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See also Clan (computer gaming)

A clan is a group of people united by kinship, which is defined by perceived descent from a common ancestor. Even if actual lineage patterns are unknown, clan members nonetheless recognize a founding member apical ancestor. As kinship based bonds can be merely symbolical in nature some clans merely share a "stipulated" common ancestor, which is a symbol of the clan's unity. When this ancestor is not human, this is referred to as animallian totem. Generally, speaking kinship differs from biological relation, as it also involves adoption, marriage, and fictive genealogical ties. Clans can be most easily described as sub-groups of tribes and usually constitute groups of 7000 to 10 000 people.

Some clans are patrilineal, meaning its members are related through the male line. Others are matrilineal; its members are related through the female line. Still other clans are bilateral, consisting of all the descendants of the apical ancestor through both the male and female lines; the clans of Scotland are one example. Whether a clan is patrilineal, matrilineal, or bilateral depends on the kinship rules and norms of their society.

In different cultures and situations a clan may mean the same thing as other kin-based groups such as tribes and bands. Often, the distinguishing factor is that a clan is a smaller part of a larger society such as a tribe, a chiefdom, or a state. Examples include Scottish, Chinese and Japanese clans, which exist as kin groups within Scottish, Chinese, and Japanese society, respectively. Note, however, that tribes and bands can also be components of larger societies. Arab tribes are small groups within Arab society, and Ojibwa bands are smaller parts of the Ojibwa tribe.

However, the Norse clans, the ätter, can not be translated with tribe or band, and consequently they are often translated with house or line.

Most clans are exogamous, meaning that its members cannot marry one another. Some clans have an official leader such as a chieftain, matriarch, or patriarch.

In common parlance it is quite common to use the word clan in a metaphorical way speaking of mafia groupings or patronage networks within the political sphere. This reflects the assumption that these groups act towards each other in a particularly close and mutually suportive way approximating the solidarity within kin-based groups.


The five main Han Chinese Punti clans in Hong Kong are:

  • Tang clan , arrived in Hong Kong in 1069
  • Hau clan , arrived in the 12th century
  • Pang clan , arrived in the 12th century
  • Man clan , arrived in 1307
  • Liu clan , arrived in the 15th century

See also

Last updated: 02-06-2005 18:38:03
Last updated: 02-11-2005 17:47:38