Lin (surname)

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Lin (林)
PronunciationLín (Mandarin)
Lim, Liem (Min Nan or Hokkien, Teochew, Korean, Taiwanese Minnan, Indonesian)
Lam, Lum, Lem (Cantonese)
Ling (Eastern Min, Northern Min, Wu Chinese)
Hayashi (Japanese)
Lim (Thai)
Lâm (Vietnamese)
Language(s)Middle Chinese
Meaning"Forest”, "Woods", "Trees", “Sun Goddess” and “Gemstone”

Lin ([lǐn]; Chinese: ; pinyin: Lín) is the Mandarin romanization of the Chinese surname written 林. It is also used in Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.

Among Taiwanese and Chinese families from abroad, it is sometimes pronounced and spelled as Lim because many Chinese descendants are part of the Southern Min diaspora that speak Min Nan, Hokkien or Teochew. In Cantonese-speaking regions such as Hong Kong and Macau it is spelled as Lam or Lum.

It is listed 147th on the Hundred Family Surnames. Within mainland China, it is currently the 18th most common surname.

In Japan, the character 林 is also used but goes by the pronunciation Hayashi, which is the 19th most common surname in Japan.

Name origin[edit]

King Zhou of Shang (reigned 1154 to 1122 BC), the last king of the Shang dynasty, had three uncles advising him and his administration. The king's uncles were Prince Bi Gan, Prince Jizi, and Prince Weizi. Together the three princes were known as "The Three Kind-Hearted Men of Shang" in the kingdom.[1] Prince Bi Gan was the son of King Wen Ding; he was the brother of King Zhou's father and, thus, was King Zhou's uncle, and served as the prime minister of the Kingdom of Shang.

King Zhou was a cruel king, but his three uncles could not persuade him to change his ways. Failing in their duty to advise the king, Prince Weizi resigned. Prince Jizi faked insanity and was relieved of his post. Only Prince Bi Gan stayed on to continue advising the king to change his ways. "Servants who are afraid of being killed and refrain from telling the truth are not righteous" he said. This put him in danger of incurring the king's wrath. Prince Bi Gan stayed at the palace for three days and nights to try to persuade the blood-thirsty and immoral king to mend his ways.[2]

The stubborn king would not relent and had Prince Bi Gan arrested for treason. Upon hearing this, his pregnant wife escaped into the forest and went into labor there. With no one to help her, she gave birth to a boy in the rocky cave in the forest, in a place called Chang Lin (長林).

Before long, King Zhou of Shang was overthrown by Ji Fa, the Count of the West (Western Shang). Ji Fa established a new dynasty named the Zhou dynasty and became the King Wu of Zhou. King Wu knew about the courageous prime minister Prince Bi Gan and sought his wife and child. When he found them, he honoured them in respect of Prince Bi Gan. The mother and child were restored to the Shang royal family. King Wu of Zhou conferred the surname Lin (meaning forest) and the Dukedom of Bo'ling on Prince Bi Gan's son, Lin (Lim/Lam) Jian (林坚), ennobled as the Duke of Bo'ling.[citation needed]

Other origins[edit]


Within China, 林 is the 2nd most common surname in Hokkien,[4] 4th most common in the city of Haikou, and 10th most common in the city of Guangzhou.[5]

In 2019 it was the 18th most common surname in Mainland China.[6]

Different versions of the name[edit]

