Imperial Chinese Court Regency

Advocacy via Regency for Constitutional Monarchy in China

Archive for the tag “surnames”

Some Articles on Genealogy

Photo taken on Dec. 14, 2004 shows a Chinese surname board displayed in Changchun, capital of northeast China’s Jilin Province, Dec. 14, 2004. The 25-meter-long and 1.83-meter-high board is composed of 125 smaller boards, with 503 Chinese surnames calligraphed on them. Originator Wu Jiancheng spent six years to make it.

Various Articles on Chinese Surnames

Short History

The Chinese have had surnames long before the period of the Three Emperors and Five Kings, that is, during the time when recognition was given only to one’s mother and not one’s father. Hence, the Chinese character for surname is made up of two individual characters—-one meaning woman and one meaning to give birth. That is to say, the surnames of the early Chinese followed the maternal line. Before the three dynasties of Xia, Shang and Zhou (2140-256 BC), the people in China were already having surnames (Xing) and clan-names (Shi). The surnames originated from the name of the village in which one live or the family to which one belonged, while the clan-name derived from the name of the territory or the title granted, sometimes posthumously, by the emperor to a noble for an achievement. Hence, only nobles had surnames as well as clan-names.

After Fu Xi Shi (伏羲氏) the Naga, established rules of marriages, surnames were established. A man and a woman of the same clan-name could marry each other but they could not if they were of the same surname. This is because the Chinese had discovered, long ago, that marriages of close relatives, known as inbreeding would be detrimental to future generations  in the form of genetic defects. In any solemn ceremony or important celebration, the Chinese have their clan-names written on lanterns which are hung high in a prominent place, such as the main entrance of the house. As a clan-name indicates the ancestral home, it is also carved on a man’s tombstone to indicate a hope that he will return there.

This went on for 800 years until the rule of Emperor Tang Tai Zong (627 AD). Gao Shi Lian, a government official, made a survey and found that there were a total of 593 different surnames. He then wrote and published a book called “Annal of Surnames” which became a reference for selecting qualified personnel as government officials and for arranging marriages. The book, “Surnames of a Hundred Families”, which was popular in China during the old days, was written more than 1,000 years ago during the Northern Song Dynasty (960 AD). It records 438 surnames of which 408 are single-word surnames and 30 were double-word surnames. According to the latest statistics from China, Chinese with the surname Zhang alone number more than 100 million, making it probably the surname which the most number of the Chinese have.

CHUNG Yoon-Ngan (¾G¥Ã¤¸). Copyright 1999. All rights reserved.

The 100 common surnames, less than 5% of the total number of Chinese surnames, are connected with more than 85% of the population

Rare surnames, more than 95% of the total number of surnames, are related to only about 15% of the population. The distribution of common surnames acts as the major factor reflecting the genetic composition in different regions, and it determines the historical population migration and the degree of consanguinity between regional populations. The rare surnames are of regional characteristic and relative isolation. As a result, it is possible that the study of Chinese surnames and of the distribution pattern of population with the same surname serves as an important approaches to Chinese paternal genetics and Y chromosome evolution. This may provide valuable clue for the study of population highly subject to genetic diseases.

Wu Jiancheng, originator of a Chinese surname board, introduces his work in Changchun, capital of northeast China’s Jilin Province, Dec. 14, 2004. The 25-meter-long and 1.83-meter-high board is composed of 125 smaller boards, with 503 Chinese surnames calligraphed on them. Wu spent six years to make it.

Chinese surnames

During the Dynasties of Xia (), Shang () and Zhou () people already had Xing () surnames, and Shi ()family name. Xing derived from
the village where a person lived or his particular tribe. Shi is applicable after a title is bestowed upon a person by the ruler, holding an official position or a posthumous title given by a ruler.

A female and a male having the same Shi were allowed to marry. However, if they shared the same surname they were not allowed to marry because. Chinese customary rules forbid the reunion of a same surname couple.

During the reign of Li Shi Min ( 秦王李世民 627AD to 649AD) of Tang Dynasty (618AD to 907AD) an official by the name of (高士廉) (576 – February 14, 647) compiled all the surnames he could find into a book entiled “Shi Zu Zhi ¤ó±Ú§Ó” or The Annal of the Clans. The administration of Li Shi Min used this book as a guide for marriages and for admittance to government offices.

