Chinese surname culture

The towering trees must have their roots, and the water around the mountains must have its source. Chinese surnames originated in ancient times, at least 5000 years old.

The origin of the surname

Ancient Chinese surnames originated from the primitive tribes in the early period of human existence. People lived in groups and divided groups by tribes. At that time, a sign was needed to distinguish this tribe. For example, the people of Xuanyuan tribe are called Xuanyuan. Therefore, the first surname is a sign to distinguish the tribes.

Tribal Totem

Since it is necessary to distinguish each tribe, it is necessary to use some physical objects to distinguish, so there are totems. At the beginning, the people of the primitive tribes believed that nature could protect their people, so the totems of surnames had a close relationship with certain animals.

In ancient times, each tribe had its own totem. After having character, a surname with a literal meaning was generated according to the graphic of the totem.

Totems are signs and symbols of the earliest social organizations. It has the functions of uniting groups, close kinship, maintaining social organization and distinguishing from each other. At the same time, through the totem logo, it is recognized by the totem and protected by the totem.

Surname Development

In the ancient matriarchal society, people’s productivity was low, so the earliest tribal surnames were mostly next to the chinese character ‘女’ [female]. Among the eight surnames in ancient times: 姬, 姚, 妫, 姒, 姜, 嬴, 姞, 妘, seven surnames contain female characters. Later, with the gradual improvement of productivity and the advent of patrilineal society, there were more changes in surnames.

With the development and evolution of time, the surname has become an important symbol of a family. When Chinese people choose name, surname come before , and name come after. Families are very important in the hearts of Chinese people, and the collective concept has taken root in the hearts of the people. In ancient times, not everyone had a surname, but only people with a certain identity could have a surname. For Chinese civilization, the birth of surnames is an important milestone.

Surname is not only a culture, but also a continuation of life and family. From ancient times to now, surnames are not invariable, but have more creativity and development with the development of the times.

Surname Category

1. Single Surname: Surname with only one character. for example: 王, 李, 张, 刘, 陈, 杨, 黄, 赵, 周, 吴, 徐, 孙, 马, 胡, 朱, 郭, 何, 罗, 高, 林. According to statistics, there are more than 6,000 single surnames in China.

2. Compound surname: a surname composed of two or more Chinese characters. for example: 欧阳, 司马, 上官, 西门. There are many sources of compound surnames, such as official names, fiefs, occupations, etc., and some originate from ethnic minorities changing their surnames.

Source Method

1. Take the tribal totem symbol as clan. The surname was generated as the totem symbol of the tribe, and some of the descendants directly inherited it as the surname. Many surnames in matrilineal societies are next to chinese character ‘女’ [female]. for example: 姬, 姜, 姚.

2. Take the country as surname. for example: 齐, 鲁, 宋, 郑, 吴, 越, 秦, 楚, 卫, 韩, 赵, 魏, 燕 etc.

3. Take the place name as surname.

4. Take the official position as surname. for example: 司马, 司空 etc.

5. Take the occupation as surname. for example: 巫, 卜, 陶, 屠 etc.

6. Change surname because of taboo.

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