Monday, May 21, 2012

Chinese Surname Mapping Reveals Diversity, Homogeneity

Science Magazine has an interesting blog post about Chinese physical anthropologists who mapped out the "isonymy structure" of China, showing how likely Chinese are to share family names with those around them.  The results show how both human and physical geography have impacted the diversity and homogeneity of mainland China.

Green areas have a diversity of family names, red areas have only a limited amount of family names. Image from Science Magazine.
The Yangtze River area has some of the lowest isonymity revealing that its river basin has attracted a diverse population throughout the centuries.  Interestingly, though, in northern China the Yellow River is surprisingly homogenous, sometimes even to the extreme, with family names.  Southeastern China has a lack of diversity in family names.  The Chinese researchers state this is most likely explained by the presence of non-Han ethnic groups which have a limited pool of last names and do not marry outsiders and thus do not expand their name pool.

In a background note, the study itself shows the position of sciences in the People's Republic of China.  Geography is highly invested with engineering in China.  Geography in the People's Republic of China is more along the lines of GIS and applied physical geography rather than sedevacantist in the United States and Marxist-Human in academia and Global Studies in lower grades in the United Kingdom.  Instead, simple human geography studies like this are being done by anthropologist in China.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

isonymity isn't a word

Catholicgauze said...

Anonymous,
The English language is a living language with no controlling board. New words are invented and accepted (or rejected) by others all the time. I am trying a new one to see if it does the job well. I feel it does. We will see if others do as well.