CHINESE SURNAMES are used by
Han Chinese and Sinicized ethnic groups
Mainland China ,
Chinese family names are patrilineal , passed from father to children (in adoption, the adoptee usually also takes the same surname). Women do not normally change their surnames upon marriage, except in places with more Western influences such as Hong Kong. Traditionally Chinese surnames have been exogamous .
The colloquial expressions laobaixing (老百姓; lit. "old hundred surnames") and bǎixìng (百姓, lit. "hundred surnames") are used in Chinese to mean "ordinary folks", "the people", or "commoners ".
* 1 Origin of Chinese surnames * 2 Distribution of surnames
* 3 Surnames at present
* 3.1 Variations in romanization
* 4 Sociological use of surnames
* 5 Common Chinese surnames
* 6 See also * 7 References * 8 External links
ORIGIN OF CHINESE SURNAMES
Prior to the Warring States period (fifth century BC), only the ruling families and the aristocratic elite had surnames. Historically there was also a difference between CLAN NAMES or XING (姓) and LINEAGE NAMES or SHI (氏). XING were surnames held by the noble clans. They generally are composed of a nü (女, "female") radical which has been taken by some as evidence they originated from matriarchal societies based on maternal lineages . Another hypothesis has been proposed by sinologist Léon Vandermeersch upon observation of the evolution of characters in oracular scripture from the Shang dynasty through the Zhou . The "female" radical seems to appear at the Zhou period next to Shang sinograms indicating an ethnic group or a tribe. This combination seems to designate specifically a female and could mean "lady of such or such clan". The structure of the xing sinogram could reflect the fact that in the royal court of Zhou, at least in the beginning, only females (wives married into the Zhou family from other clans) were called by their birth clan name, while the men were usually designated by their title or fief.
Prior to the
Many shi surnames survive to the present day. According to Kiang Kang-Hu , there are 18 sources from which Chinese surnames may be derived, while others suggested at least 24. These may be names associated with a ruling dynasty such as the various titles and names of rulers, nobility and dynasty, or they may be place names of various territories, districts, towns, villages, and specific locations, the title of official posts or occupations, or names of objects, or they may be derived from the names of family members or clans, and in a few cases, names of contempt given by a ruler. The following are some of the common sources:
* XING: These were usually reserved for the central lineage of the royal family, with collateral lineages taking their own shi. The traditional description was what were known as the "Eight Great Xings of High Antiquity" (上古八大姓), namely Jiāng (姜), Jī (姬), Yáo (姚), Yíng (嬴), Sì (姒), Yún (妘), Guī (媯) and Rèn (妊), though some sources quote Jí (姞) as the last one instead of Rèn. Of these xings, only Jiang and Yao have survived in their original form to modern days as frequently occurring surnames. * ROYAL DECREE BY THE EMPEROR, such as Kuang (鄺). * STATE NAME: Many nobles and commoners took the name of their state, either to show their continuing allegiance or as a matter of national and ethnic identity. These are some of the most common Chinese surnames. * NAME OF A FIEF OR PLACE OF ORIGIN: Fiefdoms were often granted to collateral branches of the aristocracy and it was natural as part of the process of sub-surnaming for their names to be used. An example is Di, Marquis of Ouyangting, whose descendants took the surname Ouyang . There are some two hundred examples of this identified, often of two-character surnames, but few have survived to the present. * NAMES OF AN ANCESTOR: Like the previous example, this was also a common origin with close to 500 or 600 examples, 200 of which are two-character surnames. Often an ancestor's courtesy name would be used. For example, Yuan Taotu took the second character of his grandfather's courtesy name Boyuan (伯爰) as his surname. Sometimes titles granted to ancestors could also be taken as surnames. * SENIORITY WITHIN THE FAMILY: In ancient usage, the characters of meng (孟), zhong (仲), shu (叔) and ji (季) were used to denote the first, second, third and fourth (or last) eldest sons in a family. These were sometimes adopted as surnames. Of these, Meng is the best known, being the surname of the philosopher Mencius .
