Sokendai Review of Cultural and Social Studies


The Emergence of the Surname Association
before 1949 and Its Current Revival in Southern Fujian

CHEN Xiahan

(The Graduate University of Advanced Studies,
School of Cultural and Social Studies, Department of Comparative Studies)

Key words:

southern Fujian, surname association, voluntary association, the order of regional society, commercialization

Lineages and surname associations are two common organizations of patrilineal descent in Chinese society. Both exist in southern Fujian. Before 1949, surname associations had emerged there under the order of the regional society with developed lineages. Subsequently, between 1949 and 1978 under the socialist regime, surname associations, like lineages, were criticized by the Chinese government and accordingly dissolved. However, since the 1980s, due to the reform and opening-up policy of the central government, surname associations, along with a renewed interest in lineages, have been revived. Although various studies on lineages have been conducted, the re-emergence of surname associations and their current situations have not been sufficiently understood and researched. This article focuses on surname associations and investigates the process of re-emergence and the situation of such social groups in earlier history and at the present time. To distinguish them from lineages, which are entered by simple fact of birth, surname associations are voluntary associations. The surname association emerged later than the lineage, and its emergence usually resulted from specific social needs and social vicissitudes. In a new social environment, people meet their own real demands and adapt to the new environment through participating in voluntary associations. Thus, in the voluntary formation and development of surname associations, their relationship with the social environment or social vicissitudes is an essential perspective. Southern Fujian, the place investigated, is a region with developed lineages, rapid economic growth, and an enormous number of merchants. Setting surname associations in this particular region as the object of study, this article analyzes, over two historical periods (that is, prior to 1949 and after the 1990s), the emergence and development of surname associations and their relationship with the changing social environment or social vicissitudes.