Sima (Chinese surname)

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司馬姓 - 楷体.svg
Pronunciation Sīmǎ (Pinyin)
Su-má (Pe̍h-ōe-jī)
Language(s) Chinese
Language(s) Chinese language
Word/Name One of the offices of the Zhou dynasty's Three Excellencies
Meaning horse master
Other names
Variant(s) Sima (Mandarin)
Suma (Hokkien)
Sma (English)

Sima ([sɹ̩́mà], simplified Chinese: 司马; traditional Chinese: 司馬; pinyin: Sīmǎ; Wade–Giles: Ssu-ma) is a Chinese family name. It is one of the rare two-character Chinese family names; most Chinese family names consist of only a single-character. It is an occupation name, literally meaning "control" (sī) "horses" (mǎ); in a similar way as the surname Marshall is derived from the Frankish: "mare" (horse) + "skalkoz" (master). The family name originated from one of the offices of the Three Excellencies of the Zhou dynasty. The name has also been anglicised as "Sma".[citation needed]


The Sima clan claims a line of descent from the mythological Yellow Emperor, through his descendant Cheng Boxiufu (程伯休父). King Xuan of Zhou appointed Cheng Boxiufu as the Sima or Minister of War. Due to his success in subduing the Xirong rebellion, he was granted permission to use the title as his surname.

In the late Zhou dynasty, the Sima clan migrated to the states of Wey, Zhao and Qin.

The Sima family in Zhao became ministers. Sima Ang, King of Yin, was a member of this branch. His 11th-generation descendant was Sima Fang, the father of Sima Yi. Sima Yi's descendants established the Jin dynasty and ruled as emperors. After the Jin dynasty ended, many members of the clan changed their surname to avoid persecution.

The Sima family in Qin included Sima Ji, a general who battled alongside Bai Qi during the Battle of Changping. His fifth-generation descendant was Sima Tan, a Han dynasty court astrologer, and his son was Sima Qian, the author of Records of the Grand Historian.

List of persons with the surname[edit]

See also[edit]