Hundred Family Surnames
The Hundred Family Surnames (Chinese: 百家姓; pinyin: Bǎijiāxìng) is a classic Chinese text composed of common Chinese surnames. The book was composed in the early Song Dynasty. It originally contained 411 surnames, but was later expanded to 504. Of these, 444 are single-character surnames, and 60 are double-character surnames. About 800 names have been derived from the original ones.
In the dynasties following the Song, the Three Character Classic, the Hundred Family Surnames, and Thousand Character Classic came to be known as San Bai Qian (Three, Hundred, Thousand), from the first character in their titles. They were the almost universal introductory literary texts for students, almost exclusively boys, from elite backgrounds and even for a number of ordinary villagers. Each was available in many versions, printed cheaply, and available to all since they did not become superseded. When a student had memorized all three, he had a knowledge of roughly 2,000 characters. Since Chinese did not use an alphabet, this was an effective, though time consuming, way of giving a "crash course" in character recognition before going on to understanding texts and writing characters. 
The work is a rhyming poem in lines of eight characters. The surnames are not listed in order of commonality. The first four surnames listed are believed to represent the most important families in the empire at the time:
- 1st: Zhao (趙) is the surname of the Song Dynasty emperors.
- 2nd: Qian (錢) is the surname of the kings of Wuyue.
- 3rd: Sun (孫) is the surname of the queen of Wuyue.
- 4th: Li (李) is the surname of the kings of Southern Tang.
This text is written in Traditional Chinese.
|Chinese Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- K. S. Tom.  (1989). Echoes from Old China: Life, Legends and Lore of the Middle Kingdom. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-1285-9.
- Chen, Janey.  (1992). A Practical English-Chinese Pronouncing Dictionary. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 0-8048-1877-0
- Rawski (1979), pp. 46-48.
- The last line was not intended to contain surnames but was appended to signify "thus ends the Hundred Family Surnames." There are people with surnames using the characters in this line.