It's been discovered that only 4,100 Chinese surnames are now in
use out of a sample of the country's 300 million people, according
to a survey by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). It means more
than 80 percent of Chinese surnames have disappeared over the past
6,000 years when over 24,000 surnames were in use.
Over the last two years Yuan Yida, director of the CAS'
Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, collated 300
million surnames from around China using the most recent
"Many surnames of people from ethnic minorities have been lost
over time as many people have adopted surnames of Han origin," Yuan
"And some two-character surnames have gradually been reduced to
one character," he said. "For example, Wangzi and Wangsun have both
been shortened to Wang. In some areas it's traditional that only
male offspring can inherit the family surname. So some rare
surnames disappeared when no son was born."
However, despite the decline new surnames are also emerging. The
survey shows that some parents have given their children completely
new names by combining their own surnames. This practice is
particularly popular in south China's Guangdong and Fujian provinces. The surname "Liwang" comes
from the father's surname of Li and the mother's of Wang.
Some parents have plumped for unique surnames for their
children, which have no connection with either of their own
"A family in Suzhou, east China's Jiangsu Province, gave their son a newly
coined surname of 'Dian' after his parents and grandparents, all
wanting the boy to have their own surname, could not reach
agreement," Yuan said.
(Xinhua News Agency February 7, 2007)