30    Sep 20093 comments

Confucius: Only 2 million descendants

ConfuciusHappy 2560th birthday to famed Chinese philosopher Confucius, and his more than 2 million descendants. About 1,000 people attended the presentation this week of the latest revision of the family tree in his ancestral town of Qufu.

The family tree covers 43,000 pages in 80 volumes and, for the first time, women, minorities and foreigners have been included. The family genealogy has been maintained for some 2,000 years.

The Confucius Genealogy Compilation Committee headed by Kong Deyong (who also heads the International Confucius Association), is supposed to revise the family tree every 60 years but political events precluded the last scheduled revision. The previously published edition was in 1937, when there were only some 600,000 descendants.

The association believes that this genealogy is a unique branch of Chinese traditional culture and that it has great value in research on anthropology, demographics, clan and genealogical studies.

Some 500 worldwide branches assisted the Hong Kong-based committe to gather information.

Also for the first time, descendants who converted to Islam are also included. They live in communities in the eastern Qinghai Province and converted in the Yuan Dynasty. During the project, branches in Shanxi and Henan provinces lost for more than 1,000 years were rediscovered.

On September 29, a 77th-generation descendant presented the family tree to the National Library of China, Taipei's National Central Library and Qufu municipal government. Qufu is the ancestral town of Confucius.

More than 40,000 overseas descendants were added; 34,000 of them from the Republic of Korea, who descend from a 54th-generation descendant who went there during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). Some 900 descendants were discovered in Taiwan, and there are also descendants in the US, UK and other countries.

This fifth revision project took 10 years to complete and cost the descendants about $1.5 million. Each new member paid an official registration fee of about 70 US cents, and their deceased members were added free. For the first time ever, the revision was funded by private donations.

The update, available in digital format, includes the name of the spouse, educational background and posts held by descendants. For female descendants, the names of their spouses will be written in smaller characters.

The inclusion of female descendants represents, says the committee, social progress and women's rights, and affected more than 200,000 Chinese women living today.

According to Confucius, individuals are a link in the chain of existence from the past to the future, and he believed that everyone should have descendants to continue the family tree. Not having children is considered inexcusable and male children were important to continue the family name.

Although this project greatly increased the numbers of descendants, others were still left out as they did not know the names of their grandfathers or present evidence to support their own family trees.

Many genealogists today will ask why DNA and genetic genealogy hasn't been used for those people. However, although the committee did accept women and minorities, it did not accept DNA evidence.

Blaine Bettinger's The Genetic Genealogist blog, included a quote from Seed Magazine's "Inheriting Confucius," indicating "Given the potential implications of genetic knowledge for long-presumed members of the family, they think it is better not to know."

However, the Beijing Institute of Genomics has a Confucius DNA Project, and descendants can submit a sample for analysis for $125.

More Resources:

Newspaper articles about the project:






Learn more about Confucianism here.

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