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Chinese family name

A Chinese family name/clan name/surname (姓 in pinyin: xng4) refers to one of the over seven hundreds of family names used by Han Chinese and Sinicized Chinese ethnic groups and is part of a Chinese name. The term the hundred family names (百姓 bǎixng) is colloquially used in Chinese to mean people/commoners. Chinese family names are passed from the father, and there is generally a taboo against marriage between persons of the same surname. In cases of adoption, the adoptee also takes the same surname.

In some places, there are additional taboos against marriage between people of certain surnames which are 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.

There are sometimes complex traditions associated with surnames. For example, in Taiwan, there is a clan with the so-called "double Liao" surname. The story is that the founder of the clan was adopted and so took the surname Liao, but in honor of his ancestor demanded that he be buried with the surname Chen. As a result, his descendants use the surname Liao while alive but once they die, their surname becomes Chen. This is in contrast to the "single Liao" surname which remains both before and after death.

Most commonly occurring Chinese family names have only one character; however, about twenty double-character family names have survived into the modern time. Some famous ones include Sima (司马), Zhuge (诸葛), Ouyang (欧阳 occasionally Anglicized[?], or rather, Irishized, as O'Young), and Situ (司徒 in Cantonese: Szeto). There are family names with three or more characters, but those are extremely rare and most likely have non-Han origin, for example, Aixinjueluo (愛新覺羅, also romanized as Aisin-gioro), the family name of the Manchu royal family of the Qing dynasty.

Transliteration of Chinese family names (see Table 1 below) into English poses a number of problems. It is common for the same surname to be transliterated differently and for different family names with similar pronounciations to be transliterated identically.

Table 1: Top 60 Family Names in Mandarin and Cantonese Transliterations
The "Other" columns are common transliterations, used before the formalization and popularization of existing Romanizations, still can be found in the names of some overseas Chinese. The last columns are some popular transliterations in other Chinese languages (dialects) used by some overseas Chinese whose ancestral mother tongue is neither Mandarin nor Cantonese.
The tone[?] marks, though a part of the official Romanizations, are not used officially in passport or in overseas schools.
Char. Mandarin Cantonese Other dialects
T.[?] S. Pinyin W-G Other Jyutping[?] Yale[?]/py Other
1 Wang2 Wang Wong4 Wong Vong Ong?
2 Chen2 Chen Chern Can4 Chan
3 Li3 Li Lee Lei5 Lee
4 Zhang1 Chang Zoeng1  Cheung
5 Liu2 Liu Liou Lau4 Lau
6 Yang2 Yang Joeng4 Yeung
7 Huang2 Huang Hwang Wong4 Wong
8 Wu2 Wu Woo Ng4 Ng
9 Lin2 Lin Lam4 Lam
10 Zhou1 Chou Joe Zau1 Chow
11 Ye4 Yeh Jip6 Yip
12 Zhao4 Chao Ziu6 Chiu
13 Lü3 Lu Leoi5 Lui
14 Xu2 Hsu Ceoi4 Tsui
15 Sun1 Sun Suen Syun1 Sun / Suen
16 Zhu1 Chu Zyu1 Chu Chue
17 Gao1 Kao Gou1 Ko
18 Ma3 Ma Maa5 Ma
19 Liang2 Liang Loeng4 Leung / Leong
20 Guo1 Kuo Gwok3 Kwok
21 He2 Hê, Ho Ho4 Ho
22 Zheng4 Cheng Jehng Zeng6 Cheng
23 Hu2 Hu Wu4 Wu
24 Cai4 Tsai Coi3 Choi
25 Zeng1 Tseng Tzeng Cang4 Tsang
26 She1 She Se4 Sheh
27 Deng4 Teng Dang6 Tang
28 Shen3 Shen Sam2 Sum
29 Xie4 Hsieh Sheih Ze6 Tse
30 Tang2 T'ang (Tang) Tong4 Tong
31 Xu3 (Xü3) Hsu Heoi2 Hui
32 Luo2 Luo Lo4 Lo Law, Lowe
33 Yuan2 Yüan (Yuan) Jyun4 Yuen
34 Feng2 Feng Ferng Fung4 Fung / Fong
35 Song4 Sung Soong Sung3 Shung (?)
36 Su1 Su Sou1 So
37 Cao2 Tsao Cou4 Cho
38 Lu4 Lu Luk6 Luk (?)
39 Mai4 Mai Maak6 Mak
40 Dong3 Tong Dung2 Tung
41 Yu2 Yu Jyu1 or Jyu4 ? Yu
42 Han2 Han Hon4 Han
43 Ren4 Jen Jam4 or Jam6? Yam
44 Jiang3 Chiang Chung Zoeng2 Cheung Chiang
45 Gu4 Ku Gu3 Gu
46 Zhong1 Chong Zung1 Chung
47 Fang1 Fang Fong1 Fong
48 Du4 Tu Dou6 To / Do
49 Ding1 Ting Ding1 Ting Ding
50 Yao2 Yao Jiu4 Yao
51 Pan1 P'an (Pan) Pun1 Poon
52 Jiang1 Chiang Goeng1 Geung
53 Tan2 T'an (Tan) Taam4 Tam
54 Qiu1 Chiu Chiou Jau1 Yau
55 Xiao4 Hsiao Ciu3 Chiu
56 Jin1 Chin Kim Gam1 Kam
57 Jia3 Chia Gaa2 Ga
58 Tian2 T'ien (Tien) Tin4 Tin
59 Cui1 Tsui Tsuei Ceoi1 Cheui (?)
60 Cheng2 Ch'eng (Cheng) Cing4 Ching

Reference for Table 1

see Chinese personal name[?]

External Links

See also: Most popular family names, Korean family name

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