DNA Help Needed to Revise Confucius' Family Pedigree

June 28, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: June 28, 2006 12:00 am

Earlier this month, the British firm Oxford Ancestors found a precise match between the Y chromosome of 48-year-old Tom Robinson, an American accounting professor whose ancestors first emigrated from England, and Genghis Khan, making him the first male descendant in the West. Shortly after the announcement, many who claimed to be Confucius's descendants but lacked solid evidence wanted DNA testing to prove their claims.

According to the Beijing Morning Post , the Confucius Family Group in Qufu, Shandong province revised the Kong (Confucius' last name) family pedigree in 1930. This revision was done by Mr. Kong Decheng, a 77th generation lineal descendant of Confucius, and was completed in 1937.

The Confucius Family Group requires that the pedigree undergo a minor revision every 30 years and a major revision every 60 years. In May 1996, approved by Kong Decheng, members from his generation began preparation work to revise the Kong's family pedigree. In February 1998, the Association of Continuous Revision on the Confucius Family Pedigree was established in Hong Kong. In June 1998, the association released an open letter to all the Kong's family members announcing this project.

Going by the rank in the family pedigree, Kong Dewei, editor of the Association of Revising Kong's Family Pedigree in Qufu, Shandong province, is also a 77th generation descendant of Confucius. He belongs to the generation of De (De is the first character of the first name of everyone in this generation.) Kong Dewei's older brother, Kong Dehong, is working with him on a new revision.

Historically, there have been four major revisions of Confucius' family pedigree. This is the fifth and largest. According to Kong Dewei, Confucius' descendants are scattered all over the world and they are only responsible for the part of the family pedigree in China. The Association of Continuous Revision on the Confucius Family Pedigree is in charge of collecting information on those descendants outside of China.

The motivation, says Kong Dewei, is to preserve a precious part of the Chinese cultural heritage, since the pedigree records names and people who share the same ancestor and blood.

The biggest problem in revising comes from those who want to be recorded but lack concrete proof. Kong Dewei said, “Not everyone with the last name Kong is Confucius' descendant.”

Experts from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have suggested to Kong Dewei the use of DNA technology to validate claims. However, Kong says that the costs of performing DNA tests are high and that not everyone can afford it.

Confucius was born in 551 B.C. Over 2,500 years later, his descendants are all over the world. According to recent statistics from the Association of Revising Kong's Family Pedigree in Qufu, there are nearly three million descendants of Confucius in China and abroad, with approximately 2.5 to 2.6 million in China. Most overseas descendants reside in South Korea, with 80,000, followed by the U.S., Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan, with around 2,000.