This Chinese name is also the source of the Vietnamese surname Tô (Chữ Nôm: 蘇); the Korean surname 소, which is romanized So; the Japanese surname 蘇, which is also romanized So; and the Filipino/Tagalog surname So.
Su was the 41st-most-common Chinese surname in the Mainland during the 1982 census and the 45th-most-common in the 2007 report on household registrations released by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security. It has been listed as the 23rd-most-common Chinese surname on Taiwan.
Su is a somewhat common surname in the United States, listed 5,897th during the 1990 census and 3,835th during the year 2000 one. The other romanizations are less popular: So (8527 & 5167), Soo (17545 & 22160), Sou (77891 & 30226), Thu (49039 & 64912), Soh (unlisted & 40074); Souw had fewer than one hundred resident bearers in the United States during both censuses and was unlisted both times.
Statistics Canada does not release surname lists from its censuses, but Su and So were both listed among the 200-most-common peculiarly Chinese-Canadian surnames in a 2010 survey of the Registered Persons Database of all current and former Canadian health card recipients in the province of Ontario.
Su's original pronunciation has been reconstructed as *s.ŋˤa in Old Chinese, but this had already developed into Su by the time of Middle Chinese. The addition of the grass radical suggests its original meaning was its use describing varieties of the mint perilla, but its general meaning today is as an abbreviation for Suzhou and replacement for a related word meaning "revive".
One origin derives from Fan, purported to be the eldest grandson of the six great-great-great-great-grandsons of the Yellow Emperor and said to have lived in Kunwu (昆吾), the northeast region of Yuncheng in Shanxi. During the Xia dynasty, King Huai or Fen gave Yousu (有苏, modern Suling (肅靈?) in Henan) to the rulers of Kunwu as a fief and they established it as the State of Su. This perished in the late Shang dynasty – whose who fall was traditionally blamed upon the beautiful concubine Su Daji, – but its rulers and people took the state's name as their clan name and moved elsewhere.
Another derives from Su Chasheng who was Minister of Justice under King Wu of the Zhou dynasty and revived the former region of Su as his fief, with a new capital city at Wen (modern Wen County in Henan). He is also considered to be the ancestor of the Wen family.
Prior to the Qin Dynasty, the Su clan mainly resided in Henan and Hebei, but, during the Warring States period, one group moved southward into Hubei and Hunan and another west into Shaanxi. Under the Qin and Han, this Shaanxi clan became a prominent and distinguished family while a third group of clans moved east into Shandong.
Large numbers of Su moved into Sichuan and Fujian during the Tang Dynasty. During the Northern Song, they moved further southward to Guizhou, Guangdong, and Guangxi. Their current relative popularity on Taiwan began following migrations during the Ming and Qing.
List of persons with the surname
World Federation of Soh Associations
Over 1,000 representatives of Soh Clan Associations from around the world meet every two years at the Congress of the World Federation of Soh Associations. Participants hail from China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia, America and Europe. The first congress was held in Manila in 1994.
- Yang Xuxian. 《台灣百大姓氏》[Taiwan's Hundred 'Big Families']. (Chinese)
- US Census Bureau. Op. cit. Public Broadcasting Service. "How Popular Is Your Last Name?" Accessed 6 Apr 2012.
- Shah, B. R.; Chiu, M.; Amin, S.; Ramani, M.; Sadry, S.; Tu, J. V. (2010). "Surname lists to identify South Asian and Chinese ethnicity from secondary data in Ontario, Canada: A validation study". BMC Medical Research Methodology 10: 42. doi:10.1186/1471-2288-10-42. PMC 2877682. PMID 20470433.
- Baxter, Wm. H. & Sagart, Laurent. PDF (1.93 MB), p. 126. 2011. Accessed 11 October 2011.
- Yutopian.com. "Origin of the surname Su, Soo, So".
- People's Daily Online. "History of Chinese surname: Su"
- "Soh Associations takes its congress to the sea". TTGmice. Retrieved 30 November 2012.