Chen (surname)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Chen surname in regular script
  • Chen (Mandarin)
  • Dunn (Taiwanese Hokkien, Mingnamyu, Holo)
  • Chan (Cantonese)
  • Tan (Hokkien, Teochew)
  • Tang (Teochew)
  • Chin (Taishanese, Hakka, Japanese)
  • Zen (Wu)
  • Ding (Eastern Min, Gan)
  • Ting (Eastern Min)
  • Jin, Chin (Korean)
  • Trần (Vietnamese)
  • Taing (Khmer)
  • Tanumihardja, Tanubrata, Tanuwijaya, Tanoesoedibjo (Indonesian)
  • Chén (Pinyin)
  • Tân (Pe̍h-ōe-jī)
  • Can4 (Jyutping)
  • Chàhn (Cantonese Yale)
Language(s)Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese, Teochew, Hokkien)
Language(s)Old Chinese
DerivationGui (ancestral surname)
Other names
  • Trần (Vietnamese)
  • Jin (Korean name)
  • Sae-Tang, Sae-Chen, Sae-Chin, Sae-Tan (Thai name)
  • Hartanto, Sutanto, Tanujaya (Chinese Indonesian)

Chen ([ʈʂʰə̌n] (listen)) (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Chén; Wade–Giles: Ch'ên; Jyutping: Can4; Cantonese Yale: Chàhn) is a common Chinese-language surname and one of the most common surnames in Asia. 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]

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

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).

In Indonesia, the surname is sometimes transliterated as Hartanto.[4]

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.[5]

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.[6]


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'.


Chen descends from the legendary sage king Emperor Shun from around 2200 BC via the surname Gui ().[7][8]

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.[7][8] 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.[7][8]

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.[9][10]

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.[11][12][13]

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).[14]

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.[15][16][17][18][19][20][21]

During the YuanMing transition, Chen Youliang founded the Chen Han dynasty, which helped overthrow Yuan rule and pave the way for the Ming dynasty.[22][full citation needed]

In the 20th century, Chen Duxiu cofounded the Chinese Communist Party and became its first general secretary, but was eventually expelled from the party and condemned by Mao due to advocating Trotskyism.[23]


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.[24]

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 common Chinese surname overseas.[5]

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.[25]

Hong Kong has around 700,000 using the spelling "Chan" and 61,000 using the spelling "Chen", so in total around 700,000–800,000 Chen (陈), which ranks first in Hong Kong.

In Thailand, last names are more unique therefore the Chinese last name Chen ranks 2nd with 88,000 and with an incidence of 1 to 900.

There are 187,000 Chens in the US, as of 2014. It is the 30th most common last name in California where there are 70,000. 11,300 in Texas, 6,800 Illinois, 5,900 Maryland. New Jersey was undercounted with data missing; New York had 5,400.

In Canada there are 32,900 Chens; 16,600 Ontario and 11,000 British Columbia.[26]

Chen is usually one of the top 5 common Asian last names and top 3 most common Chinese in the US.

Other pronunciations and transliteration[edit]

Chen family ancestral temple, in Xiazai Village, Cangnan County, Zhejiang

Notable people surnamed 陳 / 陈[edit]

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

Historical figures[edit]

