In Classical Chinese, hú 胡 meant: "dewlap; wattle" and was a variant Chinese character for "how; why; what" (he 何), "long-lasting; far-reaching" (xia 遐), "part of a dagger-axe", hu- in "butterfly" (hudie 蝴蝶), or possibly "Northern Barbarians".
According to tradition, the Hu (胡) surname has several historical origins. First, Hu could derive from the family of Duke Hu of Chen. King Wu of Zhou (r. 1046-043 BCE) enfeoffed his son-in-law Gui Man 媯滿 (supposedly a descendent of the legendary sage king Emperor Shun) with the state of Chen (in modern Henan Province). His posthumous name was Duke Hu, and some of his descendants adopted Hu as their surname. 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 within the Xiongnu confederation.
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.
Hu (胡) was used for various northern and western peoples of non-Chinese stock. It was commonly used for people of Persian, Sogdian, Turkic, 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).
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.
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 Hu family of Xidi are descended from Hu Shiliang, from Wuyuan, who was a descendant of Hu Changyi, a son of Emperor Zhaozong of Tang who was adopted by the Wuyuan Hu family.
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.
- Hu Bin, Chinese freestyle swimmer
- Hu Chen-pu, Minister of Veterans Affairs Commission of the Republic of China (2007–2008)
- Hu Chuanzhi, CEO of the China State Shipbuilding Corporation
- Hu Chunhua 胡春华, member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China
- Hu Denghui 胡登辉, former Chinese international footballer
- Hu Die, actress, "Movie Queen" of the 1930s
- Hu Fo, Taiwanese political scientist and activist
- Hu Ge 胡歌, actor
- Hu Hanmin, influential Kuomintang politician
- Jayley Woo and her twin sister Hayley Woo (born 27 December 1991), Singaporean actresses
- Jason Hu 胡志强, Republic of China politician
- Hu Jia 胡佳, a jailed pro-democracy activist in the People's Republic of China
- Jianying Hu, American engineer
- Hu Jintao 胡锦涛, former General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and the paramount leader of China
- Kelly Hu 胡凯丽, American actress
- Hu Lanqi 胡兰畦, writer and one of the first women generals of the Republic of China
- Myolie Wu 胡杏兒, Hong Kong singer and actress
- Hu Ping Chinese actress
- Hu Qiaomu 胡乔木, People's Republic of China politician
- Hu Qili 胡启立, former member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China
- Richard Hu 胡赐道, former Finance Minister of Singapore
- Hu Shih 胡适, Chinese writer and scholar
- Hu Songshan 虎嵩山 Chinese Hui Muslim Imam of the Yihewani sect
- Hu Weide 胡惟德, politician and diplomat of the Qing dynasty and the Republic of China
- Gordon Ying Sheung Wu 胡應湘, chairman of the board of Hopewell Holdings Ltd.
- Hu Zaobin 胡藻斌, early 20th-century Chinese painter, famous for painting tigers
- Hu Yaobang 胡耀邦, former Chairman of the Communist Party of China and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China
- Yi Hu, American engineer
- Hu Yitian 胡一天, Chinese actor
- Yuenyong Opakul, Thai singer, musician, songwriter and entrepreneur
- Hồ Dynasty of Vietnam 胡朝:
- China renews top 100 surnames, Li still the biggest, People's Daily Online, January 11, 2006.
- Meaning of Chinese names - H
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- ed. Hall 2008, p. 161.
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- "Two Beauties Below Yellow Mountain". China Digital Review. July 27, 2015.
- http://kahyean.blogspot.com/2012/08/villages-of-hui.html. Missing or empty
- "Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui - Xidi and Hongcun" (PDF). UNESCO World Heritage Centre. 2 December 2000.
- Wang, Guanqun, ed. (2010-02-10). ""Tiger" a rare but strong family name in China". Xinhua. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
- "'Tiger' rare but strong family name in China". China Daily. 2010-02-10. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
- Yang, Chiu-ying (Mar 25, 2009). "Man on the hunt for rare family names". Taipei Times. p. 4. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
- The Hu Peoples, Silk Road Seattle Virtual Art Exhibit.
- Non-Chinese peoples and neighboring states: Hu 胡, ChinaKnowledge.
- 胡, Chinese Text Project
- Surname HU (胡), Chinese Culture Forum
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