  • Among the Malaysian Chinese it is not commonly spelled Lin but rather Lim or Lam. The Hakka, Hokkien, Teochew and Hainan communities romanize it as "Lim" whereas the Cantonese-speaking community uses "Lam".
  • The Korean surname Im ( in South Korean spelling; in North Korean spelling; commonly romanized as Lim or Rim) is the Korean pronunciation of the same Chinese character (林). A much less common Korean surname Im is derived from another character (; spelled Im in both North and South Korean) the character used to write the surname Ren. In Korean, the former is called Supul Rim (수풀 림) and the latter Matgil Im (맡길 임) when they need to be distinguished.
  • A common Japanese surname, Hayashi, is written with the same character 林 and also means forest. A much rarer Japanese surname, Rin, is also written with same character.
  • The Vietnamese surname, "Lâm", was formerly written using the same character.
  • In Singapore, although "Lim" and "Lam" are generally more common variants, the extremely rare spelling "Lyn" can be found in select families of Chinese, Japanese, or other East Asian ancestry (also transcribed using the 林 character) and bears no known relation to the English or Scottish surname of the same spelling, or alternate spelling "Ling".
  • A rare Chinese surname which is also transcribed Lin is / (pinyin Lìn), for example the Warring States period statesman Lin Xiangru .
  • Indonesians of Chinese ancestry bearing this surname sometimes spell it as "Liem", pronounced from Fuqing dialect.
  • Prominent Thai Chinese royalist families with this surname are bestowed by member of the royal family some indigenised derivative such as "Limthongkul" "Sirilim" "Limpisthira."
  • The character "霖" (Lín, "heavy rain showers") is also a popular personal name among ethnic Chinese people.

Notable people surnamed Lin[edit]

This is an East Asian name, meaning the surname is stated "before" the given name, though East Asian persons living in Western countries will often put their surname after their given name.


Mandarin and Wu Chinese:

