ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Ten Most Common Chinese Surnames

Updated on December 20, 2017
Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul began learning Chinese at DLI in 1967. He spent an immersion in Taiwan 1984-1985 improving Mandarin listening, speaking, and reading.

Two Chinese Students

Source

Surnames

Every language has its most common list of family names or surnames. For a long time, the most common English surnames were Smith and Jones. In Chinese, there is also a listing of the 100 most common surnames. Ten most common Chinese surnames are introduced in this article along with well-known Chinese who have used these family names.

The Ten Most Common Chinese Surnames

According to Wikipedia and my personal experiences over the past years, the ten most common Chinese surnames in the world today are as follows:

1. Wang 王

Wang which means king is the most common Chinese surname in the world today. Almost 10 percent of the Chinese on mainland China have this family name.

This surname which has ancient origins is spelled and pronounced differently among various Chinese dialect groups. For Mandarin speakers in most of China, the surname is spelled, Wang. Among Cantonese and Hakka speakers, however, this family name is spelled, Wong. Finally, Minnan and Hokkien speakers spell the surname Wang as Ong or Bong.

Some of the well-known Chinese having the family name of Wang include Wang Shiyan, a painter; Wang Wei, a Tang dynasty poet; Wang Dan, student leader of the Tiananmen dissents of 1989; and Wang Ming, a former emperor.

2. Li 李

The second most common Chinese surname is Li. It has the meaning of plum or plum tree.

Li which was the surname of emperors in the Tang dynasty is generally spelled Li in Mandarin and in Hokkien or Minnan. In Cantonese and Hakka, it is spelled, Lee or Lei.

Some of the more famous Chinese with the surname of Li are: Li Er or Laozi, a philosopher; Li Bai, a poet of the Tang dynasty; Bruce Lee or Li Xiaolong, a martial arts movie star; Li Teng-Hui former President of Taiwan; and Li Peng, former Premier of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1989.

3. Zhang 张

The third most popular Chinese family name is Zhang. It has the meaning of drawing a bow or an archer.

Zhang having its origin from the ancient state of Zhang is spelled and pronounced differently among various Chinese speakers. Zhang is the Pinyin spelling on mainland China, but Chang is the traditional Wade-Giles spelling used on Taiwan among Mandarin speakers. For Hong Kong and Cantonese speakers, the surname is spelled, Cheung. Hakka speakers spell and pronounce Zhang, Chong, but Minnan and Hokkien speakers spell and pronounce the surname Teo or Teoh.

Well-known Chinese having the surname Zhang include Zhang Xueliang, a former Manchurian warlord; Zhang Daqian, an artist; and Zhang Yimou, a mainland filmmaker. One of my friends also has the surname of Zhang.

4. Liu 刘

The fourth most common Chinese family name is Liu. Two thousand years ago, it was the surname of the Han dynasty ruling family.

Although the surname is spelled Liu in Mandarin, it is spelled and pronounced Lao in Cantonese, Hakka, and Minnan.

Some of the more famous Chinese bearing the surname of Liu include Liu Bang, the founder of the Han dynasty; Liu Shaoqi, a PRC politician; and Liu Zongyuan, a poet during the Tang dynasty.

5. Chen 陈

The fifth most common Chinese surname is Chen. It has its origin from the ancient Chen state.

Chen is the spelling and pronunciation used in mainland China or the PRC, however, the traditional spelling in Taiwan has been Ch'en. Among Cantonese and Hakka speakers, the surname is spelled and pronounced Chan. Minnan speakers spell and pronounce Chen as Tan.

Some of the more famous Chinese with the surname of Chen include Steven Chen, co-founder of Youtube; Chen Shui-bian, the first non-KMT President of the Republic of China (Taiwan) 2000-2008; and Jackie Chan, a Hong Kong actor. My former Chinese teacher was Arthur Ch'en and one of my good friends is Robert Chan.

6. Yang 杨

Yang is the sixth most common Chinese surname. Its origin is from the Yang clan founded during the 8th-9th century B.C.

Yang is the spelling and pronunciation among Mandarin speakers. Other Chinese linguistic groups have different spellings and pronunciations. Among Cantonese speakers, Yang is spelled and pronounced Yeung, Yeong, or Young. Hakka speakers use Yong instead of Yang, and Minnan speakers spell and pronounce Yang as Ngeo or Yiu.

