Home    Number 1, 2012

Identity Documents in China: History, Structure, National Idea

Type of publication: Research Article

About author(s)

Elena M. Breus | len-breus@yandex.ru | Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology RAS


china, passport, id, identity documents, ideological symbols, national identity


The article examines identity documents in China, which have a long and peculiar history. In ancient China, it was not so much the person as the persons privileges that were ascertained with the help of special credence tags which differed depending on their functional significance. They gradually assumed a simplified form of plates confirming both the privileges of various officials and the identity of members of the Emperors family. The ID came into state usage along with the idea of civil nation. Contemporary documents of the general design are issued to the citizens of the whole country, but the different procedure and bilingual ID are provided to members of several departments of military system. Furthermore, Chinese citizens documents carrying the Great Wall image are positioned to function at the same level as identity documents from other countries, insofar as they are used as a means of ideological influence on the population by way of producing a specific type of civil identity.


Breus, E.M. 2012. Identity Documents in China: History, Structure, National Idea. Etnograficheskoe obozrenie 1: 3-23

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