China Census

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The number of births and the migrating population will be the key of the fifth national census in China, the largest of its kind in the world, scheduled on 1 November 2007.

The investigation of the number of births and migrating population affects the quality of the whole census, which is more complicated and arduous compared with previous censuses. The fifth national census records changes that have taken place in China's population size, structure distribution, quality, environment, and other demographic information over the previous 10 years.

Twentieth Century

The previous four censuses were conducted in 1953, 1964, 1982, and 1990 since the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. To ensure the accuracy of the census, the data received from the investigation are not allowed to be used to judge the achievements of local governments and various units.

The concerned policies and regulations were carried out precisely, so as to acquire accurate information on the population.No illegal charges are allowed during the population surveying and the information collected during this census were not used to punish anyone for their past mistakes on population-related matters.

China had a population of 1.236 billion at the end of 1997, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, and its population is growing by 13 to 15 million a year. The country aims to maintain its population below 1.3 billion.

However, since the fourth national census in 1990, great changes have taken place in China's population.

The total population keeps increasing; the size of the family shrinking; the aging of people accelerating; more labor force shifting from agricultural to non-agricultural sectors; migrating population growing; unemployment rate climbing; and education level, employment structure, and makeup of ethnic groups changing.

The 2007 census provides key information on China's population. It is important for drafting China's population policy in the first five years of the 21st century and its long-term social and economic development plan. This census has a great significance in that it studies global population problems and promotes global sustainable development.

The contents of the fifth national census are greatly enlarged compared with the previous censuses. For instance, housing items appear in the questionnaires for the first time.

Household Census of 1953

Research Use: These records are useful for identifying males and females (the latter are often omitted or not named in genealogies). Birth dates can be calculated from age at the time of registration. Family relationships can be inferred from the names and ages of household members. Compilation and revision of genealogies was disrupted by the Sino-Japanese and subsequent civil war and has been severely limited since 1949. This record provides an invaluable link with extant genealogical records. The names of many heads of households listed in this census appear in early twentieth century genealogies. This is the only source of its kind available for this area that can provide a connection with early genealogies, compiled before the Sino-Japanese war, and the postwar period. This is important because it provides access to names and family information from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries not otherwise available due to the periods of war and civil war.

Record Type: A census of heads of household and their families. This is a one-time census of China taken by the government of the People’s Republic of China to clearly establish the population and holdings of the People’s Republic established in 1949.

Time Period: 1953.

Contents: Provides the name, sex, age, and occupation of householder and household members, as well as the location of buildings and outbuildings, footage, property boundaries, waterway access, statistics, event date, and the names of government officers.

Location: Provincial and county archives.

Population Coverage: Estimated at 100% of the 1953 population.

Reliability: This should be a very reliable source though created at a time of great population mobility.[1][1]

Population Registration Records

Research Use: These are a primary vital record source. They contain information that can be used to compile a linked pedigree and provide information even about those who were omitted from lineage genealogies.

Population Coverage: Actual coverage of the general population from the 1700s to the mid 1900s was probably about 40%. In theory the coverage should be nearly 100%. Nevertheless, there were many lapses in the baojia and other population registration systems so that actual coverage varied from place to place and time period to time period. The Eight Banner census rosters cover about 7% of population.

Record Type: Population registers have been kept in China for several purposes and at various times. These were household records maintained and regularly updated by the civil government. Some were for police control, others for taxation control. These include such records as the Yellow Registers and registers of the baojia, the lijia, the zongjia, as well as the household registers [huji] which were kept in Taiwan during Japanese occupation and continued by the Republic of China. Imperial relatives were grouped into the Eight Banners. These people and their staff were accounted for in separate nobility population registers census rosters.

Time Period: From 1381 to as late as 1949 on the mainland and to the present in Taiwan, household registers [huji] in Taiwan 1896-present.

Contents: The content of these records varies. When created for purposes of public security they often included specific information on each household. For each household they give names and relationships of all household members (some provide only males), places of residence, dates of birth, marriage and death. In many cases these records were updated to show new household members, deaths, and move-outs. Imperial household census rosters contain detailed information on relatives of the emperor and also include information on entitlements; these records were kept with considerable consistency since 1807. At times these noble families were recorded exclusively in their own separate registers, and at times they were recorded also in the population registers of the general populace. Laws regarding registration of the general populace were applied inconsistently. At times these systems recorded only population and tax-liability statistics; at other times they listed all household members with considerable details. At times no community register was kept; instead each household was to maintain a placard on the house with names of household members. Specific details about these records are unknown and need to be researched.

Location: Eight Banner census rosters are known to exist in several provincial archives. The household registers of Taiwan are in local population offices. The only known extant historical population registers of the general population for the mainland are records of the baojia of Baxian [Ba county], Sichuan Province. These are in the Baxian archive. If others exist, they would probably be in uncataloged storage at local government archives. Modern population registers in mainland China would be at local offices of public security.[1]

Yellow Registers (huangce)

Yellow Registers (huangce) were records of “land holdings, households and mouths” for each locality. In 1381, the government began registering the population mainly for the purpose of imposing labor-service tax on male adults (as a substitute for labor service). The Yellow Registers listed only the male adults (ding) between the ages of sixteen and sixty who were liable to the labor-service tax. Female adults were also registered in the provinces of Jiangxi, Fujian, and Guangdong. The names of the male adults were listed by the jia and li leaders on the records for each jia and li. The magistrate, on the basis of all the records submitted to him by the various leaders, compiled a register for the whole prefecture and submitted it to his direct superior who in turn submitted it to the provincial treasurer. The latter then compiled the register for the whole province and submitted it to the Board of Revenue. The Yellow Register was compiled in this way every ten years, until it was discontinued in 1668. Should include names of adult males, ages, places of residence, relationship to other adult males in the household.[1]


The Baojia was a system for police control (established 1644) under supervision of jia (100 households), and bao (one thousand households) and to appoint heads for each unit. A seal placard [yinpai] was given each household, on which was to be written the names of the adult males and other persons that belong to the household. If any one of these inhabitants moved away, his destination was recorded; if a person came into the household, the place from which he came was ascertained and recorded. In addition to the placards the community officials established registers. In 1775 an empire-wide checking of baojia registers was conducted. The emperor ordered provincial officials to use them as the basis of all future reports on population. In 1781, Hunan province devised the rotating registers (xunhuance) which operated as follows: a set of two registers was prepared for each baojia unit, one of which was placed in the hands of the local agent while the other was kept in the magistrate’s residence; by periodically rotating these records, additional entries and corrections could be made and official checking could be done without interruption. In 1813 the imperial government ordered all provincial authorities to adopt this system. In some areas the system was very efficiently applied even successfully keeping track of “shed people” and families living permanently in boats.[1]


The lijia was a system (established 1648) similar to the baojia, but kept for purposes of taxation control. The lijia system was gradually supplanted by the baojia.[1]


The zongjia was started at about the same time as the baojia and served the same function of police control but it was under the supervision of the Board of War. The simultaneous creation of two systems of control serving identical purposes may have been the result of inadequate planning and poor coordination between government bureaucracies. The zongjia eventually dropped out of existence and was replaced by the baojia.[1]

Census Roster of the Imperial Household (hukouce)

The household census roster of the imperial household [hukouce] (1807-1911) which includes family members of the Eight Banners and staff, updated every three years.

Eight Banner silver and rice stipend registers and household census registers (1877-1911).[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: China,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1997.