  • Lin Biao (林彪), military general and former Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China
  • Lin Bih-jaw (林碧炤 Lin Bizhao), Secretary-General to the President of the Republic of China (2016)
  • Lin Bu (林逋), poet
  • Lin Chen-yi (林镇夷 Lin Zhenyi), Chief of the General Staff of the Republic of China Armed Forces (2009–2013)
  • Lin Chih-chia (林志嘉 Lin Zhijia), Secretary-General of Legislative Yuan
  • Lin Chih-chien (林智堅 Lin Zhijian), Mayor of Hsinchu City
  • Lin Chih-sheng (林智盛 Lin Zhisheng), Taiwanese baseball player
  • Lin Chi-ling (林志玲 Lin Zhiling), Taiwanese supermodel, actress
  • Lin Ching-Liang (林清凉 Lin Qingliang), Taiwanese nuclear physicist
  • Lin Chin-tien (林金田 Lin Jintian), Political Deputy Minister of Culture of the Republic of China (2012–2013)
  • Lin Chuan (林全 Lin Quan), Premier of the Republic of China (2016–2017)
  • Lin Chu-chia (林祖嘉 Lin Zujia), Minister of National Development Council of the Republic of China (2016)
  • Lin Dan (林丹), world Olympic champion, men's singles badminton player, People's Republic of China
  • Lin Di (林笛), musician, pipa player with Chinese rock band Cold Fairyland
  • Lin Fang-yue (林芳郁) Taiwanese cardiologist, hospital superintendent, and health minister (2008)
  • Lin Fong-cheng, Vice Chairman of Kuomintang (2007–2014)
  • Lin Hejie (Lim Ho Kiat 林贺杰), painter and commentator
  • Lin Hwai-min, choreographer and founder of Taiwan's Cloud Gate Dance Theater
  • Lin Hsi-shan, Secretary-General of the Legislative Yuan (1999–2016)
  • Lin Hsi-yao, Vice Premier of the Republic of China (2016–2017)
  • Lin Jeng-yi, Director of National Palace Museum of Taiwan (2016–2018)
  • Lin Join-sane, Secretary-General of Kuomintang (2012)
  • Lin Jun Jie, Singaporean singer and songwriter
  • Lin Junq-tzer, Governor of Taiwan Province (2010–2016)
  • Lin Kegong, Taiwanese painter
  • Shu Qi (Lin Li-hui 林立慧), Taiwanese actress and model
  • Lin Ling-san, Minister of Transportation and Communications (2002–2006)
  • Lin Mei-chu, Minister of Labor of the Republic of China (2017–2018)
  • Lin Ming-chen, Magistrate of Nantou County
  • Lin Neng-pai, Minister of Public Construction Commission of the Republic of China (2000–2002)
  • Lin Peng, actress
  • Lin Qingfeng (林清峰), world Olympic champion, weightlifter, athlete
  • Lin Sang, world Olympic silver medalist, athlete, archer
  • Lin San-quei, Vice Minister of Labor of the Republic of China
  • Lin Sen, former president, chairman of National Government of China
  • Lin Shicheng musician, Shanghai-born pipa player
  • Lin Shihong (林士弘), king of Chu dynasty
  • Lin Shu-chen, Administrative Deputy Minister of Education of the Republic of China (2013–2016)
  • Lin Teng-chiao, Administrative Deputy Minister of Education of the Republic of China
  • Lin Tsung-hsien, Minister of Council of Agriculture of the Republic of China (2017–2018)
  • Lin Tzou-yien, Minister of Health and Welfare of the Republic of China (2016–2017)
  • Lin Tzu-ling, Administrative Deputy Minister of the Interior of the Republic of China
  • Lin Wan-i, Deputy Magistrate of Taipei County (1999–2002)
  • Lin Weining (林伟宁), world Olympic champion, weightlifter, athlete
  • Lin Wenyue, scholar, writer and translator from Taiwan.
  • Lin Xiangru, Chinese politician of the Warring States period
  • Lin Xu (林旭), scholar, poet
  • Lin Yang-kang, former mayor of Taipei city, Chairman of Taiwan province, Taiwanese politician
  • Lin Yanjun, Taiwanese singer and actor, former member of Nine Percent
  • Lin Yi-shih, Secretary-General of Executive Yuan (2012)
  • Lin Yongsheng (林永昇), Chinese admiral
  • Lin Youren, musician, Chinese guqin player
  • Lin Youyi (林有懿), Hong Kong-born Singaporean television host and actress
  • Lin Yuan-lang, Magistrate of Nantou County (1989–1997)
  • Lin Yu-chang, Mayor of Keelung City
  • Lin Yu-chun Taiwanese singer
  • Lin Yue (林跃), world Olympic champion, diver
  • Lin Yu-fang, Taiwanese politician
  • Lin Yutang, inventor, linguist, writer, Nobel prize nominee
  • Lin Zexu, nineteenth-century governor-general, imperial commissioner, poet, scholar, diplomat
  • Alfred Lin, Taiwanese-born American venture capitalist
  • Ariel Lin (Lin Yi-chen), Taiwanese actress
  • Brigitte Lin (林青霞, Lin Ch'ing-hsia), Taiwanese film actress
  • Cho-Liang Lin, musician, U.S. Taiwanese violinist, "Instrumentalist of the Year" in 2000
  • David Lin (born 1950), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China (2012–2016)
  • Douglas N. C. Lin, astrophysicist
  • Estrella Lin (Lin Wei-ling 林韋伶), Taiwanese singer
  • Francis Y. Lin, Chinese linguist
  • Jenny Lin, musician, pianist
  • Jeremy Lin (林書豪, Lin Shu-hao), U.S. basketball player
  • Jimmy Lin (林志穎, Lin Chih-ying), Taiwanese film actor and singer
  • Justin Lin, U.S. film director
  • Justin Yifu Lin, former Chief Economist of the World Bank
  • Kelly Lin (林熙蕾), Taiwanese actress, model
  • Kevin Lin (林義傑), marathon runner
  • Lucia Lin, Political Deputy Minister of Education of the Republic of China (2014–2016)
  • Maya Lin, artist and architect[7]
  • Ruby Lin (林心如, Lin Xin-ru), Taiwanese actress
  • Tzu-Wei Lin, infielder for the Boston Red Sox
  • Lin Siyi (林思意), Chinese singer, actress, and member of Chinese idol girl group SNH48


