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
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
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
Having their origins in the Chinese Zhou
, posthumous names were used 800 years earlier than
. The first person named
posthumously was Ji Chang
, named by his son
of Zhou, as the "Civil King". The use of
posthumous names was stopped in the Qin
, 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.
All Chinese posthumous names for rulers end in one or two of the
emperor), which can be shortened to Dì
; except about a
dozen or so less recognized ones who have had only Dì
Starting with Emperor Xiaowen of Han
(more commonly "Emperor Wen"), every single Han emperor,
except the first one of the Eastern Han Dynasty, has the character
" (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
The number of characters in posthumous names was increasing. The
emperors of the Tang Dynasty
in between seven to eighteen characters. Those in the Qing Dynasty have twenty-one characters.
that of the Shunzhi Emperor
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, : tǐ tiān lóng yùn dìng tǒng jiàn jí
yīng ruì qīn wén xiǎn wǔ dà dé hóng gōng zhì rén chún xiào zhāng
with the longest posthumous name is
, 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.
's Records of the Grand
outlines extensively the rules behind choosing
the names. Some of those guidelines:
- Those having a persistent and reasonable governance(剛強直理) are
called "Martial" (武 wǔ). (This is one of the most honourable
- 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
- 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
- Those who make the people feel satisfied with their policies
(安民立政) are called "Constructive" (成 chéng). (Again, possibly named
- 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).
- "Highly (respected)" (高 gāo) is particularly reserved for the
founders of dynasties.
- 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
- 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
The posthumous names of Japanese emperors are called teigō
(帝号, lit. emperor names
). In addition to the appellation
(天皇, lit. heavenly sovereign
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
and Emperor Antoku
, for example. Others are given
immediately after death, like that of Emperor Mommu
Many have Chinese-style names, for example:
Some have Japanese-style names. For example:
- those who were named after the place where the emperor was
born, lived or frequented:
- 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
- those who were named by combining the characters from two
previous emperors' names:
Since the death of Emperor Meiji
) 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
) after his
; Japanese now refer to him by only that name.
was his given name, but most Japanese never refer
to their emperors by their given names, as it is considered
Korean emperors and kings
Koreans used posthumous name from the ancient Korean empire
These are Korean styled posthumous name of the emperors of
(Hangul: 단군왕검; Hanja
檀君王儉)Emperor Buru (Hangul:부루
흘달; Hanja: 屹達)Emperor Gumul
Hanja: 丘勿)Emperor Goyeolga
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
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
To combine an emperor's temple name and posthumous name, place
A fuller description of this naming convention for royalty appears
in the Chinese sovereign
- Yizhoushu (逸周書), ch. 54 (meanings of posthumous
names),  .