Top 100 Rare Chinese Surnames with Meanings and History | Kidadl


Top 100 Rare Chinese Surnames with Meanings and History

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In China, citizens can choose their own names (first name and aliases) and children have the freedom to take up the surname of either parent.  

It is also quite common to have a compound surname as opposed to being restricted to only one surname. In fact, out of over 6000 surnames, there are plenty of really rare and unique surnames that can be counted among the top 100 rare Chinese last names of all time.

Chinese names play a vital role, they are the first identity marker of a person after all. Typically, a Chinese name consists of two to three parts, with family names being placed before the given name. Interestingly, a married woman in China isn't obliged to change her maiden name after marriage.

Unlike the naming system of kids in other countries, Chinese people tend not to their child after an older relative or even a mythological character. Chinese people also lay great emphasis on using titles for the respective genders and it is considered inappropriate to refer to a married woman as 'Miss'. Owing to their deep respect for their culture, it is considered a great honor to refer to people by their work titles in many areas of China. Out of over 6000 surnames that belong to about 85% of China's population, there are three highly popular ones that have been adopted by 20% of the total population: Wang, Li, and Zhang.

Ever wondered why there are so few Chinese surnames for such a hugely populated nation? The reason may have to do with the ancient system of relaying surnames down through generations which has been used by the majority of people in China today.

Read below to discover some rare Chinese surnames, also known as 姓 (xìng) in Chinese. Or take a look at these Indian last names and Korean last names to discover more surnames from around the world.

Rare Chinese Last Names That Originated From Ruling Dynasties

 According to historical records, Chinese surname practices involved following the maternal lineage and this practice was dictated by the village that people lived in or their family name. About 3000 years ago, family names could only be adopted by rulers. Then, with the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties, the concept of having a family name came into being.

The rarest Chinese last name to make to this list of 'top 100' seems to be '通过 Tōngguò' meaning 'by' if you go by the usage statistic. Going by the oldest one in use according to the ancient Chinese last names record, it would be 贶 Kuàng meaning 'bestow'. Some of the rare Chinese last names handed down the generations are listed here.

1. 广场 Guǎngchǎng surname meaning the shape, 'square'.

2. 历史 Lìshǐ surname literally meaning 'history'.

3. 章节 Zhāngjié a surname implying 'chapter'.

4. 土地 Tǔdì an interesting last name meaning 'land'.

5. 河 Hé another interesting one implying 'river'.

6. 洞 Dòng a surname literally meaning 'hole'.

7. 洪水 Hóngs huǐ meaning 'flood'.

8. 矿 Kuàng a name implying 'mine'.

9. 文本 Wénběn meaning 'text'.

10. 陶器Táoqì a surname implying 'pottery'.

11. 头发 Tóufǎ a surname meaning 'hair' as per ancient records.

12. 冢 Zhǒng a surname quite literally implying 'a mound'.

13. 一个 Yīgè meaning 'an'.

14. 折Zhé meaning 'fold'.

15. 给 Gěi a beautiful surname meaning 'to give'.

16. 游览 Yóulǎn an interesting choice meaning 'tour'.

17. 汤 Tāng is a surname that quite interestingly means 'soup'.

18. 严格 Yángé literally meaning 'strict'.

19. 发布 Fābù a surname signifying 'to release'.

20. 穿着 Chuānzhuó a surname meaning 'wore'.

21. 熊 Xióng an animal-inspired name meaning 'bear'.

22. 分割 Fēngē a surname meaning 'segment'.

23. 简单 Jiǎndān a simple surname meaning 'easy'.

Rare Chinese Last Names With Interesting Meanings

A spectacular orange view of Great Wall of China during autumn

Chinese last names have not only been inspired by previous generations but also from everyday things, such as the weather and even commonly used words. Hence, these surnames can be anything, it could mean 'summer' or 'a village' or even a mood that you are experiencing such as 'joyful' or 'gloomy'. Some of the top 100 rare surnames making their way into this list are seen here.

24. 小麦 Xiǎomài a surname implying the food item, 'wheat'.

25. 祝贺 Zhùhè meaning to 'congratulate'.

26. 村 Cūn a name denoting a 'village'.

27. 路 Lù a name denoting a 'road'.

28. 工资 Gōngzī an interesting choice of surname meaning 'to pay'.

29. 依靠 Yīkào a name meaning 'to rely'.

30. 经常 Jīngcháng a name implying 'often'.

31. 牛 Niú a surname meaning 'cattle'.

32. 万 Wàn a name implying a numeric value of 10,000.

33. 关掉 Guān diào simply meaning 'turn off'.

34. 学科 Xuékē a name meaning 'discipline'.

35. 温度 Wēndù a name implying 'temperature'.

36. 完成 Wánchéng a short and simple name meaning 'complete'.

37. 房间 Fángjiān quite simply implying 'room'.

38. 特别 Tèbié an interesting choice for the last name meaning 'especially'.

39. 可乐 Kělè meaning 'Coca Cola'.

