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    Link Between ‘Zhaodi’ Names and Clan Culture in China: New Study

    In some parts of China, parents seeking a son name their daughters Zhaodi, a name that translates as “brother requested.”
    Mar 11, 2024#gender#tradition

    Chinese female names including Zhaodi — which literally translates as “brother requested” and reflects parents’ preferences for sons — are more common in areas with strong clan cultures, a new study released in March has found.

    Utilizing public government databases, researcher Ren Xiaopeng and his team from the Institute of Psychology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that among individuals with the 10 most common surnames in China, such as Wang, Li, and Chen — accounting for 41.5% of the population — over 32,000 women are named Zhaodi. According to the survey, there are 47.4 women named Zhaodi per million in China.

    The study reveals significant differences across provinces in the use of the Zhaodi name for women.

    Among the 18 provincial-level regions analyzed, the southwestern Sichuan province and metropolis of Chongqing had lower incidences, whereas provinces like Jiangxi and Fujian in eastern China, and Guangdong in the south, known for stronger clan cultures, showed a higher preference for Zhaodi.

    Jiangxi had the highest rate, with a ratio of 537 women named Zhaodi per million, which is 268.5 times greater than Chongqing, the region with the lowest rate at two per million.

    “Clan culture plays an important role in Chinese culture. It emphasizes paternal family characteristics and preserves the binding force of clan culture through a series of social norms and institutional arrangements,” the research paper states.

    While such names are now rare in modern Chinese society, some individuals named Zhaodi or with names bearing similar connotations have begun changing their names as a form of self-redefinition, particularly after the introduction of a new civil code in 2021.

    Besides Zhaodi, other common names that contain similar meanings include Laidi (which literally translates as “brother coming”), Pandi (“brother anticipated”), and Mengdi (“brother dreamed”).

    The study measured the impact of clan culture on each province by examining the presence of family trees and local ancestral temples, and took into account other factors such as the size of the provincial economy, local education levels, and the proportion of paddy rice cultivation.

    Speaking with Sixth Tone, Ren explained that the social norms associated with clan cultures may influence parents’ gender preferences. “From the perspective of clans, some customs can only be performed by boys,” said Ren. “The stronger this culture is, the more likely their parents will want to have male children.”

    The researchers also observed that parents’ preference for male children is especially pronounced in areas with strong clan traditions, where only men are believed to be capable of continuing the family lineage, participating in specific rituals, and being listed in family trees.

    According to the study, names serve as a social identifier and can influence an individual’s psychology and behavior. While the meanings behind most Chinese names may need interpretation, the intent behind names like Zhaodi is more “obvious,” said Ren.

    “It’s possible that (women named Zhaodi) have continually heard their families express their desire for a son from when they were young right through to adulthood. Having this idea continually reinforced might make such young women feel uncomfortable,” said Ren, underscoring the lack of research on the psychological impact of such names.

    Editor: Apurva.

    (Header image: From VCG and re-edited by Sixth Tone)