Chinese kin

Chinese kin
Chinese 宗族
Alternative Chinese name
Chinese 家族

A Chinese kin, lineage or sometimes rendered as clan, is a patrilineal and patrilocal group of related Chinese people with a common surname sharing a common ancestor and, in many cases, an ancestral home.


Chinese kinship tend to be strong in southern China, reinforced by ties to an ancestral village, common property, and often a common spoken Chinese dialect unintelligible to people outside the village. Kinship structures tend to be weaker in northern China, with clan members that do not usually reside in the same village nor share property.

Zupu—the genealogy book

A zupu (simplified Chinese: 族谱; traditional Chinese: 族譜; pinyin: zúpǔ) is a Chinese kin register or genealogy book, which contains stories of the kin's origins, male lineage and illustrious members. The register is usually updated regularly by the eldest person in the extended family, who hands on this responsibility to the next generation. The "updating" of one's zupu (simplified Chinese: 修族谱; traditional Chinese: 修族譜; pinyin: xiū zúpǔ is a very important task in Chinese tradition, and can be traced back thousands of years. After several generations, the local clan lineage will often publish a compendium of these zupus. The overwhelming majority of zupus remain in private hands, though a large number may be found in the Beijing University, Shanghai Library, Cornell University and Toyo Bunko.

Kinship corporation

Chinese kinship associations are the corporate forms of kins and the fundamental unit of Chinese ancestral religion. They provide guanxi (social network) to members and they build and manage ancestral shrines dedicated to the worship of the deities of the kins.

A lineage is a corporation, in the sense that members feel to belong to the same body, are highly conscious of their group identity, and derive benefits from jointly-owned property and shared resources.[1] Benefit derives from the surplus income of ancestral shrines and homes, which is reinvested by the managers or shared out in yearly dividends.[2] Benefit of belonging to a lineage can also be measured in terms of protection and patronage.[3] Ancestral temples also support local schools and engage in charitable work.[4]

Ancestral shrine

Gé family ancestral shrine in Shantou, Guangdong.
Main article: Ancestral shrine

Ancestral temples or shrines are the congregation places of lineage associations, by whom they are built and managed. These temples are devoted to the worship of the progenitors of a certain kin, where the kin members meet and perform rites of unity and banquets.[5]


Consort kinship

In Imperial times, a consort kin was a kin with special status due to its connection with an emperor. Throughout Chinese history consort kins have exercised great power at various times. There have been several usurptions of power by consort kins, the most notable being the Han Dynasty's Empress Dowager Lü (Chinese: 呂后; pinyin: Lǚ hòu), the Tang Dynasty's Empress Wu (simplified Chinese: 武则天; traditional Chinese: 武則天; pinyin: Wǔ Zétiān), and the Qing Dynasty's Empress Dowager Cixi (Chinese: 慈禧太后; pinyin: Cíxǐ tàihòu). The Han Dynasty usurper Wang Mang was a relative of the Grand Empress Dowager Wang.

Qing period

During the Qing dynasty, the imperial government encouraged Chinese kins to take up some quasi-governmental functions such as those involving social welfare and primary education.

See also


  1. Watson, 1982. p. 594
  2. Watson, 1982. p. 600
  3. Watson, 1982. p. 600
  4. Watson, 1982. pp. 601-602
  5. Watson, 1982. pp. 595-597


External links

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