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 Origin of surnames
javewu
Posted: Aug 3 2006, 06:39 AM


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Origin of surnames

Prior to the Warring States Period (5th century BC), only the royal family and the aristocratic elite could generally take surnames. Historically there was also difference between xing and shi. Xing were surnames held by the immediate royal family. They generally are composed of a nü (女, meaning "female") radical which suggests that they originated from matriarchal societies based on maternal lineages.

Prior to the Qin Dynasty (3rd century BC) China was largely a feudal society. As fiefdoms were divided and subdivided among descendants, so additional sub-surnames known as shi were created to distinguish between different seniority of lineages among the nobles though in theory they shared the same ancestor. In this way, a nobleman would hold a shi and a xing. After the states of China were unified by Qin Shi Huang, surnames gradually devolved to the lower classes and the difference between xing and shi blurred.

Shi surnames, many of which survive to the present day, generally share twelve paths of origin:

From xing: These were usually reserved for the central lineage of the royal family, with collateral lineages taking their own shi. Of the six or so common xing, only Jiang (姜) and Yao (姚) have survived as frequently occurring surnames.
From royal decree by the Emperor, such as Kwong (鄺).

From state names: Many commoners took the name of their state, either to show their continuing allegiance or as a matter of national and ethnic identity. Common examples include Song (宋), Wu (吴), Chen (陈). Not surprisingly, due to the population size of the peasantry, these are some of the most common Chinese surnames.

From the name of fiefs or place of origin. Fiefdoms were often granted to collateral branches of the aristocracy and it was natural as part of the process of sub-surnaming for their names to be used. An example is Di, Marquis of Ouyangting, whose descendants took the surname Ouyang. There are some two hundred examples of this identified, often of two-character surnames, but few have survived to the present.

From the names of ancestors: Like the previous example, this was also a common origin with close to 500 or 600 examples, 200 of which are two-character surnames. Often an ancestor's style name would be used. For example, Yuan Taotu took the second character of his grandfather's style name Boyuan (伯爰) as his surname. Sometimes titles granted to ancestors could also be taken as surnames.

From seniority within the family: In ancient usage, the characters of meng (孟), zhong (仲), shu (叔) and ji (季) were used to denote the first, second, third and fouth eldest sons in a family. These were sometimes adopted as surnames. Of these, Meng is the best known, being the surname of philosopher Mencius, for example.

From occupation: These could arise from both official positions, as in the case of Sima (司马), originally akin to "Minister of War". They could also arise from more lowly occupations, as with Tao (陶), meaning "potter" or Wu (巫), meaning "shaman".

From ethnic groups: Non-Chinese peoples in China sometimes took the name of their ethnic group as surname. The best example is Hu (胡), which originally referred to all "barbarian" groups on the northern frontier of China.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.
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 would be detrimental to future generations.

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.

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 10 major Chinese surnames are: Zhang, Wang, Li, Zhao, Chen, Yang, Wu, Liu, Huang and Zhou.

Below are the next 10 major surnames. The Chinese with these surnames make up over 10% of the Chinese population: Xu, Zhu, Lin, Sun, Ma, Gao, Hu, Zheng, Guo and Xiao.

The number of the Chinese in the third category of 10 major surnames make up just about 10% of the population: Xie, He, Xu, Song, Shen, Luo, Han, Deng, Liang and Ye.

The following 15 surnames form the fouth largest group of the Chinese surnames are: Fang, Cui, Cheng, Pan, Cao, Feng, Wang, Cai, Yuan, Lu, Tang, Qian, Du, Peng and Lu.

A total of 70% of the Chinese population have one of the surnames above. The surnames of the remaining 30% are comparatively rare. Some of these surnames are: Mao, Jiang, Bai, Wen, Guan, Liao, Miao and Chi.

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Tkl
Posted: Sep 27 2006, 08:18 PM


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what about 陈? i am keen to know more abt my surname.. rolleyes.gif
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javewu
Posted: Sep 29 2006, 01:34 AM


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QUOTE (Tkl @ Sep 27 2006, 09:18 PM)
what about 陈? i am keen to know more abt my surname.. rolleyes.gif

陳, positioned at the 10th place in the Bai Jia Xing (100 Surname Listing).

Originated from state title - Chen.

This surname was found in Zhou Dynasty by Zhou Wu Emperor, son of Zhou Wen Wang - Ji Chang.
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Tkl
Posted: Sep 29 2006, 07:36 PM


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icic.. thanks.. laugh.gif
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boi_83
Posted: Oct 10 2006, 01:16 PM


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can i ask what about lim
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Dorje
Posted: Oct 10 2006, 07:12 PM


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QUOTE (boi_83 @ Oct 10 2006, 01:16 PM)
can i ask what about lim

The 16th most common last name in China. The Chinese word Lin means forest and the name is related to forest. During the Shang Dynasty, Shang Zhou (1,154 1,134 B.C.) had three uncles serving as officials in his administration. They were Bi Gan, Qi Zi and Wei Zi. Due to Shang Zhous cruelty and corruption, the people suffered dearly. After urging the king to repent and failed, Wei Zi resigned and Qi Zi pretended to have gone insane. Only Bi Gan remained and continued to urge the king to repent. Bi Gan said, "Its the servants responsibility to correct the master; servants who are afraid of being killed and refrain from telling the truth are not righteous." Due to his stubbornness, Zhou Wang decided to kill Bi Gan. Shang Zhou summoned Bi Gan and said, "I heard that a human heart has 7 openings. If you are loyal, let me take a look at your heart." He then ordered his guards to cut open Bi Gans chest for his heart. When the news of Bi Gans death reached his wife, she knew that it wouldnt be long before Zhou Wang would order the execution of the entire family. Being pregnant at the time, Bis wife decided to escape to Mu Ye (Wei Hui and Qi of HeNan). She hid in a cave inside a forest until the baby boy was born. She named him Jian. Soon Shang Zhou was overthrown and killed by Zhou Wu Wang. Being the descendents of a righteous official, Jian and his mother were respected by Zhou Wu Wang. Because Jiang was born in the forest, Zhou Wu Wang gave him the name of Lin (forest).
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Flying Phoenix
Posted: Oct 12 2006, 07:22 PM


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QUOTE (boi_83 @ Oct 10 2006, 01:16 PM)
can i ask what about lim

Origin of Lin Clan:

Shao Dian 少典 - Huang Di (Yellow Emperor) 黄帝 - Di Ku 帝喾 - Xie 契 - Cheng Tang (Founder of Shang Dynasty) 成汤 - Bi Gan 比干 - Lin Jian 林坚
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Wish_Mistress
Posted: Feb 28 2007, 02:01 PM


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how abt 薛? thks smile.gif
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