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014. Do You Know The Origin Of Your Chinese Surname?

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014. Do You Know The Origin Of Your Chinese Surname?

Postby chungyn » Wed Dec 06, 2017 6:09 am

014. Do You Know The Origin Of Your Chinese Surname?

Every ethnic Chinese in the world inherits a family surname. As long as
we possess Chinese surnames we cannot extricate ourselves from Chinese culture.
Our roots are very long and old. They are complicated, intertwined and
sometime entangled too. It will be interesting to know a bit about them
and find out how, when and where they began.

Every surname has a history behind it. There are more than five thousand
Chinese surnames and this book "The Origin of Chinese Surnames" contains
the most common 550 of them.

The surname is very important to a Chinese because it is through surname
that he can find out to which clan he was originated. When two Chinese first
meet, and after the salutation, one of them will sure ask the surname of
the other. If they share the same surname they will be very happy and regard
themselves as kinsmen.

The bond of kinship ties is so strong that even today, traditionally, people
with the same surname are forbidden to intermarry as they are supposed to
have come from the same ancestor. It is considered mildly incestuous for
a couple sharing the same surname to get married.

Legend has it that Chinese surnames originated from Huang Di (黃帝) or The
Yellow Emperor, who had twenty five sons. Yellow Emperor's surname was Gongsun
(公孫) and his name Xuanyuan (軒轅), but later he changed his surname to
Ji (姬), the name of the river where he grew up. Yellow Emperor established
fourteen settlements in different regions of the land of what we now call
China. He appointed 14 of his capable sons to rule the 14 settlements. The
14 new feudal lords took on twelve new surnames after the geographical locations
which were given by their father. This tradition of adopting the name of
a location as surname persisted. It is estimated that 60 per cent of the
surnames were named after some geographical locality. Other surnames originated
by adopting the names of the ancestors, official positions or the titles.

In ancient time it was not unusual for people to change their surnames to
avoid political persecution. In many an occasion the Emperor bestowed his
own surname to his loyal officials and generals who then changed their surnames
to that of the Emperor. They were proud of sharing the same surname with
the Emperor. On the other hand many ordinary citizens who shared their surnames
with the name of the Emperors, were forced to change to other surnames because
the Emperors did not want their names to be used as surnames by their subjects.

During the Zhou Dynasty (周朝 1134BC to 256BC) and before the Spring and
Autumn Period (春秋時代 722BC to 481BC) there were only 72 surnames. These
72 surnames were doubled during the era of Han Dynasty ( 漢朝 206BC to 220AD)
. They were increased to 193 during the Tang Dynasty (唐朝 618AD to 907AD).
438 surnames were recorded during the Song Dynasty (宋朝 960AD to 1279AD).
According to the historical documents there were 3736 surnames during the
Yuan Dynasty ( 元朝 1271AD to 1368AD). The literary records of the Ming
Dynasty ( 明朝 1368AD to 1644AD) showed a total of 4657 surnames in the
land of what we now call China. Nowadays there are more than 5,000 Chinese
surname throughout the world.

Long ago, before the Yellow Emperor, people living in the land of what we
now call China already had surnames to identify themselves. At that time
it was a maternal society (母系公社). People knew only their mothers and
they did not whom their fathers were.

Surname is called Xing (姓) in Chinese. Xing is a combination of two radicles:
Nu (女 female) and Sheng (生 produce), that is females produce children.
Children followed their mothers' surnames because they did not know their
fathers. Legend has it that, only after Fu Xi Shi (伏羲氏), whose surname
name was Feng (風 or wind), had established rules of marriages that children
knew their fathers and they began to follow their surnames.

During the Dynasties of Xia (夏朝 2205BC to 1766BC), Shang (商朝 1783BC
to 1122BC) and Zhou (周朝 1134BC to 256BC) people already had Xing (姓 surnames)
and Shi (氏 family name). Xing derived from the village where a person
lived or his particular tribe. Shi could be a title bestowed upon a person
by the ruler, the official position a person was holding or a posthumous
title given by a ruler.

For a commoner he had Xing and Ming (名 name) but he had no Shi. For an
aristocrat he had a surname, Shi and a name. A female and a male having
the same Shi were allowed to get married. However, traditionally, if they
shared the same surname they were forbidden to intermarry because they were
supposedly shared the same ancestor. It was, and even nowadays, considered
mildly incestuous for a couple sharing the same surname to marry. Evidences
had showed that a same surname couple could produce inferior offspring.

During the reign of Li Shimin (李世民 627AD to 649AD) of Tang Dynasty (618AD
to 907AD) an official by the name of Gao Shilian (高士廉) compiled all the
surnames he could find at that time into a book entiled "Shi Zu Zhi 氏族
志 or The Annals of the Clans". The administration of Li Shimin used this
book as a guide for marriages and for admittance to government offices.

Bai Jia Xing (百家姓 or The Surnames of the Common People) was written by
an anonym scholar during the Song Dynasty (宋朝 960AD to 1279AD) was the
most common book on surnames ever written. It has 408 single character surnames
and 30 double character surnames. In this book every surname has a number.
You might be wondering why it is so. Here is some information about the
numbering of Chinese surnames. It is only up to 438 according to the book.

