Chinese Surnames

My colleagues are always so curious about Chinese names and keep on making fun of my surname (吴 wú/ng) as they find the pronunciation “ng” interesting. So let me talk about Chinese surnames in this article. The Chinese surname is very different from a Westerner’s first name.

The Chinese surname is placed before the person’s name while the latter is placed after. Take the names Zhāng Huá Tiān(张华天)and Kathrin Shorr for example. ‘ Zhāng’ (张)is the surname of the person named Huá Tiān (华天) while ‘ Shorr ‘ is Kathrin´s surname. Like most Asian surnames, Chinese surnames are passed down from generations and hold the family history in perpetuity. Chinese surnames tell others about the person’s history and are always retained even though the name may change.

Here are some very common Chinese surnames according to a study published in 2006. If you are learning Chinese, I suggest you to memorize the list below, and you will find that you can read most of the Chinese people’s surnames already.

Top 20 Chinese surnames:

  1. 李 Lǐ
  2. 王 Wáng
  3. 张 Zhāng
  4. 刘 Liú
  5. 陈 Chén
  6. 杨 Yáng
  7. 黄 Huáng
  8. 赵 zhào
  9. 周 zhōu
  10. 吴Wú (I am in no.10)
  11. 徐 Xú
  12. 孙 Sūn
  13. 朱Zhū
  14. 马Mǎ
  15. 胡 Hú
  16. 郭 Guō
  17. 林 Lín
  18. 何 Hé
  19. 高 Gāo
  20. 梁Liáng

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Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_common_Chinese_surnames

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