An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Baijiaxing 百家姓

Jan 3, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Baijiaxing 百家姓 "The hundred family names" is a character text book for elementary learning (mengxue 蒙學). The common version of the Baijiaxing has 472 characters of Chinese family names arranged in four-character groups in rhymed verses. There are not only one-syllable family names, but also binomes, like Sima 司馬, Ouyang 歐陽, Puyang 濮陽 or Shentu 申屠.

The author of the Baijiaxing is not known, but the book might have been written during the early Song period 宋 (960-1279). The reason for this reckoning is that the family name of the Song dynasty, Zhao 趙, is the first character of the small book. The author might either have had the family name of Qian 錢, which is the second character, or have originated in the city of Qiantang 錢塘, Zhejiang. Qian also was the family name of the rulers of the Wu-Yue state 吳越 (907-978) during the Five Dynasties period 五代 (907-960). It might be that the compiler of the Baijiaxing wanted to express his loyalty to the last ruler of this dynasty, Prince Chu 俶, by making his family name the second character of the text. The following characters, Sun 孫 (which was the family name of Qian Shu's empress), Li 李 (which was the family name of the rulers of the Southern Tang dynasty), Zhou 周, Wu 吳, Zheng 鄭 and Wang 王, are all the family names of the wives of the rulers of the Wu-Yue dynasty.

The Baijiaxing was very widespread, and there were many supplements and studies on it, or texts imitating this glossary, like the (Huang-Ming) Qianjiaxing (皇明)千家姓 by Wu Shen 吳沉 (d. 1396) and Liu Zhongzhi 劉仲質 (fl. 1382). The first family name in this book is Zhu 朱, that of the Ming dynasty 明 (1368-1644) rulers; the book includes 1,968 family names, and some verses of praise for the dynasty at the end, yet it is lost except the memorial with which Wu Shen submitted the test to the throne in 1381, which is included in the anthology Mingwenheng 明文衡.

Another baijia-style text is Huang Zhouxing's 黄周星 (1611-1680) Baijiaxing xinjian 百家姓新箋 (also called Chongbian Baijiaxing 重編百家姓, included in the series Xiaweitang bieji 夏為堂別集). There is furthermore the state-sponsored Yuzhi Baijiaxing 御制百家姓 "Hundred Family Names Compiled by the Emperor", written by the Kangxi Emperor 康熙 (r. 1662-1722) personally, and also translated into the Manchu language. The latter changed the sequence of the family names, putting Kong 孔, the family name of Confucius, at the front, and Meng 孟, that of the philosopher Mengzi 孟子, at the first place of the second verse. Yet this version was not very widespread.

During the 19th century, a "second" and "third" version (Baijiaxing erbian 百家姓二編 and Baijiaxing sanbian 百家姓三編) of the original text were written, each with the reign title of the Xianfeng reign 咸豐 (1851-1861) as the first characters. Ding Yan 丁晏 (1794-1875) authored the glossary Xinbian baijia xing 新編百家姓.

Cui Mian 崔冕 (mid-17th cent., author of the collection Suyinji 素吟集) wrote a book called Qianjiaxing wen 千家姓文 "The thousand family names text", which does not only list the names, as in the original Baijiaxing, but also gives explanations to the history of names. It includes 1,006 family names and is a text of a high literary quality. It is explained in the descriptive bibliography Siku quanshu zongmu tiyao 四庫全書總目.

The Baijiaxing belongs to the "canon" of elementary education, the San-Bai-Qian 三百千, a trinity of texts which also includes the Sanzijing 三字經 and Qianziwen 千字文 (or Qianjiashi 千家詩, alternatively).

Quotation 1. Verses from the Baijiaxing 百家姓
Zhao, Qian, Sun, Li,
Zhou, Wu, Zheng, Wang.
Feng, Chen, Chu, Wei,
Jiang, Shen, Han, Yang.
Zhu, Qin, You, Xu,
He, Lü, Shi, Zhang.
Kong, Cao, Yan, Hua,
Jin, Wei, Tao, Jiang. [...]
Gongsun, Zhongsun,
Xuanyuan, Linghu,
Zhongli, Yuwen,
Zhangsun, Murong. [...]
Diwu, Yan, Fu,
End of the "Hundred Family Names".
Jiaoyu da cidian bianzuan weiyuanhui 《教育大辭典》編纂委員會, ed. (1991). Jiaoyu da cidian 教育大辭典, Part 8, Zhongguo gudai jiaoyu shi 中國古代教育史 (Shanghai: Shanghai jiaoyu chubanshe), Vol. 2, 210.
Li Ming 黎明 (1993). "Baijiaxing 百家姓", in Zhongguo xiaoxue jiaoxue baike quanshu 中國小學教學百科全書, Vol. Yuwen 語文 (Shenyang: Shenyang chubanshe), 89.
Wang Wenbao 王文寶 (1997). "Baijiaxing 百家姓", in Men Kui 門巋, Zhang Yanjin 張燕瑾, ed, Zhonghua guocui da cidian 中華國粹大辭典 (Xianggang: Guoji wenhua chuban gongsi), 282.
Wang Xingye 王興業 (1995). "Baijiaxing 百家姓", in Lu Leshan 盧樂山, ed. Zhongguo nüxing baike quanshu 中國女性百科全書, Vol. Wenhua jiaoyu 文化教育卷 (Shenyang: Dongbei daxue chubanshe), 157.
Wang Yuguang 王余光, Xu Yan 徐雁, ed. (1999). Zhongguo dushu da cidian 中國讀書大辭典 (Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe), 1181.
Xu Yu 許鈺, ed. (1992). Zhonghua fengsu xiao baike 中華風俗小百科 (Tianjin: Tianjin renmin chubanshe), 365.
Zhou Fazeng 周發增, Chen Longtao 陳隆濤, Qi Jixiang 齊吉祥, ed. (1998). Zhongguo gudai zhengzhi zhidu shi cidian 中國古代政治制度史辭典 (Beijing: Shoudu shifan daxue chubanshe), 434.