BEIJING, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- Only 4,100 different Chinese surnames have been found to exist out of a sample of 300 million Chinese people, according to a survey by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
It means more than 80 percent of Chinese surnames have become extinct since 6,000 years ago when more than 24,000 surnames were in common use.
Over the last two years, Yuan Yida, director of the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology under the CAS collated 300 million surnames from around China using the most recent census.
"Many surnames of people from ethnic minorities have been lost over time since many people have adopted surnames of Han Chinese origin," Yuan told Xinhua.
"In addition, some two-character surnames have gradually reduced to one character. For example, Wangzi and Wangsun have both been shortened to Wang," he said.
"In some areas, it is tradition that only male offspring can inherit the family surname. So, some rare surnames died when no son is born," he continued.
However, despite the decline, new surnames are also emerging.
The survey shows that some parents have given their child a completely new surname by combining their own surnames together. This practice is particularly evident in south China's Guangdong and Fujian provinces. The surname "Liwang" stems from the father's surname of "Li" and the mother's surname of "Wang".
Some parents have plumped for more unique surnames for their children which have no connection with either of their own surnames.
"A family name in Shuzhou, south China's Jiangsu Province, gave their son a newly coined surname of 'Dian' after his parents and grandparents, all wanting the boy to have their own surname, could not reach an agreement," Yuan said.