Some famous Chinese with the surname of Yang include Yang Jin, the first emperor of the Sui dynasty 581-618 A.D; Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo; and Yang Liwei, a Chinese astronaut.

7. Huang 黄

The seventh most common surname is Huang. This surname has the meaning of yellow.

The Mandarin spelling and pronunciation is Huang. Minnan speakers, however, spell and pronounce Huang as Ng, and Cantonese spell and pronounce Huang as Wang.

A few well-known Chinese with the family name of Huang include Huang Menzan, the first Chinese-American fighter pilot; Huang Peiqian or Puey Ungpakorn, a Thai-Chinese bureaucrat who was instrumental in shaping Thailand's economic development and higher education; and Huang Hsin-Chieh, the first chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party DPP in Taiwan.

8. Zhao 赵

The eighth most common Chinese family name is Zhao. It was the royal surname of the Song dynasty during the years 960-1279.

Zhao is the Mandarin Romanization in Pinyin Chinese; however, in the Wade-Giles system still used on Taiwan, Zhao is Romanized as Chao. In Cantonese Zhao is spelled and pronounced as Chiu or Ziu while in Minnan. Zhao is spelled and pronounced as Teo.

Important Chinese figures bearing the surname of Zhao include Zhao Ziyang, the former President of China in 1989; Yuen Ren Chao, a Chinese linguist; and Vincent Zhao, an artist, and actor.

9. Zhou 周

Zhou is the ninth most common Chinese surname in the world. It has its origin in the Zhou dynasty many years ago.

Zhou is the Mandarin Pinyin Romanization used in China. In Taiwan, the name is Romanized Chou among Mandarin speakers. Hong Kong and Cantonese speakers Romanize and pronounce Zhou as Chow or Chau. Minnan speakers spell and pronounce Zhou as Chew or Chiu.

Well-known Chinese bearing the surname of Zhou include Zhou Enlai, the first Premier of the PRC; Zhou Shuren, the great revolutionary Communist writer who used the pen name of Lu Xun; Zhou Long, a composer; and William Kwai Sun Chow, a martial artist.

10. Wu 吴

Finally, the tenth most common Chinese surname is Wu. The name for this surname originates in the ancient state of Wu in present Jiangsu Province.

The Mandarin spelling and pronunciation of this surname is Wu. Cantonese and Hakka speakers spell and pronounce Wu as Ng. Minnan and Hokkien speakers use the Romanization and spelling of Ngoh or Goh for Wu.

Notable Chinese with the surname of Wu include Wu Yi, Vice-Premier of the PRC; Wu BaiFu, Taiwanese born Japanese inventor of instant noodles; and Woo Kwong Chiang, Hong Kong entrepreneur, billionaire, and politician.

Among the Chinese, there are only about 400 surnames which are used. The ten most commonly used among Chinese have been listed in this hub.

Origins/Facts of Top 10 Chinese Surnames

Chinese Surnames

Your Familiarity with Chinese Surnames

Which Chinese surname have you seen or heard the most?

See results

Ten Most Common Chinese Surnames

5 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of Ten Most Common Chinese Surnames

© 2014 Paul Richard Kuehn

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      &peachpurple Thanks for your praise of this hub and I'm happy you liked it. Years ago, the rich Mandarin Chinese men had a lot of minor wives. I think these surnames are popular in most East Asian and Southeast Asian countries.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 

      3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      you did a great hub on the chinese names, yes these are popular surnames in malaysia and singapore. Most are LIM , TAN, CHAN, WONG, very common, must be their ancestors have many mistress

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Thanks for the comments and I am very happy that you found my hub interesting. Hopefully, I can do a comparable hub on Thai surnames.

    • sweetpikez profile image

      Pinky de Garcia 

      3 years ago

      Dear Paul,

      This is an interesting article. I just knew it now. Thanks for sharing.

      Voted up and interesting.

      Nice read,

      Sweetpikez

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      3 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Thanks for an interesting hub. There are so many interesting topics concerning Mandarin and it's good to learn more about them.

    • Santi Lio profile image

      Santi Lio 

      3 years ago from erehwon

      Interesting stuff.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)