Last names provide a solid connection to our family’s past. Chinese last names are rooted in their country’s deep history. Many Japanese and Korean surnames also stem from Chinese surnames. While there are over 4,000 last names in China today, the ancient tradition of the “old hundred families” is still strong. According to legend, the top 100 surnames in China stemmed from 100 tribes that lived thousands of years ago. These now make up around 85 percent of China’s population.
We’ve compiled a list of popular Chinese last names. While a name’s character might be shared in Mandarin and Cantonese, the romanticization differs in each language variation. Here, we break down each name, its romanticizations, and its meaning. Read on and see if you recognize any!
Mandarin: Huang Cantonese: Wong Meaning: Yellow.
Mandarin: Lin Cantonese: Lam Meaning: Forest.
Mandarin: Chang Cantonese: Cheung Meaning: Expanding (referring to the bowstring pulling of an archer).
Mandarin: Sun Cantonese: Suen Meaning: Grandson.
Mandarin: Cheng Cantonese: Zeng/Cheng Meaning: Referring to the former State of Zheng.
Mandarin: Xiao Cantonese: Siu Meaning: Quiet.
Mandarin: Chuang Cantonese: Tsong Meaning: Village, place of business, farmstead, or solemn.
Mandarin: Hung Cantonese: Hung Meaning: Flood, vast or grand.
Mandarin: Li Cantonese: Lee Meaning: Plum.
Mandarin: T’ien Cantonese: Tin Meaning: Field.
Mandarin: Yüan Cantonese: Yuen Meaning: Robe.
Mandarin: Jen Cantonese: Yam Meaning: Appoint.
Mandarin: Ts’ui Cantonese: Chui Meaning: Towering.
Mandarin: Wang Cantonese: Wong Meaning: King.
Mandarin: Ch’en Cantonese: Chan Meaning: Old or exhibit.
Mandarin: Yang Cantonese: Yeung Meaning: Aspen tree.
Mandarin: Ch’eng Cantonese: Ching Meaning: Rule, procedure or journey.
Mandarin: Shen Cantonese: Shum/Sum/Sham Meaning: To sink.
Mandarin: Chiang Cantonese: Keung Meaning: Ginger.
Mandarin: T’an Cantonese: Tam Meaning: Talk.
Mandarin: Liao Cantonese: Liu Meaning: Chat, kill or slightly.
Mandarin: Wei Cantonese: Wai Meaning: Leather.
Mandarin: Hsiung Cantonese: Hung Meaning: Bear.
Mandarin: Lung Cantonese: Lung/Long Meaning: Dragon.
Mandarin: Mao Cantonese: Mo Meaning: Hair or fur.
Mandarin: Shih Cantonese: Si/Xi Meaning: Establish or reproduce.
Mandarin: Kung Cantonese: Kung Meaning: Present or give.
Mandarin: Ch’ien Cantonese: Chin Meaning: Money.
Mandarin: K’ung Cantonese: Hung Meaning: Hole.
Mandarin: Ch’ang Cantonese: Sheung Meaning: Common.
Mandarin: Kang Cantonese: Hong Meaning: Healthy.
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