The Chinese nation has a long history. The written characters began in 1200 BC
are still in use. Many changes have occurred in the nation and the written characters, but the government and the Chinese characters have been continuously evolving.
Chinese names are written by special characters for the family names and given name.
There are over 1,000 Chinese family names. Lĭ Wáng and Chen are the most popular ones.
The majority of family names in Chinese consist of a single character. Some family names have two characters.
In mainland China, women retain their family names after marriage.
Most common Chinese Surnames (p110)
Lĭ Wáng Zhāng Liú
Chén Yáng Zhào Huáng
Zhōu Wú Xú Sūn
Hú Zhū Gāo Lín
Hé Guō Mă Luó
Due to the limited numbers of characters used in family names, and given names many people have identical names in China
New Practical Chinese Reader (2nd Edition)
Addressing siblings and relatives is complex in Chinese. Relatives on the paternal side are distinguished from those on the mother's side.
The similarity of Chinese names to each other show the importance of genealogy and family linkage in the history of the Chinese nation. Many of the articles in the Chinese Civilization Text show the details the Chinese have taken to ensure accuracy in the official documents kept at the local level.
If the Chinese are proud of their family name, they would take care to keep the spelling of the name. Chinese characters are developed over time as was demonstrated in class with the son of heaven character. Chinese characters are used in writing the family names in documents. The above names are in pinyin and not Chinese character. Pinyin vowels have four tones. Tones are important to the Chinese people. The pronunciation of the tone in a pinyin word can change its meaning. Pinyin uses European pronunciation characters, and only through these printed characters can European People understand Chinese. These characters are also used to help Chinese translate some of the 40,000 characters. No literature is in pinyin, and the documents in the Chinese Civilization have been translated into English.
The Chinese characters in this paper are in .jpeg files, which are photographic files and not suitable for writing. The characters are written in a special order using strokes. Hansons's The Open Empire shows some of these characters. She does not us Pinyin although she has a table(xviii-xix)in her book to demonstrate speaking Chinese from writings.
paper.jpg Chinese characters
Each word in Chinese has a character. Each family name is written using different strokes in a Character. Family names are different from words. They are unique.
Family registers maintained by local government are good sources for historical research.
Much history has been gotten from grave sites at archeological sites. Individual members of a family are described in detail. The nutrition and diet is described in documents written in Chinese characters.
The content of the meals are listed. Various characters are used for the food. The health and well being of the principal people in the grave site gives an indication of the economy and the changes that are occurring in the rich government workers and merchants family.
The poorer families are not as well documented. Most Chinese that know how to write took civil service exams. They were from wealthy families and had tome to study. The poor Chinese farmer had to toil in the fields, and did not have to study the large number of Chinese characters.
As the economy grew under successful Chinese emperors, farmers benefited. The printing of books using wooden blocks helped educate more of the local government officials. But learning the Chinese characters was still beyond the farmers. The local government officials still were the magistrates in charge of law and order.
These officials settled disputes over compacts and passed on property to the heirs.
Law and order was determined by codes, such as the Tang code(p198), for determining the punishment to be meted out to the offender.
These codes were written by the emperor, but the local officials had the authority to enforce them. The Tang code symbolized justice. Local magistrates could decide which provision of the code best fit the crime (document 26 the Tang Legal code).
Despite Confucian bias against law as a means of fostering good behavior, the Chinese came to depend heavily on written rules.