85 percent of Han in China have two-syllable given names: report

Just how common are monosyllabic given names in China? I’ve seen lots of wild guesses, which generally range from about one-quarter to one-half (?!) of the population. Zhang et al., however, give the following figures:

91.06% Chinese have three-character names and only 8.34% have two-character names. People with four characters or more only constitute 0.6% of the population.

This was based on a database of 1,644,911 names in China.

According to a larger survey last year in the PRC, however, 14.22 percent of Han people in China have given names that are monosyllabic … and thus are written with a single Chinese character. On the other hand, 85.61 percent of Han people in China have full names written with exactly three Chinese characters, according to the report released by the National Citizen Identity Information Center, an organization with ties to China’s Ministry of Public Security. (It thus seems likely they have access to especially good data.)

Since the source material is unclear on what is meant by names written with three Chinese characters, it’s possible that some people in the second group have disyllabic family names and monosyllabic given names; but that number is likely to be close to statistically insignificant, given the relative paucity of monosyllabic given names and the outright rarity of disyllabic family names. (Only 0.02 percent of those in Zhang et al.‘s name list had disyllabic family names.)

The sum of 14.22 and 85.61 is 99.83, which leaves 0.17 percent of those in China classified as Han having names that are at least four syllables long and so take at least four Chinese characters to write.

According to a report published last December but which I’m just now getting around to writing about, nearly one thousand names in China are written with at least ten Chinese characters. The news story, alas, does not give any of these names; but it does provide a breakdown of the numbers:

10 characters: 594 names
11 characters: 272 names
12 characters: 94 names
13 characters: 33 names
14 characters: 5 names
15 characters: 1 name

A total of 97 percent of those 999 people live in the predominantly non-Han Chinese region of Xinjiang, which likely indicates that they have non-Han names that are being forced into forms that fit procrustean Mandarinized syllables.

A report from Nanjing states that 309 of the city’s 6 million people have names that take more than four Chinese characters to write.

PRC authorities have proposed limiting given names to two syllables and family names to four syllables (for rare cases in which a child receives a disyllabic family name from both parents).

As for Taiwan, monosyllabic given names are much rarer here than in China. My guess would be about 2 percent. This could probably be worked out from Chih-Hao Tsai’s list of Chinese names; but right now I don’t have the time.

On the other hand, China’s public is being urged to embrace new disyllabic family names, largely because the relative paucity of surnames ensures many, many people in China share common names.

Recent demographic surveys indicate there are about 1,600 surnames, with only 100 or so being frequently used, among Chinese nationals, which means many people share a name. For example, nearly 300,000 people, male and female, use the same common name of Zhang Wei, the statistics show.

The top 1,600 U.S. surnames don’t even cover half of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, whose list of surnames found in the United States contains more than 88,000 entries.

sources:

Further reading:

major paper on Crazy English released

The new work I promised on Li Yang and his Crazy English method has finally been published and is available for free on the Web: A Survey of Li Yang Crazy English (2.6 MB PDF), by Amber R. Woodward.

For a little more on this, see Victor Mair’s recent post on Language Log: Crazy English again.

This paper, which is some 70 pages long, includes photos and even videos.

Here’s the table of contents:

  • Preface
  • Abstract
  • Li Yang: The Man
    • Li Yang’s Background
    • The Establishment of Li Yang Crazy English
  • Crazy English: The Method
    • Precursors to Crazy English
    • Crazy English Pedagogical Method
    • Crazy English Psychological Method
    • The Potential for Success of the Crazy English Method
  • Li Yang Crazy English Politics: The Madness
    • Li Yang’s Personal Ideology
    • Zhang Yuan’s 1999 Documentary, Crazy English
    • Crazy English Publicity
    • Government Response to Li Yang
    • Connection between the Method and the Madness
  • Appendix
    • Survey on Li Yang and Crazy English
    • Transcript of Time Asia Interview
    • Transcript of Li’s Responses to Criticism
    • Pictures of Li Yang Crazy English
  • Bibliography

This is issue no. 180 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

Further reading:

The ancient Yue

This week’s rerelease from Sino-Platonic Papers is Tattooed Faces And Stilt Houses: Who Were The Ancient Yue? (1.6 MB PDF), by Heather Peters.

Here’s the introduction:

Recent archeological evidence excavated at Hemudu, a site in northern Zhejiang Province south of Shanghai (Zhejiang Provincial Museum 1978), suggests that were we to step back in time to the 5th millennium B.C. in southern China, we would find people cultivating wet rice, raising water buffalo and living in houses perched high on stilt posts. Culturally, these people differed radically from the millet growing pit dwellers found in the Yellow River Valley region; their discovery has raised new and important questions regarding the development of culture and civilization in southern China.

