July 21st, 2007

So it seems the China Daily might have actually managed to publish something relatively interesting. Check out this article [republished at] about China’s surnames- no, it’s not the usual “Oh no! We’re running out of surnames!” handwringing, it takes a look at the origins and development of China’s surnames. Here’s one little bit I found interesting:

The origin of Chinese surnames can be traced back to the matriarchal age in primitive society, when Shi (early surnames) were used to distinguish different tribes. Most of the earliest Chinese surnames, or Shi, which are still in use today, have the word “woman” as a character component. Marriage within a tribe of the same surname was forbidden, and children were raised by and given the surname of their mother’s tribe. The development of surnames was a sign of societal progression, demonstrating that Chinese people were aware of the disadvantages of close inter-breeding.

Well, I’m not sure about the connection between surnames and the awareness of the disadvantages of inbreeding, but still, this might be worth further study.

2 Responses to “surnames”

  1. John Says:

    Definitely interesting, but I see the old 5000 year myth is being repeated. From what the article also suggests, there may have been a few more surnames flying around, but there have been mergers and acquisitions.

  2. wangbo Says:

    I don’t think we’re ever going to get rid of the 5000 year myth.