* From official positions, such as Shǐ (史, "historian "), Jí (籍, "royal librarian "), Líng (凌, "ice master"), Cāng (倉, "granary manager"), Kù (庫, "store manager"), Jiàn (諫, "adviser "), Shàngguān (上官, "high official"), Tàishǐ (太史, "grand historian "), Zhōngháng (中行, "commander of middle column "), Yuèzhèng (樂正, "chief musician "), and in the case of Shang 's "Five Officials" (五官), namely Sīmǎ (司馬, "minister of horses", akin to defence minister ), Sītú (司徒, "minister of the masses ", akin to treasurer ), Sīkōng (司空, "minister of works", akin to minister of infrastructure), Sīshì (司士, "minister of yeomen ", akin to chief ombudsman ) and Sīkòu (司寇, "minister of bandits", akin to attorney general ); * From noble titles , such as Wáng (王, "king "), Hóu (侯, "marquis"), Xiàhóu (夏侯, " Marquis of Xia ") and Gōngsūn (公孫, "Duke's descendant"); * From more lowly occupations, as with Táo (陶, "potter "), Tú (屠, "butcher "), Bú (卜, "diviner "), Jiàng (匠, "craftsman "), Wū (巫 , "shaman ") and Chú (廚, "cook ").
* ETHNIC AND RELIGIOUS GROUPS: Non-
Han Chinese peoples in China
sometimes took the name of their ethnic groups as sinicized surnames,
such as Hú (胡, "barbarian"), Jīn (金, "Jurchen "), Mǎn (滿,
Many also changed their surnames throughout history for a number of
reasons. A ruler may bestow his own surname on those he considered to
have given outstanding service to him, for example the surname Liu
(劉) was granted by emperors in the
DISTRIBUTION OF SURNAMES
PROVINCES WITH HIGH CONCENTRATION OF PARTICULAR SURNAMES
LIAONING Zhang (张/張), Jiang (江)
GUANGDONG Liang/Leung (梁), Luo (罗/羅), Kuang (邝/鄺), Chan/Chen (陈/陳)
GUANGXI Liang (梁), Lu (陆/陸), Zhang/Chong (章)
FUJIAN Zheng (郑/鄭), Lin (林), Xǔ (许/許), Xie (谢/謝)
ANHUI Wang (汪)
JIANGSU Xú (徐), Zhu (朱)
SHANGHAI Wang (王), Yang (杨/楊)
ZHEJIANG Mao (毛), Shen (沈)
JIANGXI Hu (胡)
HUBEI Hu (胡)
HUNAN Tan (谭/譚)
SICHUAN He (何), Deng (邓/鄧)
GUIZHOU Wu (吴/吳)
YUNNAN Yang (杨/楊)
HENAN Cheng (程)
GANSU Gao (高)
NINGXIA Wan (万/萬)
QINGHAI Bao (鲍/鮑)
XINJIANG Ma (马/馬)
SHANDONG Kong (孔)
SHANXI Dong (董) and Guo (郭)
INNER MONGOLIA Pan (潘)
MANCHURIA Yu (于)
Surnames are not evenly distributed throughout China's geography. In northern China, Wang (王) is the most common surname, being shared by 9.9% of the population. Next are Li (李), Zhang (张/張) and Liu (刘/劉). In the south, Chen (陈/陳) is the most common, being shared by 10.6% of the population. Next are Li (李), Huang (黄), Lin (林) and Zhang (张/張). Around the major crossing points of the Yangtze River , the most common surname is Li (李), taking up 7.7%, followed by Wang (王), Zhang (张/張), Chan/Chen (陈/陳) and Liu (刘/劉).
A 1987 study showed over 450 family names in common use in
A study by geneticist Yuan Yida has found that of all the people with a particular surname, there tends to be a population concentration in a certain province, as tabulated to the right. It does not show, however, the most common surnames in any one province.
The 55th most common family name "Xiao" (肖) appears to be very rare
Fang (方), which is only the 47th most common overall, is much more
common in San Francisco 's Chinatown in the
After the Song Dynasty, surname distributions in
SURNAMES AT PRESENT
Of the thousands of surnames which have been identified from
historical texts prior to the modern era, most have either been lost
(see extinction of family names ) or simplified. Historically there
are close to 12,000 surnames recorded (including those from non-Han
Chinese ethnic groups), of which only about 3,100 are in current use,
a factor of almost 4:1 (about 75%) reduction.
