Asia-Pacific

Chinese jettison rare surname unrecognised by computer

Two hundred members of a Chinese family are reportedly changing surname because the character used to write it is so rare computers do not recognise it.

Computer coding systems convert most Chinese pictorial characters for printing, but some are so rare that they are never assigned a code.

Among them is a variant of the family name Shaan, from Shandong province

If the Shaans want a driving licence or residence permit issued by machine, they have to change their name.

Chinese words pronounced the same can be differentiated by how they look.

But according to the local newspaper in Shandong, computers do not recognise the local variant of Shaan, a cross between the symbol for "three" and the sign for "and".

So the Shaans of Shandong are changing their surname to a more easily recognised form.

They are not alone - for several years, until the software caught up, the Taiwanese politician Yu Shyi-kun suffered the indignity of having the final character in his name taken apart or replaced by a photo.