Cantonese form


Alternate Cantonese form


Southern Min or Hokkien or Teochew

  • Lim Ban Lim, Singaporean secret society member and gunman
  • Lim Bo Seng, World War II anti-Japanese Resistance fighter based in Singapore and British Malaya
  • Lim Boon Keng, Singaporean national reformist of Peranakan descent
  • Lim Chin Chong, Malaysian male prostitute and convicted killer executed in Singapore
  • Lim Chin Siong, cofounder of Singapore's People's Action Party (P.A.P.)
  • Lim Chin Tsong (林振宗), Overseas Chinese oil tycoon during British Burma
  • Lim Chong Eu (林苍祐), former Malaysian politician known as the “Architect of Modern Penang”
  • Lim Giong, Singaporean Taiwanese musician, songwriter and actor
  • Lim Goh Tong (林梧桐), Fujianese billionaire and founder of Genting Group
  • Lim Guan Eng (林冠英), Malaysian politician, former Chief Minister of Penang (2008–2018) and former Minister of Finance of Malaysia (2018–2020)
  • Lim Hng Kiang (林勛強), Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry
  • Lim Hock Soon, Singaporean nightclub owner and murder victim
  • Lim Hwee Huang, Singaporean victim of a rape and murder case
  • Lim Kim Huat, Malaysian gunman executed in Singapore
  • Lim Kim San (林金山), Singaporean politician noted for contributions to public housing policy
  • Lim Kit Siang (林吉祥), Malaysian politician, longest serving Leader of the Opposition in Malaysia, known as Mr. Opposition
  • Lim Kok Yew, Malaysian gunman executed in Singapore
  • Lim Koon Teck, first person of East Asian descent to be appointed to the British Colonial Legal Service during the twentieth century
  • Lim Lye Hock, Singaporean rapist and killer
  • Lim Nee Soon, prominent Singapore pioneer and community leader, rubber magnate and banker
  • Norman Kwong (Lim Kwong Yew), former professional athlete and Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, Canada
  • Lim Por-yen (林百欣), Hong Kong industrialist
  • Lim Shiow Rong (林秀蓉 Lín Xiùróng), Singaporean and victim of an unsolved child rape and murder case
  • Lim Yew Hock, second Chief Minister of Singapore
  • Abraham Lim (actor), American actor and singer
  • Adrian Lim (林宝龙), Singaporean medium and notorious child killer
  • Catherine Lim, Malaysian-born Singaporean author
  • Desiree Lim, Malaysian-born Canadian independent film director, producer, and screenwriter
  • Dion Lim, American news anchor and reporter
  • Freddy Lim, Taiwanese musician and lead singer of Taiwanese metal band Chthonic
  • Jennifer Lim, British actress
  • Ken Lim, Singaporean record producer and composer
  • Kevin Lim, Indonesian singer and songwriter
  • Lee Hong Susan Lim, Malaysian parasitologist (1952-2014)
  • Moses Lim, T.V. and movie actor (e.g. "Just Follow Law"), food gourmet and entrepreneur from Singapore
  • Peter Lim, Singaporean billionaire
  • Phillip Lim, U.S. fashion designer
  • Pik-Sen Lim (林碧笙), Malay-British actress
  • Rebecca Lim (林慧玲) (born 1986), Singaporean actress
  • Ron Lim, U.S. comic book artist
  • Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, chairman and C.E.O. of Genting Berhad conglomerate
  • Wendell Lim, Professor at University of California, San Francisco and director of SynBERC
  • Sondhi Limthongkul (林明達), Thai journalist, founder and owner of Manager Daily and political activist
  • Pita Limjaroenrat Pita Limjaroenrat (Thai: พิธา ลิ้มเจริญรัตน์, RTGS: Phitha Limcharoenrat, pronounced [pʰí(ʔ).tʰāː lím.tɕā.rɤ̄ːn.rát]; nicknamed Tim; born 5 September 1980) is a Thai politician and businessman. He is the leader of the Move Forward Party, the de facto successor to the dissolved Future Forward Party.




Eastern Min, Northern Min, and Wu form:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Lin Family Tree". Archived from the original on 2012-02-08. Retrieved 2007-07-26.
  2. ^ "People's Daily Online -- History of a Chinese surname: Lin".
  3. ^ a b c d e The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland
  4. ^ Tencent (福建省十大姓氏你知道多少?大姓带来大的文化,值得深究)
  5. ^ ""(Chinese)
  6. ^ "新京报 - 好新闻,无止境".
  7. ^ PBS episode Finding Your Roots February 2, 2016