What’s in a Surname? Central Asian Participation in the Culture of Naming of Medieval China

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Medieval China, and particularly the Tang dynasty, witnessed unprecedented cultural interactions among Chinese and non-Chinese peoples. One well-researched aspect of these interactions is the changing practice of naming. By reading documents in Central Asian languages, in particular Khotanese, in conjunction with transmitted Chinese records, this article highlights the distinctive Central Asian tradition in the use of Chinese surname. I argue that, unlike the better-studied North Asian tradition, in which surnames were derived from usually multisyllabic tribal names, surnames for Central Asian peoples were largely invented and not traceable in Central Asian languages. In particular, these surnames were usually monosyllabic and hence formally much closer to typical Chinese surnames. The Central Asian participation in the practice of surnaming did not introduce a large number of new surnames, but it did profoundly influence what a surname could mean in medieval China.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-98
Number of pages26
JournalT'ang Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


  • Central Asia
  • Khotan
  • Medieval China
  • Surname
  • cross-cultural identity


Dive into the research topics of 'What’s in a Surname? Central Asian Participation in the Culture of Naming of Medieval China'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this