A Chinese kin, lineage or sometimes rendered as clan, is a patrilineal and patrilocal group of related Han Chinese, Chinese people with a common Chinese surname, surname sharing a common ancestor and, in many cases, an Ancestral home (China), 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'' () 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'' () 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 Peking University, Shanghai Library, Cornell University and Tōyō 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. Benefit derives from the surplus income of ancestral shrines and homes, which is reinvested by the managers or shared out in yearly dividends. Benefit of belonging to a lineage can also be measured in terms of protection and patronage. Ancestral temples also support local schools and engage in charity (practice), charitable work.

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 Chinese ancestor worship, rites of unity and banquets.Watson, 1982. pp. 595-597


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 usurpations of power by consorts, the most notable being the Han Dynasty's Empress Dowager Lü (), the Tang Dynasty's Wu Zetian, Empress Wu (), and the Qing Dynasty's Empress Dowager Cixi (). The Han Dynasty usurper Wang Mang was a nephew 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

* Chinese folk religion * Confucianism * Chinese ancestor worship, Chinese ancestral worship * Ancestral shrine & Ancestor tablets * Chinese surname—Hundred Family Surnames * Chinese lineage associations * Ancestral home (Chinese), Ancestral home * Guanxi * Kongsi * Xungen movement, the contemporary reconstruction of lineages in China




* James L. Watson.
Chinese Kinship Reconsidered: Anthropological Perspectives on Historical Research
'. On: ''China Quarterly'', n. 92, December 1982. * Lili Lee Tsai. ''Cadres, Temple and Lineage Institutions, and Government in Rural China''. On: ''The China Journal'', n, 48, July 2002. * Myron L. Cohen. ''Lineage Organization in North China''. On: ''The Journal of Asian Studies'' 49, n. 3, August 1990, 509-534.

External links

{{in lang, zh Chinese culture Chinese clans Kinship and descent