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Lineage Society on the Southeastern Coast of China: The Impact of Japanese Piracy in ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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Lineage Society on the Southeastern Coast of China:

Introduction

The common descent group in China, known to scholars today as the Chinese lineage (zongzu) and defined as a self-professed group of agnates of unilineal descent, evolved in China largely during the Ming dynasty in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Ideologically, it was by no means a new invention: the principle of patrilineal descent-line ethics, based on the Chinese idea of kinship and the Confucian virtue of filial piety (xiao) that underpin the lineage organization, is one that had been advocated by neo-Confucians of the Southern Song period (1127–1279).1 Symbolically, the common descent group harkened to ancient times through the recreation and revamping of the symbols associated with the great aristocratic families (shizu)—the symbols of genealogies, ancestral temples, and corporate-estate endowment, all carried out in the name of honoring the ancestors and uniting the kinsmen.

What made the difference between the lineage organizations that appeared during the Ming dynasty and those of the pre-Ming period, however, was popularization. During the Tang and Song dynasties, the only acknowledged lineages were those of aristocratic families, whereas