Zhao (趙) was the family surname of all the 18 emperors during the Song
Dynasty (宋朝 960AD to 1279AD). It was during this Dynasty that all the
Chinese surnames were compiled into a book called Bai Jia Xing (百家姓 or
The Surnames of the Common Family or many people translated it literally
as Hundred Families Surnames). Altogether there were 438 Chinese surnames
in China during the Song Dynasty. The anonymous scholar compiled the 408
single-character surnames into 102 phrases of 4 characters per phrase. Later
he also compiled the 30 double-character surnames into 15 phrases of 2 double-
character per phrase (4 characters per phrase). Every phrase has a meaning
and every phrase reads
smoothly when read aloud.

Zhao (趙), the family surname of the Emperor, was compiled as Chinese
surname No.1. Qian (錢 or money), the surname of the Empress of the founder
of Song Dynasty Zhao Kuang Yin (趙匡胤 who reigned 960AD to 976AD), was
as Chinese surname No.2. The rest of the surnames were compiled according
to their sounds and their meanings, in order to suit the story.

The numbering of the 438 surnames can be best explained by showing some
examples: Chinese surname No.130 Ruan (阮) for Victor Ruan is the 2nd word
in phrase number 32. Therefore 32 phrases multiplied by 4 words per phrase
= 128 and 2nd word in phrase number 32 = 128 + 2 = 130

Many countries have the most three common surnames. In Britain the three
most common surnames are: Smith, Jones and Williams. The three most common
surnames in U.S.A are: Smith, Johnson and Carson; in France: the Martin,
Bernard and Dupont; in Germany: Schultz, Mueller, and Shmidt and in Russia:
the Ivanov, Vasiliev, Deternov. What about China? Well, there are four most
common surnames in China: the Zhang (張), Wang (王), Li (李) and Zhao (趙
). There are more than 100 millions Chinese with the surname Zhang and another
100 millions with surname Wang. Surnames Zhang and Wang could be the most
common surnames in the whole world.

It was estimated that; forty percent of the Chinese or 400 million are with
these ten surnames: Zhang (張), Wang (王), Li (李), Zhao (趙), Chen (陳),
Yang (楊), Wu (吳), Liu (劉), Huang (黃), and Zhou (周).

More than ten percent or 100 million Chinese are with these surnames: Xu
(徐), Zhu (朱), Lin (林), Sun (孫), Ma (馬), Gao (高), Hu (胡), Zheng (鄭
), Guo (郭) and Xiao (蕭).

About ten percent of the Chinese share these ten surnames: Xie (謝), He
(何), Xu (許), Song (宋), Shen (沈), Luo (羅), Han (韓), Deng (鄧), Liang
(梁) and Ye (葉).

The following fifteen surnames are also being shared by about ten percent
Chinese: Fang (方), Cui (崔), Cheng (程), Pan (潘), Cao (曹), Feng (馮),
Wang (汪), Cai (蔡), Yuan (袁), Lu (盧), Tang (唐), Qian (錢), Du (杜),
Peng (彭) and Lu (陸).

In other words, more than seventy percent or 700 million of the Chinese
in the world are sharing the above forty five surnames. On the contrary,
only about thirty percent of the Chinese sharing the rare 4,900 surnames
like: Miao (苗), Mai (麥), Yue (岳), Sima (司馬), Ouyang (歐陽), Mao (毛
) etc etc.

Please Note:
In 2000, I published a book entitled "The Origin of (550) Chinese Surnames".
If you are interested in obtaining a copy please contact me.

(NOTE: This book had been all sold out and donated to many universities
in the world as China is rising and most of the Westerners and Overseas
Chinese do not know much about Chinese family or Chinese surnames. You may
get more information from the National Library of Australia about my book.)

The 550 Chinese surnames in my book, in English and Hanyu Pinyin (Mandarin).

There are the most common ones among the more than 5,000 Chinese surnames
throughout the world. Can you find your surname? Please let me know if you
can't find it. I possess the materials to write all the five thousand Chinese


(79)An(安)==(80)Chang (常)==(81)Yue(樂)==(82)Yu(于)

(101)Yao(姚)==(102)Shao(邵)==(103)Zhan(湛)==(104) Wang(汪)
(117)Tan(談)==(118)Song(宋)==(119)Mao(茅)==(120)Pang (龐)
(129)Du(杜)==(130)Ruan(阮)==(131)Lan(籃) ==(132)Min(閔)
(145)Mei(梅)==(146)Sheng(盛)==(147) Lin(林)==(148)Diao(刁)


(201)Xun(荀)==(202)Yang(羊)== (203)Yu(於)==(204)Hui(惠)

(295) Lao(勞)==(296)Pang(逄)==(297)Ji(姬)==(298)Shen(申)



(405)Gai(蓋) (406)Yi(益) (407)Huan(桓) (408)Gong(公)

(476)Si(姒)==(477)Yao(堯)==(478)Shun(舜)==(479)Zhang (仉)

(537)Jun(雋)==(538)Ai(愛)==(539)Shan(善)==(540)Tu (涂)
(541)Bai(百) ==(542)Jia(家)==(543)Xing(姓)==(544)Xu(續)

Posted to
By CHUNG Yoon-Ngan (鄭永元).
Posts: 8422
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:06 am

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