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 census.
"Many surnames of people from ethnic minorities have been lost over time as many people have adopted surnames of Han origin," Yuan said.
"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 surnames.
"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)