Ancestral home (Chinese)

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In Chinese culture, hometown or ancestral home (Chinese: 籍貫, 祖籍 or 老家; pinyin: jíguàn, zǔjí or lǎojiā) is the place of origin of one's extended family. It may or may not be the place where one is born.

For instance, physicists Tsung-Dao Lee (nobelist, 1957) and Charles Kao (nobelist, 2009) were both born in Shanghai, but their hometowns are considered to be Suzhou and Jinshan, respectively.

Definition[edit]

A subjective concept, a person's ancestral home could be the birthplace of any of his/her patriline ancestors. Su Shi limited it to five generations, i.e. it refers to the home of one's great-great-grandfather. Even more broadly, an ancestral home can refer to the first locality where a surname came to be established or prominent. Commonly, a person usually defines his/her hometown as what his/her father considers to be his ancestral home. In practice, most people would define their ancestral homes as the birthplace of their patriline ancestors from the early 20th century, around the time when government authorities began to collect such information from individuals.

Moreover, a person's ancestral home can be defined in any level of locality, from province and county down to town and village, depending on how much an individual knows about his/her ancestry.

Implications[edit]

The Chinese emphasis on a person's ancestral home is a legacy of its history as an agrarian society, where a family would often be tied to its land for generations. In Chinese culture, the importance of family and regional identity are such that a person's ancestral home or birthplace plays an important social role in personal identity. For instance, at a university, students who hail from the same region will often become members of the regional/hometown society or club for other people with the same background. Discussion of personal or ancestral origins is typical when two people meet for the first time. In recent years, the root-seeking (尋根 xúngēn) movement has led to greater interest in ancestral hometowns, especially among overseas Chinese.

Ancestral home is an item to be filled in many documents in the People's Republic of China, as well as in pre-1997 Hong Kong.

Taiwan[edit]

Passports and national ID cards issued in Taiwan by the Republic of China government formerly carried an entry for "home citizenship" (本籍). Citizens would usually have their ancestral home (defined through the patriline) stated on these documents, despite — as in the case of many Mainlanders born in Taiwan to refugee parents — having never set foot in their ancestral home. This practice was abolished by the government in the mid-1990s amid the Taiwan localization movement.

See also[edit]