Xiao (surname)

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蕭姓 - 楷体.svg
Xiao surname in regular script
Pronunciation Xiāo (Pinyin)
Siau, Sio (Pe̍h-ōe-jī)
Language(s) Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean
Language(s) Old Chinese
Word/Name Xiao County, Anhui
Derivation State of Xiao (萧国)
Other names
Variant(s) Xiao, Hsiao (Mandarin)
Siu, Siow, Seow (Cantonese)
Siao, Sio, Siaw (Hokkien)
Tiêu (Vietnamese)
The ancestral hall of the Xiao clan (蕭氏宗祠) in Yangxin County, Hubei

Xiao[1] (simplified Chinese: 萧/肖; traditional Chinese: ) is a Chinese surname. In the Wade-Giles system of romanization, it is rendered as Hsiao. It may also be romanized as Siaw, Siew, Siow, Seow or Siu.

A 1977 study found that it was the 20th most common Chinese surname in the world. It is said to be the 30th most common in China.[2]


The Xiao surname originated from Xiao County in Anhui province, China. In the state of Song during the Spring and Autumn period of ancient China, the nobleman Daxin (蕭叔大心) was enfeoffed at Xiao, which became an attached state of Song. The people of Xiao later adopted the name of their state as their surname. Centuries later, Xiao He was the first prime minister of the Han dynasty. Later on, his descendant Xiao Biao (萧彪) moved to Lanling (兰陵), now Yicheng in Shandong province,[2] due to political problems during the reign of Emperor Wu of Han. The Xiao people therefore also trace their origin to Lanling, and sometimes they are called Lanling Xiao (“兰陵萧”).

Another mass movement of Xiao people came during the Disaster of Yongjia at the end of the Western Jin, when Xiao Zheng (萧整) moved to Danyang, Jiangsu. It was also called South Lanling (南兰陵). The descendants of Danyang Xiao (丹阳萧氏) later founded two dynasties: Xiao Daocheng was the founding emperor of the Southern Qi dynasty, and Xiao Yan founded the Southern Liang.

During the Tang dynasty, there were 9 (8+1) Xiao family members appointed as prime ministers, the continuous eight prime ministers (八叶传芳 、“八叶世家”). The first was Xiao Yu (萧瑀), followed by the other eight Xiao families:

his great grand nephew Xiao Song(萧嵩)
Xiao Song's eldest son Xiao Hua (萧华)
Xiao Hua's nephew Xiao Fu (萧復)
Xiao Hua's grandson Xiao Fu (萧俯, written with a different character for Fu)
Xiao Fu's grandson Xiao Zhen (萧真)
Xiao Hua's grandson Xiao Fang (萧仿)
Xiao Fang's son Xiao Gou (萧遘).

There were altogether 9 prime ministers in Tang Dynasty.

The Xiao-Jiang Ancestral Hall in Jiangwan, Wuyuan

The Jiang family (江氏) from Jiangwan 江湾, Wuyuan, Jiangxi was originally surnamed Xiao, and they call themselves the Xiao-Jiang family (萧江氏). The Xiao Jiang family was from Danyang (丹阳 (南兰陵) 东城里萧氏). When the Later Liang overthrew the Tang Dynasty in 907, Tang general Xiao Zhen (萧桢) led a revolt against the Later Liang but failed. Xiao Zhen was the second son of late Tang Prime Minister Xiao Gou. The Xiao family left Danyang and escaped to the south. They changed their surname to Jiang, Xiao Zhen (萧桢) became Jiang Zhen (江桢), and he was the founder of Xiao Jiang family. They later moved to Yunwan (云湾, which changed the name to Jiangwan 江湾). This means that the Jiang family from this area is actually also part of the Xiao family, they are known as the Xiao Jiang family. Former CPC General Secretary Jiang Zemin is a member of the Xiao Jiang family.

During the Southern Song dynasty, Xiao Guoliang (萧国梁) was the first member of the Xiao family in Zhangzhou, Fujian Province. His grandson, Xiao Xun (萧洵) became county magistrate of Chaoyang (潮阳), Guangdong province. He become the founder of Chaoyang Xiao. During this period, some members of the Xiao family moved across the sea to Taiwan.