The 百家姓 Bai Jia Xing (The Hundred Surnames) written by an anonymous academic during the Song Dynasty (960AD to 1279AD) was the most common book on surnames ever written. It has 408 single chracter surnames and 30 double character surnames. Nowadays there are more than 5,000 Chinese surnames. I have written the histories of the most 550 common Chinese surnames.

Many countries have the most three common surnames. In Britain the three most common surnames are : Smith, Jones and Williams. The three most common
surnmames in U.S.A are: Smith, Johnson and Carson; in France: the Martin, Bernard and Dupont; in Germany: Schultz, Mueller, and Shmidt and in Russia: the Ivanov, Vasiliev, Deternov. What about China? Well, there are four most common surnames in China: Zhang (张), Wang (王), Li (李) and Zhao (赵) with more than 100 million Chinese with the surname Zhang alone. Zhang is the most common surname in the whole world.

List of the most used Chinese surnames (last names) and the meanings behind them, in ranking order of popularity: Wed, Mar 25, 2009 – Page 4 News List

According to the historian Li Dong Ming (李东鸣), in his article about Chinese surnames published in the magazine called Dong Fang Za Zhi :

VERY COMMON 10% of all Chinese have this surname (1500)

Zhang (张)


(Common) 30% (3000) About 3% each
30% percent of the Chinese or 300 million are with these nine surnames:
Wang (王), Li (李) and Zhao (赵), Chen (陳), Yang (楊), Wu (吴), Liu (刘/劉), Huang (黄), and Zhou (ㄓ).
Another set of statistics compiled in 1977 reveals that the number of the Chinese with the first 10 major surnames make up 40% of the Chinese population. The


(Uncommon) 10% (6000) 1% each
Only ten percent or 100 million Chinese are with these surnames: About 1% each
Xu ( ), Zhu ( ), Lin ( ), Sun ( ), Ma ( ), Gao ( ), Hu (­ ), Zheng ( ), Guo ( ) and Xiao ( ).

RARE        L-class minority affirmative action

(Rare) 20 About 0.75% Each. (12,000)
20% percent of the Chinese share these 25 surnames: Xie (), He ( ), Xu ( ), Song ( ), Shen ( ), Luo ( ), Han ( ), Deng ( ), Liang ( ), Ye ( ), Fang ( ), Cui ( ), Cheng ( ), Pan ( ), Cao ( ), Feng ( ), Wang ( ), Cai ( ), Yuan ( ), Lu ( ), Tang (­ ), Qian ( ), Du ( ), Peng ( ) and Lu ( ).

VERY RARE    M-class minority affirmative action

The surnames of the remaining 30% are comparatively rare. Some of these surnames are: Mao, Jiang, Bai, Wen, Guan, Liao, Miao and Chi. Very Rare.
(Very rare) About 0.00015% Each (Don’t breed yourselves out!)

ENDANGERED    U-class minority affirmative action

The surnames of the remaining 30% are exceedingly rare. Some of these surnames are:
On the contrary, only about thirty percent of the Chinese sharing the rare 5,000 surnames like:
Miao (­ ), Mao ( ), Jiang ( ), Bai ( ), Gu ( ), Liao ( ), Tse ( ) etc.,

Man on the hunt for rare family names
NAME COLLECTOR What began as a hobby for Kuo Chih-hsiang gained meaning after an elderly woman said she feared her surname would soon become extinct
By Yang Chiu-ying  /  STAFF REPORTER

Kuo Chih-hsiang shows off his collection of more than 200 rare Chinese surnames in Taipei on March 19.

A man who once was an avid stamp collector has turned his energies toward a different kind of collectible — surnames. Over the past decade, he has collected more than 200 rare Chinese surnames from friends, relatives, coworkers and even strangers he found in a telephone directory.

Kuo Chih-hsiang (郭智祥) collects surnames by sending an envelope to a person with an unusual surname and have him or her write back with a photocopy of any document that can prove that person’s identification.

Kuo said his surname collection began more than 10 years ago when he asked a Chinese man, Yao Ke (要可), with whom he intended to exchange stamps at the time, to prove his unusual family name. A month later, Kuo received a copy of Yao’s ID card via mail, which inspired him to start collecting rare Chinese surnames.

At first, Kuo collected unusual surnames from friends who were also stamp collectors by exchanging postal products. Later, he started looking up strange surnames in a telephone directory. However, by doing so, he said he scared many people as he insisted on obtaining photocopies of their ID cards. At long last, he began accepting other types of identification, such as driver’s licenses, student IDs, diplomas, club membership cards, hospital receipts and even bank statements.

