Top 100 Rare Chinese Surnames with Meanings and History | Kidadl


Top 100 Rare Chinese Surnames with Meanings and History

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A number of local languages are spoken in China, with Mandarin and Cantonese being the most common dialects.

Both dialects have the same set of characters, yet they are different languages in terms of tone, spoken and written form, grammar, and use. Chinese surnames are primarily patrilineal family names, although choosing the matrilineal lineage for surnames is also legal.

A Chinese name begins with the family name as the surname, followed by the given name. 'Xingshi' is the Chinese translation of the surname or last name. It essentially means 'family name' and refers to the two sources of ancient Chinese surnames, 'xing' or the name of the ancestral clan, and 'shi', meaning the name of the family lineage. Due to various conventions in each dialect, the translations of the Chinese surname appear to have different spellings. Chinese surnames are usually a single character in length, with a few two-character surnames also existing. Since each Chinese character represents a particular concept or idea, the surnames' meaning appears quite peculiar. Around 12000 Chinese surnames existed as per available historical records, out of which only 615o family names are currently in use in the country. At present, nearly 85 % of the Chinese population is known to have one of the 100 most common Chinese surnames. Some of the critical reasons for the extinction of Chinese surnames are considered to be - taboos against the use of certain characters, orthographic simplification of surnames in the modern era, and choosing surnames of rulers and ethnic minority groups. The most common Chinese surnames are Wang, Li, Zhang, Chen, Yang, Huang, and Liu.

If you are looking for Chinese surnames that originated from ancient Chinese dynasties or surnames that have interesting meanings, listed below are the top 100 of such Chinese family names.

Rare Chinese Last Names That Originated From Ruling Dynasties

The earliest last names in China seem to have matrilineal origins. However, most Chinese surnames are patrilineal, which is widely practiced by descendants of Han Chinese. 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. Historically, the rarest surname in use, according to ancient Chinese last name records, would be 贶 Kuàng, meaning 'bestow'. You can find some rare surnames in this section, which originate from the names of the dynasties and kingdoms that ruled in China.

1. Chén (陳) (Chinese origin) means 'to explain' or 'to narrate'.

2. Chǔ (楚) (Chinese origin) means 'orderly' or refers to a 'Chinese medicinal plant'.

3. Hán (韓) (Chinese origin) is a complex surname formed of two character parts that mean 'sunlight' and 'tanned leather'.

4. Liáng (梁) (Chinese origin) means 'bridge'.

5. Liào (廖) (Chinese origin) means 'wind blowing over a vast area'.

6. Mǐn (闵) (Chinese origin) is a complex surname formed of two character parts that mean 'entrance' and 'culture'.

7. Míng (明) (Chinese origin) means 'bright', 'wise'.

8. Qī (祁) (Chinese origin) means 'large' or 'vast'.

9. Qín (秦) (Chinese origin) is a complex ideogram that means 'to pound grain'.

10. Qīng (清) (Chinese origin) means 'distinct', 'honest', or 'clear'.

11. Shàng (尚) (Chinese origin) means 'esteem'.

12. Shū (殳) (Chinese origin) means 'wooden or bamboo spear'.

13. Sòng (宋) (Chinese origin) means 'building made of wood'.

14. Suí (隋) (Chinese origin) meaning 'an unorthodox place'.

15. Tāng (唐) (Chinese origin) means 'exaggerated' or 'empty'.

16. Wéi (衛) (Chinese origin) means 'to protect' or 'to guard'.

17. Wú (吴) (Chinese origin) is a complex surname formed of two character parts, which mean 'entrance' and 'heaven'.

18. Xià (夏) (Chinese origin) means 'summer'.

19. Xīn (辛) (Chinese origin) means 'laborious'.

20. Yán (嚴) (Chinese origin) can mean 'tight', 'strict', 'father', or 'rigorous'.

21. Yuán (元) (Chinese origin) can mean 'original', fundamental', or 'era'.

22. Zhào (赵) (Chinese origin) means 'to surpass'.

23. Zhōu (周) (Chinese origin) can mean 'week', 'circle', or 'thorough'.

Rare Chinese Last Names With Interesting Meanings

A spectacular orange view of Great Wall of China during autumn

You may think Chinese last names always convey a deep meaning as they are passed through generations. However, it is not completely true; there are a bunch of surnames that can mean simple, daily life things. Many websites available on the internet can help you figure out the Chinese translation of your surname as well.

24. Bāo (包 ) (Chinese origin) means 'to cover' or 'taking charge'.

25. Cáo (曹) (Chinese origin) means 'class' or 'generation'.

26. Cháng (常) (Chinese origin) meaning 'frequently' or 'always'.

27. Cháo (巢) (Chinese origin) means 'nest'.

28. Chōng 充 (Chinese origin) means 'to fulfill'.

29. Cūn (村) (Chinese origin) means a 'village'.

30. Dān (单) (Chinese origin) means 'single'.

31. Dèng (鄧) (Chinese origin) means 'a place'.

32. Dǒng (董) (Chinese origin) means 'to supervise'.

33. Fàn (范) (Chinese origin) means 'pattern'.

34. Fāng (方) (Chinese origin) means 'honest', 'fair' or 'upright'.

35. Fèng (奉) (Chinese origin) means 'to offer' or ' to believe'.

36. Fù (傅) (Chinese origin) means 'tutor'.

37. Gāo 高 (Chinese origin) means 'tall'.

38. Gěng (耿) (Chinese origin) means 'bright' or 'honest'.

39. Gōng (公) (Chinese origin) means 'public'.

40. Gōngsūn (公孫) (Chinese origin) is a rare compound surname, where the first character means 'public' and the second means 'grandson'.

