I would like some clarification on some Chinese terminology about geneology.
Xing 姓 surname
Shi 氏 surname?
Zu 族 clan
Jia 家 family
-- What are the differences between these terms (feel free to add some)?
Generally speaking, the translation for the above terminology are as follow:
Xing 姓 surname
Shi 氏 surname or clan
Zu 族 clan/family group/ethnicities
Jia 家 family/home
There is a very good chinese article on the history of chinese surname, and explanation of its terminology in our chinese board at http://www.chinahist...?showtopic=9116
1. Basically, chinese surname was first derived from the "Xing 姓
", which first appeared in the matriarchy (i.e. female-dominated) society of China before Xia dynasty. You will notice that the character "Xing 姓" contains a radical "Nu 女" (which means "female") and a radical "Sheng 生" (which means "give birth"). Thus the character "Xing 姓" means "birth originated from a female". It was a symbolic representation of how the ancient chinese tried to trace their blood origin from a female rather than from a male. In fact, during the matriachy society, the people only know who their mother was and do not know who their father was, due to the practice of polygamy (multiple inter-marriage, many females marry with many males) as well as female-dominated society.
During the matriachy society, the people of an entire tribe followed the surname of the female tribal leader. This surname came to be known as "Xing 姓
" and was essentially the surname of a matriarchy tribe. The presence of "Xing 姓" allowed the easier recognition of which tribe you belonged to. It also fostered inter-marriage within the same tribe. Ancient chinese surname such as "Ji 姬"、"Jiang 姜"、"Ying 赢"、"Gui 妫"、:"Si 姒" were all derived from matriarchy society in the form of "Xing 姓
2. As chinese society developed towards a more complex patriarchy (male dominated) society by neolithic period (Yellow Emperor's time), the male came to dominate the society and began to head an entire tribe. The matriarchy surname form "Xing 姓" was unable to satisfy large population increase during that period of time. In a certain tribe, a powerful male of great importance began to label himself with his own surname in the form of "Shi 氏
" (clan). This resulted in the development of "Shi 氏" (a male dominated clanship) within a tribe. The presence of "Shi 氏" was a symbolic representation of patriachy (male dominated) society. "Shi 氏" was essentially a patriarchy surname (i.e. surname following a male leader). The society organization followed a transition from tribes to clans (a tribal confederation), where people began to follow the surname (i.e. Shi 氏 ) of the male leader within a certain clan.
During Xia/Shang dynasty, females usually had "Xing 姓" (female surname) and males had "Shi 氏". But the slaves did not have any rights to have surname at all. But by the Zhou dynasty, almost every person in China began to have their own surnames. The definition for "Xing 姓" and "Shi 氏" came to be rather blurred and gradually merged together to refer the same thing (i.e. surname).
By Spring/Autumn and Warring States period, "Xing 姓" and "Shi 氏" were merged together as one to form "Xing Shi 姓氏" (surname), in which both terms refer to the same thing, and where there is no difference between the two. Before that, Xing 姓 was used to trace the origin from a female and Shi 氏 was used to trace the origin from a male.
From Han dynasty onwards, the surname "Xing Shi 姓氏" permeated through the entire chinese society from peasants to emperors.
3. For "Zu 族
", it can means alot of thing. It can refer to a large family clan and to a broader aspect an entire ethnicity. It is a generic term to designate 'great social organisation" such as ethnicity or even race.
"Shi 氏" (clan) can be combined with "Zu 族" to form "Shi Zu 氏族", which literally means "a large family clan". In ancient times, "Shi Zu 氏族" usually refers to a large family clan sharing the same surname in the form of "Shi 氏".
In today's terminology, "Zu 族" usually refers to a particular ethnicity in China
such as "Han Zu 汉族" (han ethnicity), "Meng Gu Zu 蒙古族" (Mongol ethnicity), "Hui Zu 回族" (Hui ethnicity) etc. It generally refers to a group in China sharing a common language, cultural or ancestry background.
4. For "Jia 家", it generally refers to a family/home. "Jia 家" (family) can even be combined with "Zu 族" (clans) to form 'Jia Zu 家族", which generally means "large family clan".
-- If members of the same clan share the same surname, then what is the difference? And why wouldn’t they live in the same village in the north?
You normally cannot tell the difference, unless you go for a DNA and genealogy test.
As clans (people sharing the same "Shi 氏" surname) grow larger in terms of population, due to various migration, war and other historical happenings, the internal family groups within a clan began to be separated from one another, and migrated to different parts of China. This resulted in many chinese families having the same clan surname, but they do not necessarily recognise each other's family as their own families today. Historically speaking, they can be traced to the same origin. But because of inter-marriage between different clans, it is also hard to tell which clan you exactly originate from.