  • Chen Baxian (陳霸先), also known as Emperor Wu of Chen (陳武帝), founding emperor of the Chen dynasty during the Northern and Southern dynasties period
  • Chen Biao (陳表), military general of Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms period
  • Chen Bozong (陳伯宗), also known as Emperor Fei of Chen (陳廢帝), third emperor of the Chen dynasty
  • Chen Cheng (陳誠), Ming diplomat known for his overland journeys into Central Asia
  • Chen Dao (陳到), military general of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period
  • Chen De'an (陳德安), also known Śramaṇa Zhiyi (沙門智顗), fourth patriarch of the Tiantai school in Chinese Buddhism
  • Chen Deng (陳登; 204–237), military general and politician of the late Eastern Han dynasty
  • Chen Di (陳第), Ming philologist, strategist, and traveler
  • Chen Gong (陳宮), advisor to the warlord Lu Bu during the late Eastern Han dynasty
  • Chen Hongmou (陳宏謀; 1696–1771), Qing official, scholar and philosopher, widely regarded as a model official of the Qing dynasty.
  • Chen Huacheng (陳化成; 1776–1842), Jiangnan admiral, the highest rank in the Qing Imperial Navy and was regarded as a national hero
  • Chen Hugong (陳胡公), also known as Duke Hu of Chen, founder for the State of Chen (陳國) during the Zhou dynasty
  • Chen Hui / Chen Yi (陳禕; 602–664), also known as Master Xuanzang (玄奘法師), Buddhist monk, scholar, traveller, and translator, known for his epoch-making contributions to Chinese Buddhism and the travelogue of his journey to India during the Tang dynasty period
  • Chen Jiao (陳嬌), Empress Chen of Wu (孝武陳皇后) and the first wife of Emperor Wu of Han
  • Chen Li (陳澧; 1810–1882), Qing scholar of the evidential research school, known for his contributions to historical Chinese phonology
  • Chen Li (陳理), second and last emperor of Chen Han in late Yuan dynasty, and founded Yangsan Jin clan in Korea
  • Chen Lin (陳璘), Ming general and navy admiral, commander-in-chief of the Battle of Noryang and led Ming Navy to win the Imjin War, founderof Gwangdong Jin clan in Korea
  • Chen Lin (陳琳), Eastern Han official, scholar and poet, one of the "Seven Scholars of Jian'an"
  • Chen Menglei (陳夢雷), Qing scholar-writer, also the chief editor and compiler of Gujin Tushu Jicheng
  • Chen Ping (陳平), chancellor of the early Western Han dynasty and adviser of Emperor Gaozu of Han
  • Chen Qun (陳群), official of Cao Wei during Three Kingdoms period and initiated the nine-rank system for civil service nomination
  • Chen Tanqian (陳昙蒨), Emperor Wen of Chen (陳文帝), second emperor of the Chen dynasty
  • Chen Sheng (陳勝), leader of the Chen Sheng Wu Guang uprising, the first uprising against the Qin dynasty
  • Chen Shi (陳式), military general of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period
  • Chen Shou (陳壽; 233–297), historian and author in the early Jin dynasty, best known for his historical text Records of the Three Kingdoms (三國志)
  • Chen Shubao (陳叔寶), also known as Houzhu of Chen (陳後主), fifth and last emperor of the Chen dynasty
  • Chen Shuda (陳叔達), imperial prince of the Chen dynasty and chancellor of the Tang dynasty
  • Chen Tai (陳泰), military general and official of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period
  • Chen Tang (陳湯), military general of the Western Han dynasty, famous during the Han–Xiongnu War
  • Chen Tianbao (陳添保), former fisherman turned navy commander of the Tay Son dynasty in Vietnam
  • Chen Tuan (陳摶), regarded as a Taoist Immortal, who created and used sleeping qigong methods of internal alchemical cultivation, and also a grand martial artist who created the Liuhebafa technique
  • Chen Wangting (陳王庭;1580–1660), commander of the Wen County garrison during the late Ming dynasty, who founded Chen-style t'ai chi ch'uan
  • Chen Weisong (陳维崧; 1626–1682), first of the great Ci and Pianwen poets during the Qing dynasty, leader and founder of the Yangxian poetry school
  • Chen Wenlong (陳文龍; 1232–1277), scholarly general during the final years of the Southern Song dynasty, was later deified as City God of Fuzhou and Putian during the Ming dynasty
  • Chen Wu (陳武), military general who served under the warlord Sun Ce and Sun Quan during the late Eastern Han dynasty
  • Chen Xu (陳頊), Emperor Xuan of Chen (陳宣帝), fourth emperor of the Chen dynasty
  • Chen Yan (陳巖), governor (观察使) of the Fujian Circuit during the late Tang dynasty
  • Chen Youliang (陳友諒), founding emperor of Chen Han in the late Yuan dynasty
  • Chen Yuanyuan (陳圓圓), leading figure in the Suzhou kunqu and concubine of Wu Sangui
  • Chen Zhaoyin (陳昭應; 1047–1101), also known as Master Qingshui (清水祖師), Chan Buddhist monk during the Northern Song from Anxi County of Quanzhou and was worshipped as a deity in Southern Fujian region and among Chinese diaspora communities
  • Chen Zi'ang (陳子昂), prominent poet and important advisor to the Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang dynasty, well known for his collection of thirty-eight poems "Ganyu" (感遇)
  • Chen Zhen (陳震), Minister of the Guards (衛尉) in Shu Han during Three Kingdoms period
  • Chen Zheng (陳政; 616–677), military general of the Tang dynasty
  • Empress Chen / Empress Xiaojiesu (孝潔肅皇后), first empress to the Jiajing Emperor of the Ming dynasty
  • Tan Goan-kong (陳元光; 657–711), Tang military general and official who was honoured as the "Sacred Duke, founder of Zhangzhou"
  • Trần Cảnh (陳煚; 1218–1277), also known as Trần Thái Tông (陳太宗), first emperor of the Trần dynasty and reigned Đại Việt (1226–1258)
  • Trần Ngỗi (陳頠; 1375–1410), also known as Giản Định Đế (簡定帝), founder and emperor of the Later Trần dynasty
  • Trần Quốc Tuấn (陳國峻; 1228–1300), royal prince, statesman and military commander during the Trần dynasty, managed to repelled two major Mongol invasions in the late 13th century, worshipped and revered as national hero
  • Trần Thừa (陳承; 1184–1234), head of the Trần clan and high-ranking mandarin during the Lý dynasty
  • Trần Thủ Độ (陳守度; 1194–1264), Grand Chancellor and Regent of the Emperor during the Trần dynasty

