China issued its first set of stamps of the top 100 Chinese family names Thursday in Beijing.
This set of special stamps features a red Chinese knot, which symbolizes unity and luck, in the center and a totem design of the surname. On each of the 128 stamps is printed a different family name.
Based on the outcome of the 1982 government survey, the stamps include the 100 most frequently-used surnames in China. The remaining 28 stamps have the surnames of Chinese people's ancestors, for example, the Yan and Huang Emperors, said Zhang Wenbin, standing vice-president of the Chinese Culture Researching Institute, the sponsor of the event. Together they account for nearly 90 percent of the population.
"The people surnamed 'Li,' or 'plum' has the largest population in China, about eight percent," he acknowledged.
Wang Dayou, designer of the surname totem, said that most of the designs on the stamps are made up of two characters. One is the hieroglyph which was said to be used by Yu the Great, regarded as the first ruler of the Xia Dynasty (about 2100 BC-1600 BC), the other is the character which was used in the Chu State in the Warring States period (475 BC221 BC).
"But each part of the design can be found in historical records or the unearthed cultural relics," noted Wang, who has studied the history of Chinese surnames and totem culture for approximately 30years.
He said surname in China evolves from the totems of tribes in primitive society, such as an animal, a plant, or a natural object. These serve as the emblem of a clan or family and sometimes are revered as its founder, ancestor or guardian. More than 10,000 surnames were once used in the history but now only 3,000 are in common use.