Chen (surname)

Last updated

Chen surname in regular script
RomanizationChen (Mandarin)
Dunn (Taiwanese Hokkien, Mingnamyu, Holo)
Chan (Cantonese)
Tan (Hokkien, Teochew)
Tang (Teochew)
Chin (Taishanese, Hakka, Japanese)
Zen (Wu)
Ding (Gan)
Jin, Chin (Korean)
Trần (Vietnamese)
Taing (Khmer)
Hartanto (Indonesian)
PronunciationChén (Pinyin)
Tan (Pe̍h-ōe-jī)
Can4 (Jyutping)
Language(s)Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese, Teochew, Hokkien)
Language(s) Old Chinese
Word/name Emperor Shun
Chen Hu Gong
Chen (state)
Derivation Gui (ancestral surname)
Other names
Derivative(s) Trần (Vietnamese),
Jin (Korean name),
Sae-Tang, Sae-Chen, Sae-Chin, Sae-Tan (Thai name),
Hartanto, Sutanto, Tanujaya (Chinese Indonesian)

Chen ( [ʈʂʰə̌n] ) (simplified Chinese : ; traditional Chinese : ; pinyin :Chén; Wade–Giles :Ch'en) is a common East Asian surname and one of the most common surnames in the world. It is the most common surname in Taiwan (2010) [1] and Singapore (2000). [2] Chen is also the most common family name in Guangdong, Zhejiang, Fujian, Macau, and Hong Kong. It is the most common surname in Xiamen, the ancestral hometown of many overseas Hoklo. [3]


In Cantonese, it is usually romanized as Chan (as in Jackie Chan), most widely used by those from Hong Kong. Chan is also widely used in Macao and Malaysia. It is also sometimes spelled Chun. In many Southern Min dialects (including dialects of Hainan, Fujian, and Taiwan), the name is pronounced Tan, while in Teochew, it is pronounced Tang. In Hakka and Taishanese, the name is spelled Chin. In Wu it is pronounced Zen or Tchen.

In Vietnam, this surname is written as Trần (in Quốc Ngữ) and is 2nd most common. In Thailand, this surname is the most common surname of Thai Chinese and is often pronounced according to Teochew dialect as Tang. In Cambodia, this surname is transliterated as Taing. In Japanese, the surname is transliterated Chin (ちん). In Korean it is transliterated Jin or Chin (진).

Chen is 5th most common in mainland China, but 4th most common in the world due to Chen's larger overseas population. With all its various spellings and pronunciations, there are around 80-100 million people surnamed 陳 / 陈 worldwide. [4]

Chen was listed 10th in the Hundred Family Surnames poem, in the verse 馮陳褚衛 (Feng Chen Chu Wei).

The surname Cheng (程) is sometimes romanized as Chen (e.g. John S. Chen). Another less common Chinese surname / (Shen) can also be romanized as Chen. [5]


The Chinese character 陳 / 陈 means 'to describe' (陈述) or 'ancient'. It is a combination of the radical 阝and the character 東 / 东 which means 'East'.


The Chen Clan Academy in Guangzhou, China The Chen Clan's Academy.jpg
The Chen Clan Academy in Guangzhou, China

Chen descends from the legendary sage king Emperor Shun from around 2200 BC via the surname Gui ( ). [6] [7]

A millennia after Emperor Shun, when King Wu of Zhou established the Zhou dynasty (c. 1046 BC), he enfeoffed his son-in-law Gui Man, also known as Duke Hu of Chen or Chen Hugong (陈胡公). Chen Hugong, a descendant of Emperor Shun, found the State of Chen in modern Huaiyang County, Henan Province. [6] [7] In 479 BC, Chen was absorbed by Chu and became the Chu capital. The people of Chen adopted the name of their former state as their surname. [6] [7]

At the end of the Qin dynasty, Chen Sheng initiated the Chen Sheng Wu Guang Uprising that overthrew the Qin and paved the way for the Han dynasty, one of China's golden ages. [8] [9]

