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A sparse sociological literature on surnaming reports predominantly western cases. This article examines surnaming practices in present-day China, where married women universally retain their surname as part of a national political project. The one-child policy disrupts the practice of providing to a child his/her father’s surname. Wives from daughter-only families increasingly provide their surname to their child(ren). Various social forms of mother-surname-to-child practices are discussed, including those involving zhao-xu (uxorilocal marriage) and liang-tou-dun (‘two places to stay’). The article reports a gender strategy of mother-to-child surnaming that paradoxically enforces patriarchal inheritance and obligation. A concept, ‘veiled patriarchy’, is developed and applied to surnaming practices in contemporary China.


School of Arts

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Journal Article

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