Sokendai Review of Cultural and Social Studies


How the Chinese State Manages and
Uses Surname Associations:
Government Policy on Surname Associations
in Southern Fujian since the 1990s

CHEN Xiahan

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

Key words:

southern Fujian, surname association, cultural policy of government, administrative policy of government

Lineages and surname associations are patrilineal kinship organizations in Chinese society. Organizations of both types exist in southern Fujian Province, and both have experienced revival since the 1990s. In southern Fujian, where consciousness of lineage is highly developed, the surname association is an alliance of lineages and has the social character of spokesperson for the interests of the same surname lineages. To the revival of lineages, the Chinese government has not responded with a clear policy. However, with respect to the revival of surname associations, the government has taken action and established a tolerant cultural and administrative policy that involves both ratification and limitation. That is to say, in contrast to the lineages, the surname association is now utilized and managed by government officials. This article considers the example of surname association policy in southern Fujian, examines in particular the case of the Lin Surname Association, and describes how the complexion of traditional culture and the organization of the surname association have been shaped by contemporary politics.

In the scholarship on the formation and role of kinship organization in Chinese society, in addition to the old research question of “In what ways does a society organize itself,” the question of “How do kinship organizations become characteristic of grass-roots society and the model of folk culture in the context of the mutual relations between state forces and civil forces” has always been an important object of attention. The discussion of surname association policy in this article will not only help to clarify the living environment of surname associations in contemporary China, but also lay the necessary foundation for research on contemporary surname associations from the perspective of the state and social interaction.