Hu (surname)

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Hu is a Chinese surname or family name. In 2006, it was the 15th most common surname in China.[1][2]

Some other less-common surnames pronounced Hu include , , , , , , , and .


The one Chinese character 胡 was used for many hu words besides the Hu surname.

In Classical Chinese, hu 胡 meant: "dewlap; wattle" and was a variant Chinese character for "how; why; what" (he ), "long-lasting; far-reaching" (xia ), "part of a dagger-axe", hu- in "butterfly" (hudie 蝴蝶), and "Northern Barbarians".[3]

In Modern Standard Mandarin, hu 胡 means: "foreign" (e.g., huqin 胡琴 "two-stringed bowed instruments"), "recklessly; irrelevantly" (hushuo 胡說 "talk nonsense; drivel"), "dewlap", (literary) "why; when; how", "Surname", and (historical) "non-Han peoples in the northwest" (Huren 胡人 "the Northern tribes"); or 胡 is a variant character for hu (huzi 胡子/鬍子"moustache; beard; whiskers; bandit") and hu (hutong 胡同/衚衕 "lane; alley").[4] Compare Honghuzi 紅胡子 (literally "Red Beards") "bandits in the Sino-Russian borderlands".

In a religious context, "HU" is woven into the language of life. It is the Sound of all sounds. It is the wind in the leaves, falling rain, thunder of jets, singing of birds, the awful rumble of a tornado. . . . Its sound is heard in laughter, weeping, the din of city traffic, ocean waves, and the quiet rippling of a mountain stream. And yet, the word HU is not God. It is a word people anywhere can use to address the Originator of Life. —Harold Klemp


Non-Chinese peoples and ethnic minorities in China sometimes took the Chinese exonym for their ethnic group as their surname. The best example is Hu 胡, which was anciently used to refer to "barbarian" groups on the northern and western frontiers of China. In modern usage, this common Hu surname is semantically neutral and no longer has derogatory or pejorative connotations. In addition, some individuals adopted Chinese surnames that sound similar to their names, such as Hu from Husaiyin 胡赛因 "Husayn (Hussain, Hussein, etc.)".

Within the ancient Chinese Sinocentric worldview (see Hua-Yi distinction), the central Hua or Huaxia 華夏 "Chinese" were encircled by "non-Chinese peoples, foreigners", many of whom were pejoratively named with Chinese "barbarian" exonyms (e.g., Nanman 南蠻 "Southern Barbarians" and Beidi 北狄 "Northern Barbarians"). Hu 胡 was the exonym for several "barbarian, non-Chinese" peoples. For instance, Jiehu 羯胡 for the Jie "a branch of the Xiongnu" or Qianghu 羌胡 for the Qiang "ancient nationality in West China".

Hu 胡 is used for various northern and western peoples of non-Chinese stock. It was commonly used for people of Persian, Sogdian, Turkish, Xianbi, Indian and Kushan origin and, occasionally, for the Xiongnu (probably because of their connections with the Tonghu or Eastern Hu – a separate tribe conquered by the Xiongnu).[5]

Two historically significant Hu names are this Donghu 東胡 (literally "Eastern Barbarians") "ancient Mongolian nomadic group" and the Wu Hu 五胡 ("Five Barbarians") "five nomadic tribes involved in the Wu Hu uprising" (304-316 CE) against the Jin Dynasty.

The Hu 胡 surname's historical origins are uncertain, and Chinese scholars have proposed four hypotheses.[6] First, Hu could derive from the family of Hu Gongman 胡公滿 "Duke Man of Hu". King Wu of Zhou (r. 1046-043 BCE) enfeoffed his son-in-law Gui Man 媯滿 (supposedly a descendent of the mythical ruler Shun) with the state of Chen 陳 (in modern Henan Province) and titled him Hu Gong 胡公 "Duke of Hu". When Chu (state) annexed Chen in 479 BCE, the Hu family name was replaced by the Chen (surname) 陳. Second, Hu could derive from two Zhou vassal states named Hu 胡, one located near Luohe (Henan Province) or another near Fuyang (Anhui Province). Third, Hu could derive from non-Chinese people adopting it as their surname. For example, in the 496 Change of Xianbei names to Han names, Hegu/Gegu 紇骨 was changed to Hu 胡. Fourth, Hu could derive from the clan name of the ancient Tiele people 敕勒 within the Xiongnu confederation.

Hu (Foochow Romanized: Hù; POJ: Hô or Ô) was also one of the eight surnames of the first Han Chinese clans who first moved out the Central Plains into Fujian province (八姓入閩; Foochow Romanized: Báik Sáng Ĭk Mìng) during the Wu Hu uprising.

The Hồ 胡 clan which founded the Hồ dynasty in Vietnam originated in Zhejiang province of China.[7][8]

The surname 虎 (Hǔ), which means "Tiger", is rare in China to the point where a lot of people are not aware that it is used as a surname. Some believe it came from the name of a 4,300 year old chancellor while others believe it originates among the Hui Muslim minority.[9][10][11][12][13]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]

  • Ho, variant of surname Hu
  • Oh, Fujian variant of surname Hu


  1. ^ China renews top 100 surnames, Li still the biggest, People's Daily Online, January 11, 2006.
  2. ^ Meaning of Chinese names - H
  3. ^ Bernhard Karlgren. Grammata Serica Recensa. Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities. 1957:34.
  4. ^ John DeFrancis, ed. ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary. University of Hawaii Press. 2003:374.
  5. ^ Hill, John E. (2009) Through the Jade Gate to Rome: A Study of the Silk Routes during the Later Han Dynasty, 1st to 2nd Centuries CE, p. 192. BookSurge, Charleston, South Carolina. ISBN 978-1-4392-2134-1.
  6. ^ "胡"这个姓的起源是那里~~怎么来的?, Baidu Encyclopedia (Chinese).
  7. ^ Taylor 2013, p. 166.
  8. ^ ed. Hall 2008, p. 161.
  9. ^ Wang, Guanqun, ed. (2010-02-10). ""Tiger" a rare but strong family name in China". ( Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  10. ^ "'Tiger' rare but strong family name in China". China Daily (Xinhua). 2010-02-10. Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  11. ^ Yang, Chiu-ying (Mar 25, 2009). "Man on the hunt for rare family names". Taipei Times. p. 4. Retrieved 30 April 2013. 
  12. ^ Unicode Han Character 'tiger; brave, fierce; surname' (U+864E)
  13. ^ Chinese Names

External links[edit]