Throughout most of Chinese history, family names have served sociological functions. Because of their association with the aristocratic elite in their early developments, family names were often used as symbols of nobility. Thus nobles would use their surnames to be able to trace their ancestry and compete for seniority in terms of hereditary rank.
As a result of the importance of family names, rules and traditions regarding family and marriage grew increasingly complex.
Although there are thousands of Chinese family names, the 100 most common surnames, which together make up less than 5% of those in existence, are shared by 85% of the population.
The three most common family names in Mainland China are Li, Wang and Zhang, which make up 7.9%, 7.4% and 7.1% respectively. Together they number close to 300 million and are easily the most common family names in the world.
This spiral bound book features an excellent selection of the most common Chinese family names. Each page contains 16 Chinese family names and their pinyin (phonetic transcriptions) pronunciations. Each page also comes with a short bibliography of a famous figure in Chinese history with one family name on that page.