Chinese clans are based around the surname of the family. In olden times, clan records were fastidiously kept and renewed periodically to include all the new members of the family name. This record is called a Tuk Pu, meaning literally clan record. Clan members could be taken off the clan register if they had commited some crime. The reason for this is that in imperial times, it was possible to commit a criminal's family and and members of the clan who were blood relatives to death. It was an incentive to stay good citizens. Clan registers would be searched and all and so it was in the interest of the clan to keep its house in order.
Each generation would have a name, Su Bui, which is used to distinguish the various members. Traditionally, the Su Bui would have been part of the name, though in modern times, this practice is more lax. Knowing the Su Bui of a person fixes your relation to him or her, if you share the same clan name, no matter which part of China (or now, the world) you came from. Su Bui were agreed multi-laterally amongst all same clan name members. This fixes the relations for all time.
To belong in the clan, you first had to have the surname. Women who married into the clan, took the generation of their husbands, and accorded the respect accordingly. Her own parent's clan would still accord her the status that her brothers recieved.
©Dylan W.H.Sung 1996-1997
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