Confucius: Ancient family tree

Confucius: Ancient family tree
Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

People have been documenting their ancestors and descendants throughout history. They enjoying learning more about where they come from.

Have you ever wondered about the oldest family tree? It belongs to Confucius – the famous Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher – who lived 551–479 BC.

A descendant of Emperor Tang (1675–1646 BC), his family tree contains millions of descents and today is in the 83rd generation.

In 1998, an international team began tracing and reviewing more than 450 global branches. A new edition of the Confucius genealogy book was printed in September 2009 by the Confucius Genealogy Compilation Committee, in honor of the 2560th anniversary of his birth. This latest edition is expected to include some 1.3 million living members around the world today.

The family tree covers 43,000 pages in 80 volumes and, for the first time, women, minorities and foreigners were included. The family genealogy has been maintained for some 2,000 years.

The committee is headed by Kong Deyong (who also heads the International Confucius Association) and is supposed to revise the family tree every 60 years, but political events precluded the last scheduled revision. The previously published edition was in 1937, when there were only about 600,000 descendants.

The association believes that this genealogy is a unique branch of Chinese traditional culture and that it has great value in research on anthropology, demographics, clan and genealogical studies.

Some 500 worldwide branches assisted the Hong Kong-based committe to gather information.

For the first time, descendants who converted to Islam were included in 2009. They live in communities in the eastern Qinghai Province and converted in the Yuan Dynasty. The project also rediscovered family branches in Shanxi and Henan provinces that had been lost for more than 1,000 years.

The numbers are impressive, even for experienced genealogists who have compiled family trees of considerable size and many generations.

Confucius’ ancestors migrated from the Song state to the Lu state, and he is believed to be a descendant of the Shang emperors or priests through the dukes of Song.

He has 2 million known, registered descendants, with some estimated 3 million in all. Tens of thousands live outside of China. In the 14th century, a Kong descendant went to Korea, where some 34,000 descendants of Confucius live today. One main lineage fled from Qufo, the Kong ancestral home, during the 1940s Chinese Civil War and settled in Taiwan.

Many articles about Confucius and his philosophy are on SuperSearch, which offers the world’s largest online newspaper collection, (over 120 million newspaper pages) dating to the 18th century.

Credit: SuperSearch, Newspaper Archive, Corpus Christi Times, 1938, Texsas, USA (click to zoom).

Credit: SuperSearch, Newspaper Archive, Corpus Christi Times, 1938, Texas, USA (click to zoom).

Confucianism is based on old Chinese beliefs about the key role played by ancestors, strong family loyalty and general respect. One principle is that men who have led a dignified life (i.e., established and maintained a large, prosperous family) form a group after death and their spirit presides over their dynasties of later generations.

In 2009, the MyHeritage Genealogy Blog wrote about the presentation of the new family tree, and the post includes even more links for more information.

What do you think about the Confucius story? Share your thoughts below.


The email address is kept private and will not be shown

  • Donna Lee Morley

    September 2, 2012

    All I can say is WOW! That’s an awful lot of work. And a very good job.

  • Jason Guan

    May 30, 2013

    MyHeritage is a wonderful tool, but can we have a Chinese Version of this tool? Since there are lot of Chinese peoples wants to use this tool to gather their family tree information!

    • Emma

      June 2, 2013

      Hi Jason,

      Our Family Tree Builder version 7.0 now supports Chinese for the first time, along with 39 other languages. For more information and to download click here:

  • Jeannette Marie Wood

    October 14, 2014

    We have a family tree, it goes back to Scotland. It’s very large and a lot of work and hours put into it.