Kin Groups and Descent. Hmong society is divided into a number of named exogamous patrilineal clans similar to the Chinese surname groups. The ideal number of these, when they are referred to in ritual discourse, is twelve, but there are in fact more than this, some having been founded by inmarrying Chinese males. Within the clans, the lineage is the basis of Hmong social organization, and the local segment of the lineage acts as the major corporate ritual and political body at the village level. Major lineage differences within a clan are distinguished by variations of ritual at household and funeral ceremonies.
Kinship Terminology. Hmong kinship terminology is more generative than inclusive, distinguishing relatives on the basis of generation, sex, and relative age, and above all between affinal relatives and relatives by descent. As in the Chinese system, patrilateral parallel cousins (having the same surname) are distinguished from all other cousins by a special term. It has been suggested that the system was once a bilateral one that has been considerably influenced by the Chinese system.