Brill’s Encyclopedia of China

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(1,100 words)

The official name of a Chinese person consists of a family name, followed by a given name. The xing (family names) are derived from the clan names of ancient China. They are only very few (a couple of hundred), and their number is fixed. In ancient China, only the aristocratic clans had family names. Their use became common practice during the Han period. The family names usually have one syllable, sometimes two, i. e. they consist of one or two characters. Today, the most common one hundred family names account …

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Alleton, Viviane, “Names”, in: Brill’s Encyclopedia of China, Managing Editor English Edition: Daniel Leese. Consulted online on 23 February 2024 <>
First published online: 2008
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004168633, 20121018

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