During the Yuan dynasty, members of the Xiao family moved from Jiangxi to Meizhou (梅州) and Dapu (大埔) in Guangdong. They are mainly the Hakka Xiao.

In the early Ming dynasty, the population in North and Central China was declining due to wars. In order to increase the population and start the economic recovery of these war-torn areas, the Ming government organized many large-scale forced mass migration to the area. People were moved from Shanxi Province, which had been less affected by the wars, to the war-torn, less-populated area of North and Central China. The people were ordered to move to a location near "the tree" (大槐树), and prepare themselves for the family migration. The Shanxi Xiao were part of this group of "immigrants under the tree" (在大槐树下集中移民), which were moved to the modern-day provinces of Henan, Shandong, Hebei, Beijing, Tianjin, Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Anhui, Jiangsu, Hubei, Hunan, Guangxi, Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Shanxi and other places. Today, the Xiao family still has memorial tablets dedicated to their ancestors among the "immigrants under the tree" at the fourth cabinet of the memorial hall at the "large tree roots memorial garden" (大槐树寻根祭祖园祭祖堂四号供橱).

During the Ming dynasty, many of the Xiao family from the armies also moved into Yunnan Province. They became the first members of the Yunnan Xiao (云南萧氏).

During the Ming and Qing dynasties, there were also mass migration of Xiao people from Jiangxi to Sichuan, especially at the beginning of these dynasties, when two major revolution wars took place. Historians have called this process of mass migration "Jiangxi filled Huguang, Huguang filled Sichuan" (江西填湖广,湖广填四川). "Huguang" refers to the provinces of Hunan and Guangdong. According to historical materials, from the beginning of thereign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty, many members of the Xiao family moved to Sichuan.

At the end of the Qing Dynasty, Chinese started to move to other countries to work there. The Xiao as well moved all over the world, to countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Others migrated from Fujian to Taiwan.

During the Chinese civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists, Xiao people, especially those from Fujian, moved to Taiwan with the Kuomintang army. In Taiwan, they lived primarily in the cities and counties of Changhua, Chiayi, Taipei, Kaohsiung and Taoyuan. Today, Xiao is the 30th-most common surname in Taiwan.

In Malaysia and Singapore, direct transliterations from the various Chinese dialects were used to write Chinese surnames. The Hokkien or Teochew Chinese romanized "Xiao" as "Seow". Teochew "Seow" are mainly Xiao from Chaoyang (潮阳) in Guangdong Province. The Hakka Xiao, especially Huizhou Hakka of Titi (知知港) (in Negeri Sembilan state of Malaysia), a village with a high concentration of Hakka people surnamed Xiao, romanized "Xiao" as "Siow" or "Seow". These days, some members of younger generations use Hanyu pinyin and write their surname as "Xiao".

The World Congress of Xiao people was held in Chaoyang (潮阳), Guangdong Province, China in 2010.

Simplified Chinese problem[edit]

The traditional surname 蕭 is currently represented by three different characters derived from traditional Chinese (), simplified Chinese (), and the rescinded second-round simplification (). Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan maintain traditional Chinese characters and therefore write 蕭. In mainland China and Singapore which use simplified Chinese, most linguistics agree the surname should be written as 萧.[3] However, many people in mainland China still have 肖 as their surname in their legal documents for historical reasons (see below). In mainland China, people may regard them as two separate surnames. However, in circumstances where traditional Chinese is used, e.g. in cross-strait relations, this may lead to confusion.

People have long been writing the surname 肖 for simplicity, but the form was considered informal and not used in formal texts. However, the second-round Chinese simplification established 肖 as the standard form. When the second-round simplification was rescinded in 1984, some people restored their surname in legal documents to the traditional writing form, but some others did not.

Most other surnames do not share these problems. For example, Liao (廖) was simplified to a character with 广 and 了 combined in the second-round simplification. All Liao people reverted to using 廖 after the rescission, because the modification is no longer considered a valid character and cannot be typed into the computer. However, 肖, which has other meanings, is still valid so some people have continued to use this form even in legal documents.