41. Gǔ (古 ) (Chinese origin) means 'ancient'.

42. Guān (關) (Chinese origin) means 'mountain pass'.

43. Guō (郭) (Chinese origin) means 'wall'.

44. Hé (何) (Chinese origin) means 'to carry something'.

45. Hú (胡) (Chinese origin) means 'beard' or 'mustache'.

46. Huáng (黄) (Chinese origin) meaning 'yellow'.

47. Huò (霍) (Chinese origin) means 'suddenly'.

48. Jiǎng (蒋) (Chinese origin) refers to 'grass'.

49. Jīn (金) (Chinese origin) refers to 'gold'.

50. Jǐng (景) (Chinese origin) means 'bright' or 'scenery'.

51. Lóng (龙) (Chinese origin) means 'dragon'.

52. Lù (路) (Chinese origin) means 'road'.

53. Luó (罗) (Chinese origin) means 'to collect' or 'to gather'.

54. Mǎ (马) (Chinese origin) means 'horse'.

55. Máo (毛) (Chinese origin) can mean 'coarse', 'careless', or 'feather'.

56. Niú (牛) (Chinese origin) means 'ox'.

57. Péi (裴) (Chinese origin) means 'long and flowing'.

58. Péng (彭) (Chinese origin) is a complex surname formed of character two parts that mean 'drum' and 'beats'

59. Quán (全) (Chinese origin) means 'whole'.

60. Shēn (申) (Chinese origin) means 'to explain', also referring to 'the year of the Monkey'.

61. Shǐ (史) (Chinese origin) means 'history' or the title of a 'histographer'.

62. Shù (束) (Chinese origin) means 'a bundle' or 'to control.

63. Shuǐ (水) (Chinese origin) means 'water' or 'river'.

64. Sū (苏) (Chinese origin) refers to 'a place', 'revival' or 'Chinese basil plant'.

65. Sūn (孙) (Chinese origin) means 'descendant'.

66. Tán (谈) (Chinese origin) means 'to converse' or 'to speak'.

67. Tong (童) (Chinese origin) means 'a child'.

68. Wàn (万) (Chinese origin) implies a numeric value of 10,000.

69. Wánchéng (完成) (Chinese origin) means 'to accomplish'.

70. Xiāo (萧) (Chinese origin) means 'desolate'.

71. Xiè (谢) (Chinese origin) means 'to thank' or 'to wither'.

72. Xìngyùn (幸运) (Chinese origin) means 'lucky'.

73. Xióng 熊 (Chinese origin) means 'to bear' or 'to rebuke'.

74. Xú (徐) (Chinese origin) means 'gently'.

75. Xuān (宣) (Chinese origin) means 'to declare'. It is known to be one of the rarest Chinese last names.

76. Xún (荀) (Chinese origin) means 'herb'.

77. Yáng (楊) (Chinese origin) refers to 'poplar trees'.

78. Yáo (姚) (Chinese origin) means 'handsome'.

79. Yè (葉) (Chinese origin) means 'page' or 'leaf'.

80. Yīn (阴) (Chinese origin) means 'flourishing'.

81. Yóu (游 ) (Chinese origin) means 'to travel'.

82. Yú (于) (Chinese origin) means 'to take' or 'to go'.

83. Zēng (曾) (Chinese origin) means 'to add' or 'high'.

84. Zhān (詹) (Chinese origin) means 'excellent'.

85. Zhū (朱) (Chinese origin) means 'vermilion'.

Rare Chinese Surnames Inspired By Numeric Systems

Though last names equivalent to numerals may sound unique, these are not very rare in Chinese families. Several rare surnames are associated with numbers. However, these Chinese surnames have variations in the use of characters and romanized spellings so that a different meaning is produced. Some typical Chinese numerals appearing as surnames in various forms are listed below.

86. Bā (八) (Chinese origin) means 'eight'. It is inspired by the Qiang nationality.

87. Bǎi (百) (Chinese origin) means 'hundred'. It was adopted during the reign of the yellow emperor, Sun Boyi.

88. Èr (二) (Chinese origin) means 'two'.

89. Jiǔ (九) (Chinese origin) means 'nine'.

90. Líng (零) (Chinese origin) means 'zero'.

91. Liù (六) (Chinese origin) means 'six'. After banishment from Ming Chengzu, Fang Xiaoru changed his surname to this name meaning 'six'.

92. Qī (七) (Chinese origin) means 'seven'.

93. Qiān (千) (Chinese origin) means 'thousand'. It was adopted during the time of the Three Kingdoms.

94. Sān (三) (Chinese origin) means 'three'. Inspired by the ancient residence of Sanshou.

95. Shí (十) (Chinese origin) means 'ten'. This surname originated from the Xianbei clan.

96. Shí yì (十亿) (Chinese origin) means 'billion'.

97. Sì (四) (Chinese origin) means 'four'.

98. Wǔ (五) (Chinese origin) means 'five'. This Chinese surname was believed to help fight enemies.

99. Yī (一) (Chinese origin) means 'one'. The founder of the Shang Dynasty, Tang, got descendants to change their surnames to read Yi.

100. Zhào (兆) (Chinese origin) means 'trillion'.

Written By
Georgia Stone

<p>Georgia is an experienced Content Manager with a degree in French and Film Studies from King's College London and Bachelors degree from Université Paris-Sorbonne. Her passion for exploring the world and experiencing different cultures was sparked during her childhood in Switzerland and her year abroad in Paris. In her spare time, Georgia enjoys using London's excellent travel connections to explore further afield.</p>

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