Perspectives on the Yi of Southwest China

By Stevan Harrell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Names and Genealogies
among the Nuosu of Liangshan
Ma Erzi

The Yi of Liangshan, who call themselves Nuosu in their own language, have a complex system of clan, birth-order, and personal names; terms of address; and clan genealogies. Research into names and naming, using Yi and Han language written sources, personal knowledge, and even archaeological data, can open an important window to understanding Yi history. This is a huge subject, one that cannot be treated comprehensively in a short essay. Here I will simply offer a classification of the Nuosu system of clan names, the various methods of choosing personal names, terms of address, and the topic of genealogies.


THE SYSTEM OF FAMILY AND PERSONAL NAMES

The Nuosu system of names is made up of three levels of organization: clan names, birth-order names, and personal names.


Clan Names and Surnames

In Liangshan there are only a few tens of large clans, but the clan names belonging to these large clans are innumerable. Naturally there are a few clans that have an all-clan surname, with no branch surnames below them, such as the Jjike clan. In the long course of history, the Jjike clan has produced a great many branches, and its steps have expanded to cover the whole of Liangshan, but historically and presently it has only the one surname, Jjike. The great majority of clans are not like this, however, and many large clans have produced within them a large number of branches that, because of natural, geographic, and environmental changes, have themselves become clans. The

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