Two Chinese anthropologists have concluded, that ” ‘…the Chinese people are unique. 1.28 billion people share 7,327surnames. In fact the 100 most common names account for 85% of the population…‘”.
China stands unique from both models with a 4,000-year history of recorded surnames stretching back to the Xia Dynasty of the 21st to 16thcenturies BC. Surname distribution has been consistent since the Song Dynasty 900 years ago and partly due to Confucian culture surnames have been well preserved through the generations.
The team found the highest levels of surname diversity at the Yangtze River basin, particularly around the middle and lower reaches of the river. The team believes this is due to multiple large migrations throughout Chinese history.
Historically 97 of the 100 most common surnames originated during the Spring and Autumn Period (722-476 BC) and the Warring States Period (476-221 BC) when the territory of China was limited to the central plains. There are multiple historical migrations from the central plains to the Yangtze River basin and consequently the population around the basin consists of local citizens and historical migrant groups.
The team also discovered that the genetic distance between China’s three northeastern provinces and the eastern province of Shandong was very small, despite covering a vast geographical area. This is due to the historic migration known as ‘braving the journey to northeast China’, which witnessed 20 million people travel to the sparsely populated provinces.
Overall geographical distribution of surnames and population structure of modern China was found to be the result of both drift and large scale migration as several regional centers of Chinese civilization developed throughout the nation’s history.
“The most noticeable trends are the low number of surnames and their isolation by distance, both of which demonstrate the historic stability of Chinese surnames,” concluded Dr. Chen. “The historical inheritance of Chinese surnames has been continuous, with a unique balance between drift and migration after thousands of years of surname evolution.”
Odd. I thought that sort of homogeneity was a liability, at least in terms of immunity to disease or survivability.