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Chinese Literature
Baijiaxing 百家姓

The Four Categories of Literature
The Baijiaxing 百家姓 "The hundred family names" is a character text book for elementary learning. 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 surnames, but also binomes, like Sima 司馬 or Ouyang 歐陽 and others which have died out in the meantime, like Puyang 濮陽 or Shentu 申屠. The author of the Baijiaxing is not known, but it might have been written during the early Song period 宋 (960-1279), because the family name of the Song dynasty, Zhao 趙, is the first character of the small book. The author might either have had the surname of Qian 錢, which is the second character, or have originated in the city of Qiantang 錢塘, Zhejiang. Qian is also the surname of the rulers of the Wu-Yue state 吳越 (907-978) during the Five Dynasties period 五代 (907-960). The last ruler, Prince Chu 俶, could have been venerated 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 surnames of the wives of the rulers of the Wu-Yue dynasty.
The Baijiaxing was very widespread, and there were many supplements, studies, or similar texts written, like the (Huang-Ming) Qianjiaxing 皇明千家姓 by Wu Shen 吳沉 and Liu Zhongzhi 劉仲質 (the first surname in this book is Zhu 朱, that of the Ming dynasty 明 [1368-1644] rulers; the book included 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), and Huang Zhouxing's 黄周星 Baijiaxing xinjian 百家姓新箋 (also called Chongbian Baijiaxing 重編百家姓, included in the collectaneum Xiaweitang bieji 夏為堂別集), also from the Ming period, and 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 surnames, putting Kong 孔, the surname of Confucius, at the front, and Meng 孟, the surname of 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) 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) has authored the Xinbian baijia xing 新編百家姓.
Cui Mian 崔冕 has written a book called Qianjiaxing wen 千家姓文 "The thousand surnames 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 mentioned and described in the 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, which also includes the texts Sanzijing 三字經 and Qianziwen 千字文 (or Qianjiashi 千家詩, alternatively).

Sources: Jiaoyu da cidian bianzuan weiyuanhui 教育大辭典編纂委員會 (1991), "Baijiaxing 百家姓", in: Jiaoyu da cidian 教育大辭典 (Shanghai: Shanghai jiaoyu chubanshe), Vol. 8, p. 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, Yuwen 語文 (Shenyang: Shenyang chubanshe), p. 89.

January 3, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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