Notable people surnamed Xiao[edit]

Historical Figure[edit]

Modern Figure[edit]

  • Seow Poh Leng (1883–1942), a prominent and successful Singaporean banker, founding member of the Ho Hong Bank, member of the committee of the Straits Settlement (Settlement of Singapore)[1] famous philanthropist and benefactor of public development works.
  • Xiao Hong, Chinese writer (1911–1942)
  • Seow Sieu Jin (1907–1958) was a prominent and successful Singaporean banker brought up in a banking family, trained in China and England and was an important contributor to the growth and development of the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) during its early years.
  • Xiao Ke, General in the PLA of China
  • Elva Hsiao, Taiwanese singer
  • Andrew Seow or Xiao Yiming, Singaporean actor
  • Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwanese legislator
  • William Hsiao, Xiao from Jiangxi. American economist, K.T. Li Professor of Economics at Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University, USA. He is internationally recognized for his work in health care financing and social insurance.
  • Vincent Siew, Vice President of the Republic of China
  • Francis Seow, a Singapore-born political dissident who is in exile from Singapore after lawsuits by the former Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew. Seow is currently a United States citizen, and a University Fellow based in the Department of Asian Studies at Harvard University.
  • Siu Fong Fong, Siao Liang or Josephine Siao, MBE, a Hong Kong movie star who became popular as a child and continued her success as a mature actress, winning numerous awards including best actress at the 1995 Berlin Film Festival. Since retiring from show business she has become a writer and a psychologist, known for her work against child abuse.
  • Siow Lee Chin, renowned Singaporean violinist. She is an assistant professor and the Director of Strings at the College of Charleston. Siow is the Gold Medal winner of the 1994 Henryk Szeryng International Violin Competition and First Prize winner of the 1994 Louise D. McMahon International Music Competition for Strings.In 1996, Siow won the Singapore National Arts Council's Young Artist Award.
  • Gaetan Siew, elected President of the International Union of Architect during the UIA General Assembly which took place in Istanbul (Turkey), from 8 to 10 July 2005. Born in Mauritius in 1954, Gaétan Siew graduated from the Marseille School of Architecture in 1979. He is in private practice in Port Louis since 1981.
  • Jiang Zeming, former General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. He is from Xiao Jiang family.
  • Xiao Qiang, adjunct professor of University of California, Berkeley, USA. Founder and Editor in Chief of China Digital Times, a bilingual China news website. Full-time human right activist after the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989. Xiao is a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship in 2001. He was also a visiting fellow of the Santa Fe Institute in 2002.
  • Xiao Yang, from Heyuan, Guangdong, the former President of the Supreme People's Court of China, People Republic of China from 1998-2008, the Minister of Justice from 1993 to 1998.
  • Yum Tong Siu from Taishan, Kwangdong, mathematician, William Elwood Byerly Professor of Mathematics at Harvard University. Dr. Siu has been the dominant figure in the mathematics of several complex variables. He has mastered techniques at the interfaces between complex variables, differential geometry, and algebraic geometry.
  • Di Xiao, Chinese pianist. Described by the critics as “a pianist of awesome gifts", Di Xiao recently concluded a major international tour representing the UK as part of the universally acclaimed European Concert Hall Organisation (ECHO) 'Rising Stars' series.
  • David Xiao, Canadian politician and current Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, representing the constituency of Edmonton-McClung as a Progressive Conservative
  • Seow Hood Seng (1862–1940), also Hsiao Fo-cheng, and Siamese name SiaohIuseng SriboonIiang. He was President of Tongmenhui Siam branch, supporter of Dr Sun Yat-sen in the Chinese revolution movement, representative of KMT in Bangkok and founder of Sriboonruang family
  • Siauw Giok Tjhan (1914–1981), Indonesian politician, cabinet minister under Sukarno, imprisoned for 10 years by Suharto (id:Siauw Giok Tjhan (Indonesian))
  • Xiao Fuxing, novelist and now the associate editor in People's Literature


  1. ^ The approximate pronunciation in English is /ˈʃj/.
  2. ^ a b Origin of Xiao, Siu, Siew, Seow, Hsiao, yutopian.com. Retrieved 2009-09-23.
  3. ^ 姓“萧”还是姓“肖”? (Simplified Chinese)