genshō Ten'nō") = Empress Meishō (明正天皇 "Meishō Ten'nō")
** Empress Shōtoku (称徳天皇 "Shōtoku Ten'nō") + Emperor nin (光仁天皇 "Kōnin Ten'nō") = Emperor Shōkō (称光天皇 "Shōkō Ten'nō")

Since the death of Emperor Meiji (明治天皇 "Meiji Ten'nō") in 1912, the posthumous name of an emperor has always been the name of his era. For example, after his death Hirohito (by which he is usually called outside Japan) was formally renamed Emperor Shōwa (昭和天皇 "Shōwa Ten'nō") after his era; Japanese now refer to him by only that name. "Hirohito" was his given name, but most Japanese never refer to their emperors by their given names, as it is considered derogatory in etiquette.

Korean kings

Although Korean kings had elaborate posthumous names, they are usually referred to by their temple names today.


It was also common for persons with no hereditary titles, especially accomplished scholar-officials or ministers, to be given posthumous names by the imperial court. The characters used are mostly the same ones used for emperors, with the same denotations as described above. The length, however, was restricted to one or two characters. See List of Posthumous Names for examples.

Confucius has been given long posthumous names in almost every major dynasty. One of the most commonly used was Zhìshèngxiānshī 至聖先師.

Sometimes a person is given a posthumous name not by the court, but by his own family or disciples. Such names are private posthumous names (Sĩshì, 私諡). For example, Tao Qian was given "Sishi" Jìngjié 靖節.


To combine an emperor's temple name and posthumous name, place temple first.

A fuller description of this naming convention for royalty appears in the Chinese sovereign entry.

ee also

*Regnal name
*Chinese name
*Emperor of China
*Japanese name
*Emperor of Japan
*Korean name
*Emperor of Korea
*Vietnamese name


* "Yizhoushu" (逸周書), ch. 54 (meanings of posthumous names), [] Dead link|date=September 2008.

External links

* [ More adjectives used]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Posthumous — may refer to: * Posthumous birth, a birth that occurs after the death of the child s parent * Posthumous degree, an academic degree conferred after the death of the recipient * Posthumous execution, ceremonial execution of someone already dead *… …   Wikipedia

  • Name — For other uses, see Name (disambiguation). Ceremonies, such as baptism, can be used to give names. A name is a word or term used for identification. Names can identify a class or category of things, or a single thing, either uniquely, or within a …   Wikipedia

  • Posthumous birth — A posthumous birth is the birth of a child after the death of a parent. [ [ ncur.php?id=183 THE ETHICAL AND LEGAL QUAGMIRES OF POSTMORTEM REPRODUCTION] , by Christie Brough, 21st National Conference on… …   Wikipedia

  • Posthumous (EP) — Infobox Album Name = Posthumous (EP) Type = EP Artist = The Banner Released = June 15 2003 Recorded = ??? Genre = Hardcore punk Length = 16:11 Label = Blackout Records Producer = ??? Reviews = *Allmusic Rating|3|5… …   Wikipedia

  • Posthumous fame of El Greco — El Greco (probably a combination of the Castilian and the Italian language for The Greek ,Ref label|A|α|none 1541 ndash; April 7, 1614) was a prominent painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance, whose dramatic and expressionistic …   Wikipedia

  • Chinese name — Personal names in Chinese culture follow a number of conventions different from those of personal names in Western cultures. Most noticeably, a Chinese name is written with the family name first and the given name next, therefore John Paul Smith… …   Wikipedia

  • Japanese era name — The Japanese era calendar scheme is a common calendar scheme used in Japan, which identifies a year by the combination of the Japanese era name (年号, nengō?, lit. year name) and the year number within the era. For example, the year 2011 is Heisei… …   Wikipedia

  • Temple name — Chinese name Traditional Chinese 廟號 Simplified Chinese 庙号 …   Wikipedia

  • List of Posthumous Names — In China, posthumous names 諡 were conferred upon Emperors, Empresses, and notable officials by the imperial court up until the fall of Qing Dynasty in 1911. The following list is limited to officials. For posthumous names of Emperors, see List of …   Wikipedia

  • Japanese name — Yamada Tarō (山田太郎), a stereotypical Japanese name (male), equivalent to John Smith in English. Jane Smith would be Yamada Hanako (山田花子). Japanese names ( …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.