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Shen (沈)
Shen small.jpg
Pronunciation Shěn (Mandarin)
Shum (Cantonese)
Language(s) Chinese
Language(s) Old Chinese
Meaning to sink
Other names
Variant(s) Sim, Shim, Sam, Sheem, Sum
Not to be confused with Shēn (surname) (申) or Shèn (surname) (慎), both also generally written as 'Shen'.

Shěn[1] is the pinyin romanization of the Chinese surname .

Shen is the 14th surname in the Song-era Hundred Family Surnames.


沈 is romanised as Sum, Sem, Sam, or Shum in Cantonese; Sim in Hokkien; Shim in Hakka; Shim, Sim, and Sheem in Korean; and Thẩm in Vietnamese.

Less commonly, the same character can also be pronounced Zhen, which indicates a different origin from Shen.[2]


Shen was the 50th-most-common surname in mainland China in 2007, but unlisted among the 100 most common surnames on Taiwan in 2005. There are approximately 6 million 沈 located around the JiangsuZhejiang region of China.[3] As of the top 30 cities in China, top ranking last names rank 沈 as 6th most common in Hangzhou and 8th most common in Shanghai. [4]

Although Chinese make up the largest part of America's Asian and Pacific Islander population,[5] none of the romanizations of "沈" appeared among the 1000 most common surnames during the AD 2000 US census.[6]


As is common with Chinese surnames, the modern Shen family arose from various unrelated sources.

One origin traces it to the Shen (沈) kingdom in Runan County, Henan. These people were descended from Shao Hao, whose grandson was Zhuanxu's teacher and fathered Yun Ge and Tai Dai. Tai Dai was granted Shanxi for his achievements in controlling the flooding of the Yellow River and his descendants divided into four "kingdoms": the Shen, the Yi, the Ru, and the Huang. Electing not to participate in the northern kingdoms' campaign against Chu in 506 BC, Shen was invaded and destroyed by Cai. The rulers and vassals of the former state then bore the clan name Shen to distinguish themselves.

Another group descended from the rulers and vassals of the revived state of Shen after King Cheng granted it to the Zhou prince Ran Ji for suppressing the rebellion following the death of his brother King Wu.

A third group derived from the Mi () family of Chu during the Spring and Autumn Period. Chu had conquered the area of Shen and, in 506 BC, its governor was Shenyin Shu – a Chu field marshal from a cadet branch of the royal house. He was killed in the Battle of Boju that year,[7][8] opposing a Wu invasion led by Wu Zixu and Sun Tzu. In his memory, some of his descendants and vassals adopted the clan name Shen for his fief, while others became the Ye after the fief granted to Shenyin Shu's son Shen Zhuliang, better known as the Duke of Ye (葉公, Ye Gong).[9]


The You clan () is said to be a branch of the Shen clan, having simply removed the side-water radical 氵 from their surname sometime in the 10th century due to conflict with a different Shen () ruling family in Fujian Province.[2] Owing to this, the You and Shen continued to be unable to intermarry, just as if they were still a single clan.

People with the surname[edit]

Historical figures[edit]

Modern figures[edit]


  1. ^ The approximate English pronunciation is /ʃən/.
  2. ^ a b Tan, Thomas Tsu-wee. Your Chinese Roots. ISBN 981-204-481-7.
  3. ^ ""(Chinese)
  4. ^ ""(Chinese)
  5. ^ United States Census Bureau. "Census 2000: Chinese Largest Asian Group in the United States". 4 Mar 2002. Accessed 29 Mar 2012.
  6. ^ United States Census Bureau. "Genealogy Data: Frequently Occurring Surnames from Census 2000". 27 Sept 2011. Accessed 29 Mar 2012.
  7. ^ "沈尹戍 [Shenyin Shu]". (Chinese)
  8. ^ "柏舉之戰 [Battle of Boju]" (in Chinese). Ministry of Defense. 22 July 2009. Retrieved 8 November 2011. 
  9. ^ "葉姓來源及郡望堂號." (Chinese)