Following a question on here, I also decided to reflect on my referencing skills. My style guide APA Harvard 6th wants names as Last, First. But with Chinese names I have this problem: do I reverse their name or has it already been reversed?

And do all Chinese authors follow this last name-first name convention, so because of this ambiguity is it correct to cite all Chinese names e.g. Xiu Ling, with the italics always being the last name?

When writing academic articles or essays, espeically in the bibliography, I also have trouble deciphering which to use for Chinese authors and what I do is tend to reverse it, because I know authors would not be aware of the Last Name, First Name convention in the west ***, especially if the Chinese authors in question do not have a big online presence (a name format set out by the authors themselves). And espeically if the style guide wants it a certain way e.g. APA Harvard wants it: Last, First too even for Western names e.g. Julia Roberts. Roberts, Julia. etc.

*** and if Westerners cite the wrong format e.g. Xiu Ling and they have to write it in APA style they may write it as Ling, Xiu incorrectly.

  • Check a few papers from the journal that the paper that concerns you was published. The template of the journal should be uniform, i.e. if in one paper you see Roberts, Julia, and in another (or even the same) you see Xiu, Liang – you can safely assume that Xiu is the last name.
    – user68958
    Commented Aug 11, 2019 at 13:15
  • Since you are referencing published papers, for better or worse one should use the format given in that paper. The point of the reference is so others can find the specific paper. One should assume the authors were ok with the format or else they would have changed it in proofs.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 11, 2019 at 16:14

2 Answers 2


In publications outside China, I would expect Chinese authors to publish in the same format as other authors, "given name family name". Of course it is possible that the authors made a mistake, but ultimately you cannot necessarily account for that and I would suggest that it is not particularly likely.

However for Chinese publications, even those Chinese journals published in English, the order of the names may well be written in the Chinese format of family name first. Another thing to remember is that the vast majority of Chinese family names are one character/syllable, while given names may have multiple characters/syllables. So if there are authors with multiple syllables in the name, there is a good chance (although not 100%) that this is not the family name.

  • Examples of multi-character/syllable family names: Ouyang (欧阳), Aixinjueluo (爱新觉罗), .etc. These names are very recognizable among Chinese speakers, and I think search engines can help you categorically identify those.
    – DannyNiu
    Commented May 25, 2021 at 2:32

We are all living in one world. Giving names is different. So are Chinese names given in Singapore different from mainland Chinese names. If the family name precedes the given name, the original order of names is used in all kinds of references. There is no need of a comma since the order is not reversed. Also, everyone has to cite the full name as there is a limited number of family names for many people and the given name may help to really identify the author. No worries, the names will still be short. I find the ignorance of Chinese scholars unbearable and all these APA-style abbreviations not well thought for academic writings outside the psychlogical field. This needs definitely an update soon.


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