Hong Kong-born pop singer Coco Lee is so fashionable she is inspiring mainland fans to adopt her last name. Technically they already have her name. Millions of people are surnamed Lee, but in the mainland's official Pinyin alphabet - a Roman-letter system used since 1958 to transliterate Chinese characters into phonetics - it comes out as 'Li'. Chinese people elsewhere do not use Pinyin, and that makes all the difference. Mainlanders say they have scrapped their phonetic names because it is fashionable to mimic non-mainland Chinese people, whom they consider richer, more outwardly successful and more showbiz-inclined. People change names especially if they plan to leave China or interact with overseas people who might not recognise Pinyin as the most common spelling. So Li goes to Lee, Chen to Chan, Wang to Wong, Wu to Woo, Xu to Hsu, Zhou to Chou or Chow, Zhang to Chang and Zhu to Chu. The changes do not appear on official documents but show up among the Roman characters in semi-formal places such as on business cards and in e-mail addresses. Following Hong Kong and Taiwan fads is nothing new. Pop stars such as Coco Lee and A Mei have long had a following on the mainland, as have Hong Kong movies and Taiwan-style teahouses. Changing a name is nothing new for Chinese people either. On the advice of a superstitious parent or a fortune-teller, people often change their given names to bring luck. Ambitions of studying in the United States and frequent contact with American teachers in her home town of Chengdu, Sichuan, inspired Cindy Zhu to become Cindy Chu. She assumed that since so many Chinese Americans use non-Pinyin spellings, she should also run with the pack. 'I picked an English first name,' she said. 'So naturally I needed a surname to go with it.' Fu Xin, a Beijing high-school junior, said Coco Lee inspired classmates with the surname Li to change names and Hong Kong action movie star Chow Yun-fat inspired those with the surname Zhou to change theirs. Li Huimin, a Beijing Foreign Language Institute junior, also adopted Lee, but not because of any outside Chinese influence. She learned the name from the Lee brand of jeans based in the US. Zhou Tongchun, a Beijing Normal University professor who teaches contemporary Chinese phonetics, agreed that the mainland's exclusive use of standardised Pinyin had prompted some of the name changes. Chinese people from Taiwan, Hong Kong and overseas still use non-standard Pinyin or other character transliteration systems, such as the Wade-Giles system. 'Since China's opening-up policy began, overseas Chinese have come back and cultural communication with Taiwan and Hong Kong has been promoted,' Professor Zhou said. 'Because their economies are better than the mainland's now, other things there, including ways of spelling, are becoming fashionable things on the mainland.'