While new names have arisen for various reasons, this has been
outweighed by old names disappearing. The most significant factor
affecting the surname frequency is other ethnic groups identifying as
Han and adopting Han names. In recent centuries some two-character
surnames have often dropped a character. Since the founding of the
People\'s Republic of
Although there are thousands of Chinese family names, the 100 most common, which together make up less than 5% of those in existence, are shared by 85% of the population. The three most common surnames in Mainland China are Li , Wang and Zhang , which make up 7.9%, 7.4% and 7.1% respectively. Together they number close to 300 million and are easily the most common surnames in the world. In Chinese, the phrase "three Zhang, four Li" (Chinese : 张三李四; pinyin : zhāng sān lǐ sì) is used to say "just anybody".
In a 1990 study, the top 200 family names accounted for over 96% of a
random sample of 174,900 persons, with over 500 other names accounting
for the remaining 4%. In a different study (1987), which combined data
Most commonly occurring Chinese family names have only one character;
however, about twenty double-character family names have survived into
modern times. These include Sima (司馬, simp. 司马), Zhuge
(諸葛, simp. 诸葛),
Ouyang (歐陽, simp. 欧阳), occasionally
romanized as O'Young, suggesting an Irish origin to English-speakers,
and Situ (or Sito 司徒). Sima, Zhuge, and
Ouyang also happen to be
the surnames of four extremely famous premodern Chinese historical
figures. There are family names with three or more characters, but
those are not ethnically Han Chinese. For example, Aixinjueluo
(愛新覺羅, also romanized from the
VARIATIONS IN ROMANIZATION
Transliteration of Chinese family names (see List of common Chinese surnames ) into foreign languages poses a number of problems. Chinese surnames are shared by people speaking a number of dialects and languages which often have different pronunciations of their surnames. The spread of the Chinese diaspora into all parts of the world resulted in the Romanization of the surnames based on different languages. As a result, it is common for the same surname to be transliterated differently. In certain dialects, different surnames could be homonyms so it is common for family names to appear ambiguous when transliterated. Example: 鄭/郑 (pinyin: Zheng) can be romanized into Chang, Cheng, Chung, Teh, Tay, Tee, Tsang, Zeng or Zheng, (in pinyin , Chang, Cheng, Zheng and Zeng are all different names). Translating Chinese surnames from foreign transliteration often presents ambiguity. For example, the surname "Li" are all mandarin-based pinyin transliteration for the surnames 黎 (Lí); 李, 理 and 里 (Lǐ); 郦/酈, 栗, 厉/厲, and 利 (Lì) depending on the tone which are often omitted in foreign transliterations.
Due to the different pronunciation and romanizations, it is sometimes
easy to tell whether a Chinese person has origins in
The use of different systems of romanization based on different
陈 / 陳 Chen Ch'en Tan/Tang/Tung/Chin Chan State of Chen
关 / 關 Guan Kuan Kwang/Kuang Kwan gate, gateway, mountain pass; to close; to shut; to turn off; to concern; to involve
何 He Ho Ho/Hoe Ho carry; what; how; why; which
黄 / 黃 Huang Huang Uy/Ooi/Oei/Wee/Ng/Wong Wong State of Huang
简 / 簡 Jian Chien Kan/Kean Kan/Gan simple
金 Jin Chin Kim Kam gold/golden
林 Lin Lin Lim/Liem Lam woods; forest
王 Wang Wang Ong/Heng/Vang Wong king
吴 / 吳 Wu Wu Goh Ng State of Wu
许 / 許 Xu Hsü Koh/Kho/Khoh/Khor/Khaw/Ko(Malaysia)/Hee Hui/Hua State of Xu
张 / 張 Zhang Chang Teo/Chong/Tear Cheung/Cheong a measure word for flat objects like paper or tables; open up
赵 / 趙 Zhao Chao Chew/Teo Chiu/Chiew State of Zhao
Malaysia/Singapore/Indonesia/Philippines: various spellings are used depending on name origin.
