What Temple Name, Regnal Name and Posthumous Name are in Ancient China
A regnal name, or reign name, is a formal name used by some popes and monarchs during their reigns. Since medieval times, monarchs have frequently chosen to use a name different from their own personal name when they inherit a throne.
The new name is followed by an ordinal to give a unique name for the period when the monarch is on the throne. However, in the case of a personal union, the same ruler may carry different ordinals in each state, as they are each assigned chronologically; but some may have more precursors of the same Christian name.
In parts of Asia, monarchs take era names. Even where that is not the case, rulers may — instead of a whole dynasty, as is the case with Georgian, referring to several Georges of the Hanoverian dynasty — become eponymous of their age, e.g. in Britain: Victorian (even applied to the rest of the world, and less correctly to its alleged prudish mentality) or Edwardian.
Ancient rulers in many parts of the world took regnal names or throne names which were different from their personal name. This is known to be true, for instance, of several kings of Assyria, and appears to be the case for several Kings of Judah. In Ancient Egypt, Pharaohs took a number of names - the praenomen, was the most commonly used, on occasion in conjunction with their personal name.
Temple names are commonly used when naming most Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese royalty. They should not be confused with era names. Compared to posthumous names, the use of temple names is more exclusive. Both titles were given after death to an emperor or king, but unlike the often elaborate posthumous name, a temple name always consists of only two characters:
The first: an adjective. Chosen to reflect the circumstances of the emperor's reign (such as "Martial" or "Lamentable"). The vocabulary overlap with that of posthumous titles' adjectives, but for one emperor, the temple name's adjective character usually does not repeat as one of the many adjective characters in his posthumous name. The usual exception is "Filial". The founders are almost always either "High" (高) or "Grand" (太).
The second: "emperor". Either zu(祖) or zong(宗). Zu ("forefather") implies a progenitor, either a founder of a dynasty or a new line within an existing one.
The name "temple" refers to the "grand temple"(太庙), also called "great temple" (大庙) or "ancestral temple" (祖庙), where crown princes and other royalties gathered to worship their ancestors. On the ancestral tablets in the grand temple, it is the ruler's temple names that are written there.
Temple names were assigned sporadically since the Han Dynasty and regularly only since the Tang Dynasty. Some Han emperors even had their temple names permanently removed by their descendants in 190. It is the usual way to refer to the emperors from the Tang Dynasty up to the Ming Dynasty. For the Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty, era names were used instead.
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 were also given to honor lifetime accomplishments of many people who did not have hereditary titles, for example to successful courtiers.
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.
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) 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 is placed in various position in the string of characters, while those Qing empresses who were given posthumous names, 孝 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).
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).
Posthumous names can be praises (褒字) or deprecations (贬字). There are more praises than depreciations, so posthumous names are also commonly called respectful name(尊号) in Chinese.