During the Northern and Southern Dynasties period (420-589), Chen Baxian established the Chen Dynasty (557-589), the fourth and the last of the Southern dynasties, which was eventually absorbed by the Sui Dynasty. [10] [11] [12]

During this period, the nomadic Xianbei people had systematically assimilated into China's agrarian culture and adopted Han Chinese surnames under the state directives of Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei. The Xianbei subjects whose surname of "侯莫陳" (Hóumòchén) were converted to "陳" (Chen). [13]

Some descendants of Chen migrated to Vietnam (Dai Viet) and established the Trần dynasty, a golden age in Vietnam. Their original home was Fujian, and they migrated under Trần Kinh (陳京 Chén Jīng). Trần Thái Tông (陈太宗 Chen Taizong) became the founding emperor of the Tran dynasty, and his descendants would rule Vietnam for more than a century, expanding Vietnam's territory and promoting developments in language, chu nom, culture, and art. Certain members of the clan could still speak Chinese, like when a Yuan dynasty envoy had a meeting with the Chinese-speaking Tran Prince Trần Quốc Tuấn in 1282. [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20]

During the Yuan-Ming transition, Chen Youliang founded the Chen Han dynasty, which helped overthrow Yuan rule and pave the way for the Ming dynasty, another Chinese golden age. [21]

In the 20th century, Chen Duxiu cofounded the Chinese Communist Party and became its first general secretary. [22]


Chen is the 5th most common surname in mainland China (around 70 million) and 4th most common in the world (around 80-100 million, including all its variants like Chan, Tan, Tran).

A 2013 study found that it was the 5th most common surname, shared by 61,300,000 people or 4.610% of the population, with the province with the most being Guangdong. [23]

According to 2018 census, it was 5th most common in mainland China at around 63 million, but 4th most common surname in the world with 80-100 million people. It is the most popular Chinese surname overseas. [4]

In 2019 Chen was again the fifth most common surname in mainland China. It is the most common surname in the southern provinces of Zhejiang, Fujian, and Guangdong. [24]

Other pronunciations and transliterations

Chen family ancestral temple, in Xiazai Village, Cangnan County, Zhejiang Pucheng - Xiazai Cun - P1220164.JPG
Chen family ancestral temple, in Xiazai Village, Cangnan County, Zhejiang

Notable people surnamed 陳 / 陈

This list includes Chen, Chan, Tran, Tan, Tang and other common spellings of 陈

Historical figures

Dynasties and States

Modern figures

Note: this list is primarily ordered by spelling of the surname, secondarily ordered by given name commonly used in English, regardless of name order.


The Hebrew surname חן is also spelled Chen.

Cao Zhi also used the surname Chen and called himself King Chen (陈王). See his article for details.


Related Research Articles

Chinese surnames are used by Han Chinese and Sinicized ethnic groups in China, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, and among overseas Chinese communities around the world such as Singapore and Malaysia. Chinese surnames are given first for names written in Chinese, which is the opposite of Western naming convention where surnames come last. Around 2,000 Han Chinese surnames are currently in use, but the great proportion of Han Chinese people use only a relatively small number of these surnames; 19 surnames are used by around half of the Han Chinese people, while 100 surnames are used by around 87% of the population. A report in 2019 gives the most common Chinese surnames as Wang and Li, each shared by over 100 million people in China, with Zhang, Liu, Chen, Yang, Huang, Zhao, Wu and Zhou making up the rest of the ten most common Chinese names.

Wang (surname) Surname list

Wang is the pinyin romanization of the common Chinese surnames (Wáng) and (Wāng). It is currently the most common surname in mainland China, as well as one of the most common surnames in the world, with more than 100 million worldwide.

Zhang (surname) Surname list

Zhang is third most common surname in China and one of the most common surnames in the world. Zhang is the pinyin romanization of the very common Chinese surname written in simplified characters and in traditional characters. It is spoken in the first tone: Zhāng. It is a surname that exists in many languages and cultures, corresponding to the surname 'Archer' in English for example. Chang is the Wade-Giles romanization; Cheung is commonly used in Hong Kong as romanization.