See List of common Chinese surnames for the different spellings and more examples.
SOCIOLOGICAL USE OF SURNAMES
Throughout most of Chinese history, surnames have served sociological functions. Because of their association with the aristocratic elite in their early developments, surnames were often used as symbols of nobility. Thus nobles would use their surnames to be able to trace their ancestry and compete for seniority in terms of hereditary rank. Examples of early genealogies among the royalty can be found in Sima Qian 's Historical Records, which contain tables recording the descent lines of noble houses called shibiao (Chinese : 世表; pinyin : shìbiǎo).
Later, during the Han dynasty, these tables were used by prominent families to glorify themselves and sometimes even to legitimize their political power. For example, Cao Pi , who forced the abdication of the last Han emperor in his favor, claimed descent from the Yellow Emperor . Chinese emperors sometimes passed their own surnames to subjects as honors. Unlike European practice in which some surnames are obviously noble, Chinese emperors and members of the royal family had regular surnames except in cases where they came from non-Han ethnic groups. This was a result of Chinese imperial theory in which a commoner could receive the Mandate of Heaven and become emperor. Upon becoming emperor, the emperor would retain his original surname. Also as a consequence, many people also had the same surname as the emperor, but had no direct relation to the royal family.
The Tang dynasty was the last period when the great aristocratic families, mostly descended from the nobility of pre-Qin states, held significant centralized and regional power. The surname was used as a source of prestige and common allegiance. During the period a large number of genealogical records called pudie (simplified Chinese : 谱牒; traditional Chinese : 譜牒; pinyin : pǔdié) were compiled to trace the complex descent lines of clans and their marriage ties to other clans. A large number of these were collected by Ouyang Xiu in his New History of Tang. To differentiate between different surnames, the Tang also choronyms before stating beforehand, for example Lǒngxī Lǐshì 隴西李氏, meaning Li of Longxi. These were generally the names of commanderies used prior to the reorganization during the Tang, so that they became exclusively associated to clans as their common use had died out. Cadet branches were also listed for further differentiation, such as Gūzāng Fáng 姑臧房, meaning Clan Li of Guzang.
During the Song dynasty, ordinary clans began to organize themselves
into corporate units and produce genealogies. This trend was led by
As a result of the importance of surnames, rules and traditions regarding family and marriage grew increasingly complex. For example, in Taiwan, there is a clan with the so-called "double Liao" surname. The story is that "Chang Yuan-zih of Liao's in Siluo married the only daughter of Liao San-Jiou-Lang who had no son, and he took the oath that he should be in the name of Liao when alive and should be in the name of Chang after death." In some places, there are additional taboos against marriage between people of the same surname, considered to be closely related. Conversely, in some areas, there are different clans with the same surname which are not considered to be related, but even in these cases surname exogamy is generally practiced.
COMMON CHINESE SURNAMES
Main article: List of common Chinese surnames See also: estimated sizes of the 20 largest Chinese surnames (2006)
According to a comprehensive survey of residential permits released
by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security on April 24, 2007, the
ten most common surnames in mainland
A commonly cited fact from the 1990 edition of the Guinness Book of
World Records estimated that Zhang was the most common surname in the
world, but no comprehensive information from
The MPS survey revealed that the top 3 surnames in
List of common Taiwanese surnames Distribution of
Taiwanese Surnames 陳 Chen (11.06%) 林 Lin (8.28%) 黃 Huang
(6.01%) 張 Chang (5.26%) 李 Lee (5.11%) 王 Wang (4.12%) 吳
Wu (4.04%) 劉
Taiwanese surnames include some local variants like Tu (塗) which do
not even appear among the
Hundred Family Surnames . However, names in
As is typical of
Chinese compound surname
Chinese given name
Hundred Family Surnames
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* Chinese Surnames (Simplified), with sound * Chinese-sounding surnames in the 1990 US census * Chinese family name information from the US National Archives * Meaning Behind 19 Most Common Chinese Surnames * The Ten-Thousand Families of Surnames from Netor (NETOR纪念:万家姓氏) (in simplified Ch