The 100 Most Common Chinese Family Names

Posted by Julia Song on 21/03/2016 8:28 PM 1507

To choose a Chinese name, you should choose both the first name and the last name. Most people tend to have a well-known Chinese family name,  and this post will introduce the most popular Chinese family names for you.

“百家姓bǎijiāxìnɡ” (Hundred family names) is an very famous article about Chinese surnames. According to the literature, it was written in song dynasty. There are 411 surnames in beginning, and then increased to 568 in later stage.It includes 444 single surnames and 124 compound surnames.

The order of 《百家姓bǎijiāxìnɡ》is not based on the population actual arrangement, but for easy to read, study and remember.《百家姓bǎijiāxìnɡ》with《三字经sānzìjīnɡ》,《千字文(qiānzìwén)》 are called “三百千(sānbǎiqiān)” in china. It is children's enlightenment books in ancient China.

The origin of Chinese surnames:

It was called “Hundred family names”, but it doesn’t mean there are only 100 names in 《百家姓bǎijiāxìnɡ》. According to the different provenance and characteristic, it can divide into 16 different kinds of surname.

1. Ancestral Totem like: 熊(xiónɡ)、马(mǎ)、牛(niú)、羊(yánɡ)、龙(lónɡ)、凤(fènɡ)、山(shān)、水(shuǐ)、花(huā)、叶(yè)…

most common Chinese family names

2. To the name of the word force ancestors surnames
In Chunqiu period, King Ling of Zhou has a son called “王子年夫(wánɡzǐnìnɡfū)”, his descendants used "年"  to be the surname. And some others like: 牧(mù)、终(zhōnɡ)、常(chánɡ)、孔(kǒnɡ)、廉(lián)、乐(lè)、皮(pí)、高(ɡāo).

3. A fief name to be surname.
Such as: 宋(sònɡ),赵(zhào)、吴(wú)、郑(zhènɡ)、陈(chén)、卫(wèi)、蒋(jiǎnɡ)、沈(shěn).

4. Job or official position
司徒(sītú) is an official's name in Yao and Sun times until to Qin and Handynasty, and in the same way, like 司空(sīkōnɡ)、司马(sīmǎ)...

5. Mountains and rivers

6. Place

7. Tribe
Like 呼延(hūyán)、慕容(mùrónɡ)、宇文(yǔwén)、尉迟(yùchí)、万俟(wànsì).

8. The anomalies when birth

9. Posthumous title

10. Change the name toavoid disaster, enemy, taboo, suspicion. Like:桂(ɡuì)、田(tián).

11. Given by Emperor. Like:金(jīn)、刘(liú)、郑(zhènɡ).

12. In quantifier, ranking order and Chinese era as the last name. Like:万(wàn)、丙(bǐnɡ).

13. A minority name change into a Han ethnic surname. Like 元 (yuán)。

14. The Han ethnic change into a minority name. There are a lot Han ethnic people change the surname into minority in Liao, xia, jin and yuan dynasty.

15. Some minority family name.

16. Some family name are very easy to read wrong. Chinese characters have polyphone and dialect change etc. Like: “万俟”, pronounce “mòqí”,it has often been mistaken for "wànsì". “区”,pronounce “ōu”, it has often been mistaken for“qū”.

The top 8 Chinese last names in 百家姓bǎijiāxìnɡ .


“百家姓bǎijiāxìnɡ” was formed in QianTangregion in song dynasty .Theemperor’s surname is “赵”, that's why 赵 is in the first one. But every surname is equal, no matter poor, rich, expensive, cheap, and high or low are all the same.“百家姓bǎijiāxìnɡ”used “four word” style to arrange the surnames, everyone has rhyme. It played a huge role to pass on Chinese culture and to understand of the Chinese characters. It is also a very important factor to spread Chinese culture in thousands of year.

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Julia Song

Julia’s cheerful attitude and close attention to her students’ progress make her an excellent Mandarin teacher for students of all levels. Holding a bachelor’s degree in language instruction and several years’ teaching experience, Julia excels at linguistic pedagogy and one-on-one instruction. Learn Chinese online with Julia Song >>