40. 仪表 Yíbiǎo meaning 'a measuring standard meter'.

41. 谈论 Tánlùn a name to keep it simple that means 'talk'.

42. 宫 Gōng a surname implying 'palace'.

43. 应用 Yìngyòng a name meaning 'to apply'.

44. 同 Tóng is a surname meaning 'tong'.

45. 然而 Rán'ér a surname meaning 'yet'.

46. 单 Dān a name denoting a 'single'.

47. 包 Bāo a surname meaning 'package'.

48. 解 Jiě a name implying 'a solution'.

49. 涂料 Túliào is a surname that means 'paint'.

50. 欧洲 Ōuzhōu a surname meaning 'Europe.

51. 分 Fēn a name meaning 'min'.

52. 汽车 Qìchē a mode of transport inspired last name that means 'car'.

53. 守卫 Shǒuwèi a surname implying 'guard'.

54. 战争 Zhànzhēng a last name meaning 'war'.

55. 阴沉 Yīnchén a name inspired by an emotion, 'gloomy'.

56. 古 Gǔ meaning 'ancient'.

57. 衣服 Yīfú a surname that means 'clothes'.

58. 在危险之中 Zài wéixiǎn zhī zhōng a rare family name meaning 'in danger'.

59. 羊 Yáng is a surname that means 'sheep'.

60. 种类 Zhǒnglèi a last name that stands for 'species'.

61. 暴力 Bàolì a surname inspired by an emotion, 'violent'.

62. 悲哀 Bēi'āi a name inspired by an emotion, 'sorrow'.

63. 酱 Jiàng a last name that stands for a food item, 'sauce'.

64. 油 Yóu a last name that stands for a food item, 'oil'.

65. 盐 Yán a last name that stands for a food item, 'salt'.

66. 豆子 Dòuzi a last name that stands for a food item, 'beans'.

67. 死亡 Sǐwáng an astonishing but in-use last name meaning 'death'.

68. 是 Shì a rare surname meaning 'yes'.

69. 通过 Tōngguò the rarest surname per records meaning 'by'.

70. 关Guān a name denoting distance that means 'close'.

71. 姚明 Yáomíng this last name has no known English equivalent.

72. 厂 Chǎng meaning 'a plant'.

73. 称重 Chēng zhòng meaning 'to weigh'.

74. 阴 Yīn this last name has no known English equivalent.

75. 幸运 Xìngyùn a last name meaning 'lucky'.

76. 展览 Zhǎnlǎn meaning 'exhibition'.

77. 元 Yuán this last name has no known English equivalent.

78. 便宜的 Piányí de an interesting choice of the surname meaning 'inexpensive'.

79. 斤 īn Jin this last name has no known English equivalent.

80. 丰富Fēngfù an interesting choice of last name, meaning 'rich'.

81. 奉Fèng a name implying 'bong'.

82. 司馬 Sīmǎ means 'controller of horses' and comes under the category of an occupational surname.

83. 公孫 Gōngsūn means 'child of the palace'. It is a rare compound surname.

84. 智慧Zhìhuì a name meaning 'wisdom'.

85. 赞 Zàn this last name has no known English equivalent.

Rare Chinese Surnames Inspired By Numeric System

Last names equivalent to numerals are not very rare in the Chinese family names system; it has been a prevalent system from the era of ruling erstwhile dynasties. However, here are some rare surnames based which are numeric family names.

86. 零 Líng means 'zero'.

87. 一 Yī 'one'. The founder of the Shang Dynasty, Tang, got descendants to change their surnames to read Yi.

88. 二 Èr means 'two'.

89. 三 Sān means 'three'. Inspired by the ancient residence of Sanshou.

90. 四 Sì means 'four'.

91. 五 Wǔ means 'five'. This Chinese surname was believed to help fight enemies.  

92. 六 Liù means 'six'. After banishment from Ming Chengzu, Fang Xiaoru changed his surname to this name meaning 'six'.

93. 七 Qī means 'seven'. It was adopted by the Qi family.

94. 八 Bā means 'eight'. It is inspired by the Qiang nationality.

95. 九 Jiǔ means 'nine'.

96. 十 Shí means 'ten'. This surname originated from the Xianbei clan.

97. 百 Bǎi means 'hundred'. It was adopted during the reign of the yellow emperor, Sun Boyi.

98. 千 Qiān means 'thousand'. It was adopted during the time of the Three Kingdoms.

99. 十亿 Shí yì means 'billion'.

100. 兆 Zhào means 'trillion'.

Kidadl has lots of great names articles to inspire you. If you liked our suggestions for Rare Chinese Surnames then why not take a look at these Thai last names, or for something different take a look at these Czech last names.

Written By
Kidadl Team

The Kidadl Team is made up of people from different walks of life, from different families and backgrounds, each with unique experiences and nuggets of wisdom to share with you. From lino cutting to surfing to children’s mental health, their hobbies and interests range far and wide. They are passionate about turning your everyday moments into memories and bringing you inspiring ideas to have fun with your family.

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