Names and the rules of giving names are different from one culture to another. Traveling in Tibet, you’ll certainly come across different Tibetan names. And you’ll find the Tibetan names quite different from yours. Here, I’d like to talk about something about the Tibetan names.
Originally, the Tibetans didn’t have family names and they only have second names which usually consist of four words, such as Zha Xi Duo Jie. In the matriarchal society, the Tibetans were given names consisting one word of their mothers’, for instance, the mother’s name is Da Lao Ga Mu, then, her son’s name can be Da Chi. At that time, there was no such thing as family name.
However, family name appeared along with the coming of social classes. The high class people used their family’s name as their own first name and thus, family name appeared. Later, Songtsen Gampo (It was he who ordered to build the PotalaPalace) established his own kingdom in Tibet and gave lands and territories to his cadres. And these cadres began to add their lands’ names before their names as their first names, so did their future generations for those lands and territories are hereditary.
Buddhism has prevailed in Tibet since the 7th century and the Tibetan people began to ask for a name from the Living Buddha. Some rich people often take their children to the Living Buddha with some presents and ask for a name for their children. And the Living Buddha shall say some blessing words to the child and then give him a name after a small ceremony.
If one wants to be a Lama, then no matter how old he is, he shall be given a new religious name and his old name shall not be used any longer. Usually, the Living Buddha shall give part of his own name to the ordinary Lamas to make a new name for them in the monasteries. For example, if the Living Buddha’s name is Jiang Bai Ping Cuo, then the religious name he gives to the ordinary Lama can be Jiang Bai Duo Ji or Jiang Bai Wang Dui.
For the common Tibetans, they still have no family names and they usually give their children names embodying their own wishes or blessings towards them. Besides, the Tibetan names can be something on the earth, or the date of one’s birthday. Today, most of The Tibetan names still consist of four words, but for the convenience, they are usually shortened as two words, the first two words or the last two, or the first and the third, but no Tibetans use a connection of the second and the fourth words as their shortened names. Some Tibetan names only consist of two words or even one word only, for example Ga.