The isonymy structure of 1.28 billion people registered in China's National Citizen Identity Information System was studied at the provincial, prefectural, and county administrative division levels. The isonymy was 0.026 for China as a whole. The average value of isonymy was 0.033 for the 30 provinces, 0.035 for the 334 prefectures, and 0.040 for the 2811 counties. The isonymy in China was much higher than in other countries. This finding may be partly explained by the low number of surnames in the Chinese language. Two regional features can be identified from the geographic distributions of isonymy. One feature is that the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River had the lowest values of isonymy at both the provincial and county levels. The second feature is that most counties with the highest values of isonymy were distributed in the provinces with high proportions of ethnic minorities. According to the dendrogram of surname distances, several clusters could be identified. Most provinces in a cluster were conterminous with one another. The one exception could be explained by demic migration called “braving the journey to the northeast of China.” Isolation by distance could be detected because the correlation coefficients between Nei's distance and the geographic distances at the provincial, prefectural, and county levels were 0.64, 0.43, and 0.37, respectively. Human behaviors in Chinese history that may have caused these results have been discussed, including cultural origin, migration, residential patterns, and ethnic distribution. Am J Phys Anthropol 148:341–350, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.