Mapping China’s Surnames 制图 “老百姓”

Mapping China’s Surnames 制图 “老百姓”

by ASTOKOLS27 on Oct 20, 2013 • 9:56 pmNo Comments

Li-300x270 wang--300x258 zhang-300x267 C-hen-300x256 guo-300x255 ma-300x210

Using this cool new website that maps global surnames according to geographic origin, I was able to map a few of the most common Chinese surnames.  The map shows data at the sub-national level, enabling a province-level map of China’s surnames.  China presents a unique context in which to study the origin of surnames due to the continuity and prevalence of recorded Chinese characters associated with each surname, and the relatively low number of total surnames.  There are, by some estimates, 4,100 surnames in China, while in the US that number is around 6.2 million total. The geographic spread of names in China could be explained in many ways: from population and migration patterns over history, the geographic divisions between north and south, and watersheds.  Historian William Skinner’s came up with the concept of  “macro-regions”  that defined patterns of trade, commerce, language, and culture in China. With China’s massive internal migration today, one might think that the importance of geographic divisions such as the macro-regions, would fade.  As these maps show, that is clearly not the case. Here’s are maps for some of the most common surnames*: Purple indicates a high density of surnames in that province.Li   

Currently the most common Chinese surname, with estimated 95 million “family members”.  Highest concentration in the North China plain (Henan,Hebei,Shandong, Shanxi) and parts of Yunnan, Manchuria.  中国第一个大姓, 主要集中在华北平原,东北,云南。


Literally meaning King, with a population of 92 million.  Dominance in Northern China, with prevalence in Inner Mongolia and Manchuria as well.  Second-most common surname.  主要集中在北方包括内蒙古与华北平原地区。



Third-most frequent surname with 87.5 million people.  The highest concentrations are also in China’s northern Mandarin-speaking areas.  中国第三大姓, 集中在华北平原与东北。



Prevalent in southern China, Chen is the most common name in Guangzhou and Fujian province.  That makes it one of the more common Chinese names in Taiwan and areas with large overseas Chinese populations like SE Asia and California, since many overseas Chinese trace their origins to these coastal provinces.  The purple areas below also seem to correspond closely with the Chen Dynasty   (CE 557-589).  陈是集中在南方, 特别是广东与福建省。因为大部分的华侨是从广东和福建来的, 所以很多欧美和东南亚的华裔姓陈。紫色的地区也很像陈朝的边界。


Common in Northern and Northwestern China, Guo was a common surname adapted by Hui Muslims, and in the Song Dynasty, Chinese Jews in Kaifeng.  郭原来是皇帝给回族和宋朝开封的犹太人用。宋朝开封时期中国政府把回族和犹太人混在一起。


 Meaning horse, this name has a clear prevalence in Northwestern China, showing origins amongst Hui Muslims and even other nomadic minority peoples.  Ma Bufang 马步芳, the Republican-era Hui warlord, ruled much of Northwestern China from Xining.  原意为 “马”,集中在西北和新疆。 回族和其他小数民族常用的一个姓。中国民国时期马步芳是最强的一个军阀之一。

* Data on prevalence of surnames in China based on: “公安部统计:’王’成中国第一大姓 有9288万人 [Public Security Bureau Statistics: ‘Wang’ Found China’s #1 ‘Big Family’, Includes 92.88m People].” 24 Apr 2007. Accessed 27 Mar 2012.(Chinese)

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: