Chinese and Korean Family Names

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(via Asiapundit) DPRK Studies shows that 45% of all Korean (South) people are either Kim, Lee or Park. If one use the same breakdown and project to the whole of Korea one has the following chart (source, 2000 figure)

  • Top 3 concentration: 45%
  • Top 10: 64%
  • Top 15: 72%
  • 22 names have over 1% population (see chart): 81%

The Han Chinese, being a much larger ethnic group, is less concentrated.

  • Top 3 concentration: 23%
  • Top 10: 44%
  • Top 15: 51%
  • 19 names have over 1% population (see chart): 56%
  • It was said that there are some 15 family lines for Kim, Kim's need to check the line to avoid 'in-breeding' before getting maried. one is not supposed to marry within the same line.

Total Han Chinese population is about 1.2bn (92% of all Chinese)

The estimate is based on the population census of 1990, by sampling for each province and adjust for the population weight of the province. Taiwan is included in the survey. Regional difference is widely observed.

  • Chen is the largest name in Guangdong and Taiwan (I suppose also in HK as well), over 10% of the local population
  • 19% of all Huang's in China live in Guangdong (close to 8% of GD people)
  • Wu represents over 5% of Fujian people, but only 2% in all China.
  • Largest name Li, has a population of 95M, and close to 100M if including overseas Chinese dispora, biggest than the entire population of Germany or the 2 Korea's combined
  • There are over 1000 common surname in large cities such as Beijing and Shanghai
  • Many large names are probably expanded by ancient dynasties. e.g. Lee of Tang (many sinicized minorities and other Chinese were "rewarded" by being given the Emperor's name), Zhu of Ming, Liu of Han, Yang of Sui, Zhao of Song, etc.
  • 1700 surnames (incl non-Han) in Taiwan in 1978, increased to about 2000 in 1989, but that is partly due to aborigine switch away from sinicized names
  • see wiki for more

If the regional difference in Chinese is indicative, my extrapolation for N Korea must not be taken seriously (although the Korean, as a smaller country, is probably more homogeneous)

With the computer power today, I expect China would be able to publish an accurate bottom-up census like Korea did. Numbers may differ slightly.

update: don't miss language hat's comment discussion, and faar outliers's post.


Anonymous said...

"There are over 1000 common surname in large cities"

I thought everyone had a surname in one of the 'hundred family names' list (which is only a few hundred long)? Is that list not definitive?

Sun Bin said...

sorry, i should not say "common", any name that it beyond 200 is probably rare, instead of common.

there are actually some 3000-5000 in total. and 1200-1300 in beijing or shanghai.

however, there are only a few hundreds in fujian. i do not know why fujian is so different.
(maybe in the north there are many sinified minority name)

Sun Bin said...

see here , for example.

"我国历史上曾出现过一万多个姓氏,其中的3000多个一直使用到今天。早在1978年,我国的有关部门曾对北京等7大城市的姓氏使用情况作过一个调查,发现北京市共有姓氏2225个,上海市有1640个,沈阳市有1270个,武汉市有1574个,重庆市有1245个,成都市有1631个。把7大城市姓氏放在一起统计,共有2694 个。1984年,中国文字改革委员会汉字处对全国1982年人口普查资料进行分省区抽样调查,共抽查174900人,得到姓氏737个。174900人,得到姓氏737个。两年后,中国科学院遗传所也对这些普查


i suspect the 1200 names in beijing must include minorities as well.

Sun Bin said...

for your interest, there are seom 1600-2000 name in taiwan. i do not know if that includes aborigine names, but i would guess it does.

since the data should be from taiwan census, i suppose you can also search similar quote in taiwan.

Sun Bin said...

more concentration figures.
top 100, 87%
top 200, 90%
top 300, 98%
top 500, 99%


Sun Bin said...

more recent data from taiwan, one of the reasons for recent increase include aborigine desinification.

"台湾姓氏近两千 一、胖、头、某、鸡也成“姓”

新华网北京电 据台湾当局“内政部”最新统计,台湾地区共有姓氏1989个,前10大姓氏依序为陈、林、黄、张、李、王、吴、刘、蔡、杨,占总人口数的53%。


Anonymous said...

Fujian (Min) surnames such as Lim, Kim, Oh and Lee sound similar to Korean, for some reason.
Fujianese also form the backbone of Taiwan province.
An emperor once sent troops to quell an uprising, and the rebels escaped by hiding in sugarcane fields. The event is commemorated to this day on the 9th day of the lunar new year, with lots of sugarcane, and is considered more impt than the 1st day!
Obviously, the Fujianese have always been an independence-minded lot! Yiding yao kaifang Taiwan!
Surnames also sound different in dialects. Chen is Chan (guangdong) Tan (Fujian) Chin (Hakka).
Zhu Tao(Putonghua) becomes Chor Toh(Cantonese) and Chuay Tor (Fujian) and are the various readings of the kanji words in Japanese, Hatsumomo.

Sun Bin said...

i also thought there is some relation between Minnan and Korean pronounciation of chinese characters, not limited to surnames.

i suspect both are closer to ancient Han Chinese pronouncication (say 1500 years ago). but central and north china have undergone most changes due to minority sinification, so that the sounds are different now.

Anonymous said...

According to many northern Chinese I have met, Cantonese sounds very similar to Japanese or Korean. It is also commonly said that Cantonese is very similar to Tang dynasty Chinese. The Tang dynasty is when China first began influencing Korean (and, through Korea, Japanese) culture. Tranditional Korean clothing is also often said to resemble that of the Tang by many Chinese.

Anonymous said...

So Where do the surname Tang (same word as Tang Dynasty) came from? could people hold this surname are likely to be decendents of the dukes of Tang?

Sun Bin said...

no, Duke of Tang of the Tang Dynasty belongs to the Li family.
However, there is another state called Tang in Spring/Autumn Period of the Zhou Dynasty, since around 800BC.

The source is reportedly traced to Emperor Yao of the pre-recorded-history "Myth period".
"上古时期,尧曾经在名为“唐”的地方(今河北唐县)做首领,于是,尧的族人有些就以地名为姓,世代姓唐。舜帝时,分封尧的儿子为唐侯,这一族便成为唐姓人的一大来源。另一大来源是西周周昭王时,他把尧的后代中刘累的一族人分封到河南的一个地方,专管祀奉他们的祖先,那个地方也就叫唐州,这一族逐渐发展成为唐姓的另一支。  历史上唐姓名人数不胜数。宋代有大孝子唐杰,医药家唐慎微;元代有画家唐棣;明有大破倭寇而军功卓著的名臣唐顺之,“江南第一才子”唐伯虎;清有中外闻名的“唐窑”督造人唐英以及名士唐景崧、唐才常等。"

Anonymous said...

that is interesting...so my friend could be the decendents of royalty?

would it be possible to translate that to english? lol both me and myself cant read chinese

Sun Bin said...

maybe, but be careful. sometimes the slaves/etc take the masters; name as well :) (just like the slaves in US did)

you can use google language tool to do a word by word translation.

but loosely
"in ancient time, emperor Yao had been a tribe leader in a place called Tang (before he became the emperor). so some of his tribesmen took the name of the place they came from as surnames. when Yao abdicated to emperor Sun, Yao's son was named the Marquis of Tang. This then become the main source of Tang family.
The other source is when West Zhou, Emperor Zhao of Zhou given a place (currently Henan province) to Yao's descendant Liu Lei. the place is then called Province of Tang....(rest is about famous people of the family in Chiense history)

Anonymous said...

um... i see...
he has a family tree dating back till around 2500 years..far as he know their family used to produce and sell medicine..the family tree book was burned by the communists during the cultural revolution..

somehow he told me some generation of his family was in shanxi...that's why i thought his surname could of been linked to the Tang dynasty

he told me their family was named something else...for some reason their surname was changed to Tang

chinese history is very interesting...especially tracing back the family history since its such a nation with so many dramatic things happened...it appears that the less common surname seems to be more likely they are decendents of officials?

Anonymous said...

I'm Korean but don't know much about my culture or language but if anyone reads this do you know how to spell Mary in Korean like Sun Bin did.

Anonymous said...

Mary? You mean how to write it out phonetically? Please clarify. But ...

meh-ree: 매리
mah-ree: 마리

If you mean "marry" -- 결혼 means "marriage" and is pronounced "kyud-hone," somewhat. (approximated)

Anonymous said...

im korean and my last name is Go in korean sound but spelled Ko in america. how come im not seeing my last name in the chart??

Anonymous said...

We have interacted with Ma, Ha, Phan, Lam, Tran, Nguyen, Trung, Wong and others and our experiences have been varied. Though I think it was generally good. Our research indicated that many of you are of the XIA tribe of Central China.

Anonymous said...

Some of your children have affected my peace meter. At first i was angry but then determined them to be natures little testers. I have taken this as an opportunity to reprice China in a Global sense.

China GDP (2000 to 2150)
Population 14% to 25%
Land 5% to 20%
Food Production 5% to 23%
Electricity 3% to 19%
Tech 5% to 22%(Cell Phones, Computers, etc)
Roads 3% to 17%(Roads, Waterways, Railroads)
Culture 5% to 18%(Movies, Resturants, Events)
Forex 5% to 25%(Dong, Euro, Dollar, Rupee, Yen, Taka)
Debt -1% to -10%(External, Trade Deficit)
Anticipated GDP 16% of world economy (5% to 24%)

Anonymous said...

Hey Team,

I made this map after years of hard work and I am sure that some of your bright ones can figure out the rest.


Map Maker