Dynasties and states[edit]

  • Rulers of Chen (state) during the Zhou dynasty period (陳國), where Taoism originated
  • Rulers of the Chen dynasty during the Northern and Southern dynasties period (陳朝)
  • Rulers of Chen Han during the late Yuan dynasty period (陳漢)
  • Rulers of the Trần dynasty that ruled over Đại Việt (also known as 陳朝)
  • Rulers of the Later Trần dynasty that ruled over Đại Việt (後陳朝)

Modern figures[edit]

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


  • Chen Fu Zhen Ren (陳府真人), ancestral deity of Indonesian Chinese residing throughout Banyuwangi Regency, Java, Bali, and Lombok, also worshipped by Balinese and Javanese (Kejawen).
  • Chen Jinggu (陳靖姑), Taoist deity and protective goddess of women, children, and pregnancy, also known as Lady Linshui (臨水夫人). She is worshipped in Fujian, Taiwan, South China, and across East Asia and Southeast Asia.
  • Chen-style taijiquan (陳式太極拳), Northern Chinese martial art and the original form of Taiji.
  • Tran (surname), second most common Vietnamese surname, the Vietnamese spelling of 陳
  • Chen (disambiguation)
  • Chen Commandery
  • The Hebrew surname חן is also spelled Chen.

Clan temples and associations[edit]



  1. ^ "Common Chinese Names". Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  2. ^ "Statistics Singapore - Popular Chinese Surnames in Singapore". Archived from the original on 23 February 2008. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  3. ^ 厦门第一大姓陈氏:先辈300万贯钱买厦门岛. China Review News (in Chinese). 1 October 2010. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  4. ^ "Hartanto". My China Roots.
  5. ^ a b "公安部发布去年全国姓名报告,"王、李、张"姓排前三" 公安部发布去年全国姓名报告,"王、李、张”姓排前三. 30 January 2020. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  6. ^ "谌(諶) Shèn 名 姓。另见162页 chén。")現代漢語詞典(第七版). Contemporary Chinese Dictionary (Seventh Edition). Commercial Press. 1 September 2016. p. 1165. ISBN 978-7-100-12450-8.
  7. ^ a b c Yang 2003, p. 121.
  8. ^ a b c Han 2010, pp. 2776–77.
  9. ^ Hong Liu (2015). The Chinese Strategic Mind. Edward Elgar Publishing. p. 145. ISBN 9781783474141.
  10. ^ Zhang, Joshua; Wright, James D. (2018). Violence, Periodization and Definition of the Cultural Revolution: A Case Study of Two Deaths by the Red Guards. BRILL. ISBN 9789004360471.
  11. ^ Book of Chen, vols. 1, 2.
  12. ^ History of Southern Dynasties, vol. 9.[1]
  13. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, vols. 158, 159, 161, 162, 163, 164, 165, 166, 167.
  14. ^ "". Archived from the original on 10 September 2004.
  15. ^ Taylor 2013, p. 120.
  16. ^ Taylor 2013, p. 103.
  17. ^ ed. Hall 2008, p. 159.
  18. ^ eds. Dutton & Werner & Whitmore 2013 .
  19. ^ Gunn 2011, p. 112.
  20. ^ Embree & Lewis 1988, p. 190.
  21. ^ Woodside 1971, p. 8.
  22. ^ 《明史》
  23. ^ Lee Feigon (1983). Chen Duxiu, Founder of the Chinese Communist Party. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-05393-6.
  24. ^ 中国四百大姓, 袁义达, 邱家儒, Beijing Book Co. Inc., 1 January 2013
  25. ^ "新京报 - 好新闻,无止境". Archived from the original on 30 August 2020. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  26. ^ "Forebears Chen".
  27. ^ Xinhua News Agency. "秘鲁改组内阁 华裔 何塞·陈出任总理". Archived from the original on 24 September 2010. 15 September 2010. Accessed 22 December 2016.


  • Han, Zhaoqi, ed. (2010). "Houses of Chen and Qi". Shiji 史记 (in Chinese). Zhonghua Book Company. ISBN 978-7-101-07272-3.
  • Yang, Kuan (2003). Xi Zhou Shi 西周史 [History of the Western Zhou] (in Chinese). Shanghai People's Publishing House. ISBN 978-7-208-04538-5.

External links[edit]