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Shen (沈)
Shen animation.gif
Pronunciation Shěn (Mandarin)
Shum (Cantonese)
Thẩm (Vietnamese)
Language(s) Chinese
Language(s) Old Chinese
Meaning to sink
Other names
Variant(s) Sim, Shim, Sam, Sheem, Sum

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 (심) 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 in China concentrated in the Jiangsu-Zhejiang provinces.[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]

  • Shen Kuo (沈括), Ancient Polymathic Scientist
  • Shen Yue (沈約), A poet, statesman, and historian
  • Shen Faxing (沈法興), An official of the Chinese Sui dynasty
  • Shen Zhou (沈周), A Chinese painter in the Ming dynasty
  • Shen Lun (沈倫), a scholar-official
  • Shen Wansan (沈万三), A businessman during the beginning of Ming Dynasty
  • Michael Shen Fu-Tsung (沈福宗), First Qing Chinese to have visited Europe
  • Shen Wuhua (沈婺華), An empress of Chen China
  • Shen Miaorong (沈妙容), An empress of the Chinese Chen Dynasty
  • Shen Quan (沈铨), a Chinese painter during the Qing Dynasty
  • Shen Guang-wen (沈光文), a scholar, poet, educator
  • Shen Baozhen (沈葆禎), a Chinese official during the Qing dynasty
  • Shen Song (沈崧), a chancellor of the Chinese Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period state Wuyue
  • Shen Shou (沈壽), a Chinese embroiderer during the late Qing and early Republican period
  • Shen Zemin (沈泽民), one of the earliest members of the Communist Party of China

Modern figures[edit]

  • Shen Chun-shan (沈君山), Taiwanese academic
  • Shen Fu (director) (沈浮), Chinese film director
  • Shen Congwen (沈从文), one of the greatest modern Chinese writers
  • Shen Shaomin (沈少民), an artist based in Sydney, and Beijing
  • Shen Yueyue (沈跃跃), a Chinese politician
  • Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡), a Taiwanese diplomat
  • Shen Sinyan (沈星扬), an American physicist and classical composer
  • Shen Wei (沈伟), Chinese-born American choreographer, visual artist, and director
  • Shen Hongfei (沈宏非), a writer, producer and food columnist in China
  • Shen Tianhui (沈天慧), renowned chemist and professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University
  • Shen Dingcheng (沈定成), a Chinese businessman and oil and gas executive
  • Shen Zulun (沈祖伦), a politician of the People's Republic of China
  • Shen Peiping (沈培平), a former Chinese politician from Yunnan province
  • Shen Jingsi (沈静思), a Chinese volleyball player.
  • Shen Weijun (沈炜竣), a Singaporean actor and singer
  • Shen Teng (沈腾), a Chinese comedian and actor
  • Shen Yanfei (沈燕飞), a Chinese-born table tennis player
  • Shen Chunhe (沈春和), a Chinese crosstalk performer
  • Shen Longyuan (沈龙元), a Chinese football player
  • Shen Tianfeng (沈田峰), a Chinese football player
  • Shen Duo (沈铎), a Chinese competitive swimmer
  • Shen Shixi (沈石溪), a bestselling children's author
  • Shen Zhihua (沈志华), a professor of history at East China Normal University
  • Shen Tong (沈彤), a Chinese American social activist, impact investor, writer
  • Shen Yongping (沈勇平), a Chinese filmmaker
  • Neil Shen (沈南鹏), entrepreneur and investor
  • Shen Junru (沈钧儒;), a Chinese lawyer, political figure
  • Sim Wong Hoo (沈望傅), CEO & Chairman of Creative Technology
  • Ron Sim (沈財福), founder of OSIM International


  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]". (in 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." (in Chinese)