Baixing (Chinese: 百姓; pinyin: bǎixìng; literally: "hundred surnames" or lao baixing (Chinese: 老百姓; literally: "old hundred surnames") is a term in Chinese meaning "the people", or "commoners". The word lao (Chinese: 老; literally: "old") is often added before "baixing" to give the term a more affectionate tone.
Chinese family names are patrilineal, passed from father to children. Chinese women, after marriage, typically retain their birth surname. Historically, however, only Chinese men possessed xìng (Chinese: 姓; literally: "family name"), in addition to shì (Chinese: 氏; literally: "clan"); the women had only the latter, and took on their husband's xìng after marriage.
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Thousands of years ago,[clarify] along the plain of the Yellow River, there lived several large tribes, including the Huangdi tribes (Chinese: 黄帝族), Yandi tribes (Chinese: 炎帝族), Yi tribes (Chinese: 夷族), and the Jiuli tribes (Chinese: 九黎族). After many years of tribal wars[clarify], the Huangdi tribes, Yandi tribes and the Yi tribes formed an alliance which consisted of roughly 100 tribes, hence the origin of the Baixing Chinese: 百姓, or the "hundred surnames". The three-tribe-alliance won the war over the Jiuli tribe, and the war captives became slaves of the alliance, hence the origin of the term Limin (Chinese: 黎民), who were formerly of the Jiuli tribe.
During the Western Zhou, Baixing came to mean "slaveowners" and Limin their slaves. Over thousands of years[clarify], the terms Baixing and Limin came to refer to the same thing, the common people.
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