At long last Chinese archeologists have begun to reinterpret the developments of early civilization in southern China. In so doing they have emphasized the emergence of a southern cultural complex which they call “Yue” (?). The Yue culture, as defined by Chinese archeologists, spans both the Neolithic and early state period.

As more and more archeological data are retrieved from southern China, Chinese archeologists are asking the question, who were the people who created this Yue culture? Were they ethnically different from the people who lived in northern China? What language(s) did they speak? One favorite theory at the moment is that the Yue people were ancestral to the various Tai speaking populations, i.e. the Tai Lue, Tai Neu, Tong, Shui, Bu Yi and the Zhuang, living today primarily in southwestern China.

This was originally published in April 1990 as issue no. 17 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

Intrigues of the Warring States: SPP

The latest rerelease from Sino-Platonic Papers is Miching Mallecho: The Zhanguo ce and Classical Rhetoric (1.7 MB PDF), by Paul Rakita Goldin of the University of Pennsylvania. This covers the Zhanguoce (Zhànguó cè/???/??? / Intrigues of the Warring States), from China’s Warring States period. The phrase “miching mallecho” comes from Hamlet; those interested in knowing more can refer to the first page of Goldin’s work.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Intrigues are a collection of anecdotes about people from the Warring States period and how they acquire the things they want: position, fame, revenge, glory for the state, and so on. Naturally, since advisors often find the best resource to be the king, they focus their attention to persuade the king to action–action sometimes beneficial to the king and his state, but often advantageous to the counselors themselves and their favorites. These are the rhetorical pieces. But in many of the stories, the characters use very different methods, such as conspiracy, espionage, and framing, to achieve their goals. These anecdotes always involve some sort of scheme or machination to bring about a desired end.

The Intrigues, then, are primarily about intrigue. The lively, disjointed pieces fuse together to paint an irreverent picture of Warring States politics. The entire book seems to be a glorification of mendacity and trickery. The cunning advisors live by their wits, rising and falling by their own ingenuity and that of their rivals. By contrast, the kings are continuously hoodwinked by the unscrupulous sophistry of their own ministers. Some, like Lord Mengchang (e.g. 4.35b-36b; 10.579f.; 153) accept the duplicity of their retainers and even encourage it, on a manageable scale, rather than oppose it fruitlessly. But most do not, and are deceived throughout.

The Intrigues form a document from turbulent times, and the jungle law they advocate reflects the circumstances in which they originated. Scholars have been reluctant to concede this point because of the clear anti-Confucian message it entails. But the position of the Intrigues is unmistakable: all is due to him who attains it; the more devious the plot, the more entertaining; virtue and loyalty are eminently unprofitable. They are a paean to miching mallecho.

If we must find a Western analogy for the Intrigues, let us look to the Arabian Nights and the medieval European fabliaux. All three raise trickery to an art form with pure delight. Differences in culture can explain differences in what the schemers scheme for….

This was originally published as issue no. 41 of Sino-Platonic Papers in October 1993.

Goldin’s website has bibliographies on a number of topics of possible interest to readers of this site:

  • Ancient Chinese Civilization: Bibliography of Materials in Western Languages (ca. 7,100 entries)
  • Ancient Chinese Civilization Bibliography: 2006-07 entries only (ca. 375 entries)
  • Bibliography of Materials Pertaining to the Kuo-tien and Shanghai Museum Manuscripts (ca. 1,250 entries)
  • Gender and Sexuality in Pre-Modern China: Bibliography of Materials in Western Languages (ca. 750 entries)
  • Principal Translations of the Thirteen Classics into Western Languages

Dagur (Dawo’er) grammar and sample sentences

This week’s rerelease from Sino-Platonic Papers is Introduction, Grammar, and Sample Sentences for Dagur (1.6 MB PDF), by Üjiyediin Chuluu (Chaolu Wu).

Dagur, which is related to Mongolian, is spoken by the Dagur (a.k.a. Dawo’er, Dáwò’?rzú, ????, ????), who live mainly in China in Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang.

The Dagur language belongs to the Mongolic branch of Altaic languages. Dagur is usually divided into Butkha, Tsitsikar, Hailar, and Xinjiang, four dialects….

Since there is a close historical and linguistic relationship between the Dagur and the Mongols, there has been a dispute about whether Dagur is a dialect of Mongolian or an independent language within the Mongolian languages. In the recent studies, Dagur has been mostly regarded as one of the Mongolian languages. Dagur has many similarities in phonetics, grammatical structure, and vocabulary with the other languages of the Mongolian languages, especially, with Mongolian itself.