Yang (surname) Surname list

Yang is the transcription of a Chinese family name. It is the sixth most common surname in Mainland China. It is the 16th surname on the Hundred Family Surnames text.

Chan is a non-pinyin romanisation of multiple Chinese surnames, based on different varieties of Chinese.

Cài is a Chinese surname that derives from the name of the ancient Cai state. In 2019 it was the 38th most common surname in China, but the 9th most common in Taiwan, where it is usually romanized as Tsai, Tsay, or Chai based on Wade-Giles romanization of Standard Mandarin and the 8th most common in Singapore, where it is usually romanized as Chua, which is based on its Teochew and Hokkien pronunciation. Koreans use Chinese-derived family names and in Korean, Cai is 채 in Hangul, Chae in Revised Romanization, It is also a common name in Hong Kong where it is romanized as Choy, Choi or Tsoi. In Macao and Malaysia, it is spelled as Choi, in Malaysia and the Philippines as Chua or Chuah, in Thailand as Chuo (ฉั่ว). Moreover, it is also romanized in Cambodia as either Chhay or Chhor among people of full Chinese descent living in Cambodia and as Tjoa or Chua in Indonesia.

Féng Surname list

Féng is a Chinese surname. It is 9th on in the Song Dynasty Hundred Family Surname poem and is reported as the 31st most common Chinese last name in 2006. Unlike the less common Feng name "phoenix" it is a rising second tone féng in modern Mandarin.

Lin (surname) Surname list

Lin is the Mandarin romanization of the Chinese surname written 林. It is also used in Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, and the Philippines.

Chin Sophonpanich was a Thai entrepreneur who founded Bangkok Bank and Bangkok Insurance.

Zhong (surname) Surname list

Zhong is pinyin transliteration of several Chinese surnames, including Zhōng (鍾/钟), Zhòng. and Zhòng (仲), etc. These are also transliterated as Chung. It is sometimes transliterated as Cheong or Choong in Malaysia. In Indonesia, it is transliterated as Tjung or Tjoeng.

Du (surname) Surname list

Du (Chinese: 杜; pinyin: ; Wade–Giles: Tu4) is a Chinese surname. The name is spelled Tu in Taiwan, in Hong Kong it is translated as To, in Macao it is spelled as Tou, the pronunciation of 杜 in Cantonese. The Vietnamese equivalent of the surname is Đỗ. However, when diacritics are dropped, it can also be from the Vietnamese surnames Dư 余 or Dũ 俞 (Chinese equivalent is both Yu). It is the 129th surname in Hundred Family Surnames and is the 47th most popular surname in China. In 2019 it was the 42nd most common surname in Mainland China.

Su is the pinyin romanization of the common Chinese surname written 苏 in simplified characters and 蘇 traditionally.

Lü (surname) Surname list

is the pinyin and Wade–Giles romanisation of the Chinese surname written 吕 in simplified character and 呂 in traditional character. It is the 47th most common surname in China, shared by 5.6 million people, or 0.47% of the Chinese population as of 2002. It is especially common in Shandong and Henan provinces.

Chin is a surname. As a Chinese surname or Korean surname, it could originate from various Chinese characters, and it is also a surname in other cultures as well.

Tian (surname) Surname list

Tián (田), or T'ien in Wade-Giles is a Chinese surname. An alternative transliteration of "田" from Cantonese is Tin. It appeared in the Hundred Family Surnames text from the early Song Dynasty. It also means "field". In 2019 it was the 34th most common surname in Mainland China.

Lí (surname 黎)

is a Chinese surname. It mostly appears in Central and South China where it is transliterated as Lai or Lye.

Duke Hu of Chen was the founding monarch of the ancient Chinese state of Chen (陈国), established in modern eastern Henan Province soon after his father-in-law King Wu of Zhou founded the Zhou dynasty in 1046/45 BC.


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