To complete the process, Kuo said he would first ask a person with a rare family name for his or her address and then send them a self-stamped envelope. After that, he would either visit in person to pick up the envelope or have the person mail it back.

Some of the rare surnames Kuo has collected include Hu (虎, tiger), Yi (蟻, ant), Shui (水, water), Yun (雲, cloud), Suo (鎖, lock), Dan (但, but) and Mai (買, buy). Some of the surnames were so rare that the character could not be found on a computer, he said.

In China, an Ancient Surname Faces Extinction by Sharon Shay

Epoch Times Staff Created: August 30, 2010 Last Updated: September 4, 2010

The character Shan cannot be displayed or printed by computers, and those who keep it as a last name are slowly swapping it for alternatives. (The Epoch Times)

The continuing encroachment of technology and modernity on China’s ancient heritage was exemplified in a village in Shandong Province recently: a unique surname faces extinction because it cannot be entered into computers.

“The last name from our ancestors is very rare,” said Xian Changyou of Gaozhuang Village, Gaozhuang Town, Shandong Province, where the surname originated and where it may perish.

The surname is pronounced Shan, with a falling then rising tone, and dates back to the Tang dynasty.

“Two hundred people in our village had to change their last names,” Mr. Xian said to the Qilu Evening News. Of the 3,500 or so villages in Gaozhuang, approximately 200 of them had people with the last name Shan.

One after another, possessors of the surname have had to adopt a different Chinese character with a similar pronunciation, just to navigate daily issues of driver’s licenses and identity registrations.

Villager Shan Haijian, for example, holds a driver’s license that lists him only as “Haijian,” because computers cannot input his family name. He says he is frequently questioned by police, who suspect him of possessing a fake license.

Villagers with the Shan surname also face difficulties when they register their children at schools, apply for insurance, open bank accounts, or transfer money. “Do you think computers make your life easier or more difficult?” a villager jested to a Qilu Evening News journalist. In the past, he noted, he could manually write his Shan surname, but now he has to pick a different character from the computer and then have it notarized at the police station.

As early as 2003 newborns in the village were all given different last names so as to avoid complications in the future. In 2006 when the second generation of identification cards were issued the local police suggested everyone change their surnames.
Losing China’s Ancient Heritage

Though many villagers have acquiesced and changed their names, they mourn the loss. “We do not want to lose our ancestral names in our lifetimes,” one villager said. “Our generation still knows the original name, but our children will forget in the future.”

The police have taken a more businesslike approach. “This name is very rare. Our computers cannot display the character,” an officer from the Gaozhuang police station told the Evening News. “It would be difficult for the villagers to merge into society with such a last name.”

Pan Jianrong is the leader of the Heze Culture and Ancient Chinese Civilization Research Association. According to his research, the Shan surname was most likely created by Emperor Tang Gaozong and bestowed upon a general during the Tang Dynasty as a way of honoring the family.

“The Chinese characters contain China’s ancient culture,” Mr. Pan remarked. “You can’t just cancel them because of some technical issue.”

ICCR Note :

The above issues in the last 2 articles in this series, could still be solved via a cleverly written software ‘patch’ file by CPPCC’s best software coders. They should assign a few man hours or perhaps have a short competition for the quickest writer or team for this ‘technicality’ solving matter. The Shan clan shouldn’t worry about losing ancestral names in their lifetimes or ever. The current generation still knows the original name and can get the local PRC official in charge of IT issues to begin initiative on the above suggestion of a software patch. Shan clan children will not ‘have to’ forget in the future.

For all classes of commoners (lower to middle to upper classes) Xing (Surname) and Ming (Given Name) can be found but no being untitled have no Shi.
For all classes of aristocrats (aristocracy to nobility) a Xing surname, Shi name (Clan name), and Ming (Given name) are present.
For all classes of royalty and ‘imperialty’ (both groups already with Shi names), we suggest that the Dynastic name (i.e. Imperial Clan names are not the same as the Dynasty names) be added as well.

General weighted value of names :
– surname rarity (this changes along with the demographic over decades)
– apex class clan association

People with rare surnames if needy, could be given special guidance on life skills and perhaps free education or housing (as needed), to ensure the clan name does not die out.


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