Most of the vowels in Dagur have similar corresponding vowels in either classical or modern Mongolian. For example….

The sample sentences (268 in total) are given with IPA and English translation.

This issue of Sino-Platonic Papers was first published in November 1994.

Assimilation of Roman letters into the Chinese writing system: 1994 study

The latest rerelease from Sino-Platonic Papers is The Sino-Alphabet: The Assimilation of Roman Letters into the Chinese Writing System (2.3 MB PDF), by Mark Hansell. This was first published in May 1994. Since then, of course, Roman letters have come to be used even more widely in texts written otherwise in Chinese characters.

Here is the introduction:

One of the most striking changes in written Chinese in recent years is the increasingly common use of the Roman alphabet in both loanwords and native coinages. To modern urbanites, vocabulary such as MTV, PVC, kǎlā OK, and B xíng gānyán are not exotica, but are the stuff of everyday life. The explosion of alphabetically-written lexical items is made possible by the systematic assimilation of the Roman alphabet into the standard repertoire of Chinese reader/writers, to create what I have called the “Sino-alphabet”. This paper explores both the formal structure and the function of the Sino-alphabet. Structurally, the Sino-alphabet represents the adaptation of the English alphabet to the Chinese system in terms of 1) discreteness and 2) directionality. Chinese characters (henceforth “Sinograms”) are “discrete” in that each graph represents an independent chunk of phonological material, influenced very little by its neighbors. Roman letters, in contrast, are non-discrete because only in combination with other letters can they form meaningful units of speech. The use of Roman letters as fully discrete entities sets the Sino-alphabet apart from the Roman alphabet as used in other languages, and makes possible its assimilation into the Chinese writing system. In terms of directionality, the Sino-alphabet exhibits the full range of options that are present in Chinese: left-to-right, top-to-bottom, and right-to-left; while the traditional Roman alphabet as used in the West never allows the right-to-left direction.

The main function of the Sino-alphabet has been the adaptation of graphic loans from English. Graphic borrowing has a long tradition in Chinese; for example, graphic loans from Japanese have contributed a great deal to the modern Chinese lexicon (e.g. 科學, 經濟, 幹部 and hundreds of others). The emergence of English as the main source of loan vocabulary, as well as schooling that has exposed the mass of the population to the Roman alphabet, laid the groundwork for graphic borrowing of English vocabulary .Increasing graphic borrowing solidified the position of the Sino-alphabet, which in turn made possible more borrowing. Now firmly established, the Sino-alphabet is available for other functions such as transliteration of foreign or dialectal sounds.

The adaptation of Roman letters into the Chinese system would seem to highlight the difference between alphabetic and morpho-syllabic types of writing systems. Yet it also shows that Roman letters are not inherently alphabetic, and can quite easily change type when borrowed. Throughout the history of writing, the creativity and flexibility of writers and readers have overcome radical structural differences between writing systems and between languages. The development of the Sino-alphabet is proof that the peculiar structure of the Chinese writing system presents no impediment to the internationalization of the Chinese language.

This is issue no. 45 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

Reviews of books about China, languages, Buddhism, etc.

Sino-Platonic Papers has rereleased the fourth volume in its series of book reviews: Reviews IV (2.7 MB PDF).

This volume was first published in November 1992.

Here are the books reviewed in this volume:

  • YU Taishan. Saizhong shi yanjiu (A Study of Saka History)
  • QI Rushan. Beijing tuhua [Peking Colloquialisms].
  • Parkin, Robert. A Guide to Austroasiatic Speakers and Their Languages.
  • Rosemont, Henry, Jr., ed. Chinese Texts and Philosophical Contexts: Essays Dedicated to Angus C. Graham.
  • Faure, Bernard. Le Bouddhisme Ch’an en mal d’histoire: genèse d’une tradition religieuse dans la Chine des Tang.
  • Bernard Goldman. The Ancient Arts of Western and Central Asia: A Guide to the Literature.
  • Steven F. Sage. Ancient Sichuan and the Unification of China.
  • Joan Grant. Worm-eaten Hinges: Tensions and Turmoil in Shanghai, 1988-9.
  • Michel Soymie, et al., ed. Catalogue des manuscrits chinois de Touen-houang: Fonds Pelliot chinois de la Bibliothèque Nationale.
  • XIANG Chu, ed. and annot. Wang Fanzhi shi jiao zhu [The Poems of Brahmacârin Wang, Collated and Annotated].
  • François Jullien. La propension des choses: Pour une histoire de l’efficacité en Chine.
  • MORIYASU Takao. Uiguru=Manikyô Shi no Kenkyû (A Study on the History of Uighur Manichaeism. — Research on Some Manichaean Materials and Their Historical Background).
  • ZHOU Yiliang. Zhong-Ri wenhua guanxi shi lun [Essays on Sino-Japanese Cultural Relations].
  • Denis Sinor, ed. The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia.
  • WU Jiacang and JIANG Yuxiang, ed. Gudai xinan sichou zhi tu yanjiu [Studies on the Ancient Southwest Silk Roads].
  • Derk Bodde. Chinese Thought, Society, and Science: The Intellectual and Social Background of Science and Technology in Pre-modern China.
  • YOSHIKAWA Kojiro. Five Hundred Years of Chinese Poetry, 1150-1650: The Chin, Yuan, and Ming Dynasties. Translated with a Preface by John Timothy Wixted. Including an Afterword by William S. Atwell.
  • Mabel Lee and ZHANG Wu-ai. Putonghua: A Practical Course in Spoken Chinese.
  • A. D. Syrokomla-Stefanowska and Mabel Lee. Basic Chinese Grammar and Sentence Patterns.
  • LIU Wei-ping, Mabel Lee, A. J. Prince, Lily Shaw Lee, and R. S. W. Hsu, comp. Readings in Modern Chinese.

This issue also includes a note to the editor from Edwin G. Pulleyblank.

See also

Three Brief Essays Concering Chinese Tocharistan: SPP

The latest rerelease from Sino-Platonic Papers is Three Brief Essays Concerning Chinese Tocharistan (1.7 MB PDF), by Victor H. Mair.

Here are the beginnings of each of the three essays.

The Significance of Dunhuang and Turfan Studies:

There are well over a thousand scholars around the world who are working on some aspect of Dunhuang and Turfan studies. Do these two remote places in Chinese Central Asia merit such intense interest on the part of so many? In the first instance, this paper attemps to show that Dunhuang and Turfan studies, though focussing on texts and artifacts associated with these two particular sties, actually have broad ramifications for the history of East-West cultural and commercial relations in general. Another major factor is the unique quality of many materials discovered at Dunhuang and Turfan. Archaeological finds from these locations have enabled us, for the first time, to obtain an essentially first-hand look at China and some of its neighbors during the medieval period. That is to say, we can now learn, for example, about popular culture during Tang times without being forced to view it through a Confucian historiographical filter. In other words, the availability of primary materials for correcting the biases of traditional historians and materials which document the existence of phenomena (languages, religions, popular literary genres, social customs, etc.) that were completely overlooked — or even suppressed — by them. As examples of the vivid immediacy afforded by such materials, two texts from Dunhuang manuscripts S4400 — a prayer by Cao Yanlu — and S3877 — a contract for the sale of a woman’s son — are edited and translated. The paper concludes by stressing that, because of the complexity and vast scope of Dunhuang and Turfan studies, international cooperation is essential.

Early Iranian Influences on Buddhism in Central Asia:

It is usual to imagine that the transmission of Buddhism from India to China was accomplished largely by Indian missionaries and Chinese pilgrims. Until recently, the role of Iranian-speaking peoples in this great process of intellectual and religious transformation has been little known and seldom recognized. Primarily as a result of archeological discoveries during the last century, however, the vital importance of Central Asian Buddhism has become increasingly clear. It is now possible to point to specific doctrinal, iconographic, and textual instances of Iranian influence upon Buddhism in Central Asia and, consequently, in China and elsewhere in East Asia. Here we shall touch upon only a few examples of the Iranian contributions to Buddhism. The items listed in the bibliography should enable the reader to locate many more without much difficulty.

The deep involvement with Buddhism of individuals from the very heartland of Iranian civilization is evidenced by the fact that the fist known translator of Buddhist texts into Chinese was a Parthian of royal descent….

The History of Chinese Turkistan in the Pre-Islamic Period:

The first thing which needs to be pointed out about Chinese Turkistan (also spelled Turkestan) is that, for the period in question, the habitual designation is a complete misnomer. As will become obvious in the course of this article, the place was neither politically Chinese nor ethnically Turkish until after the establishment of Islam in the region. It is probably safest to refer to the area by more neutral geographic names such as the Tarim Basin and the Dzungar (also spelled Zungar and Jung[g]ar) Basin which, together with their associated mountain ranges, constitute the two main divisions of the area, or Central Asia in contrast to Middle Asia (Russian / Soviet Turkistan).

No matter how we refer to it, there is no doubt that this remote, largely desert part of the world is of extreme importance because it lies at the crossroads of Eurasia. From the dawn of civilization, trade and cultural exchange have been carried out by peoples living in and around this “heart of Asia….”

The was first published in March 1990 as issue no. 16 of Sino-Platonic Papers.