Chen (surname)

Chen ([ʈʂʰə̌n]) (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Chén; Wade–Giles: Ch'en) is a common East Asian surname and one of the most common surnames in the world. It is the most common surname in Taiwan (2010)[1] and Singapore (2000).[2] Chen is also the most common family name in Guangdong, Zhejiang, Fujian, Macau, and Hong Kong. It is the most common surname in Xiamen, the ancestral hometown of many overseas Hoklo.[3]

Chen surname in regular script
RomanizationChen (Mandarin)
Dunn (Taiwanese Hokkien, Mingnamyu, Holo)
Chan (Cantonese)
Tan (Hokkien, Teochew)
Tang (Teochew)
Chin (Taishanese, Hakka, Japanese)
Zen (Wu)
Ding (Gan)
Jin, Chin (Korean)
Trần (Vietnamese)
Taing (Khmer)
Hartanto (Indonesian)
PronunciationChén (Pinyin)
Tan (Pe̍h-ōe-jī)
Can4 (Jyutping)
Language(s)Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese, Teochew, Hokkien)
Language(s)Old Chinese
Word/nameEmperor Shun
Chen Hu Gong
Chen (state)
DerivationGui (ancestral surname)
Other names
Derivative(s)Trần (Vietnamese),
Jin (Korean name),
Sae-Tang, Sae-Chen, Sae-Chin, Sae-Tan (Thai name),
Hartanto, Sutanto, Tanujaya (Chinese Indonesian)

In Cantonese, it is usually romanized as Chan (as in Jackie Chan), most widely used by those from Hong Kong. Chan is also widely used in Macao and Malaysia. It is also sometimes spelled Chun. In many Southern Min dialects (including dialects of Hainan, Fujian, and Taiwan), the name is pronounced Tan, while in Teochew, it is pronounced Tang. In Hakka and Taishanese, the name is spelled Chin. In Wu it is pronounced Zen or Tchen.

In Vietnam, this surname is written as Trần (in Quốc Ngữ) and is 2nd most common. In Thailand, this surname is the most common surname of Thai Chinese and is often pronounced according to Teochew dialect as Tang. In Cambodia, this surname is transliterated as Taing. In Japanese, the surname is transliterated Chin (ちん). In Korean it is transliterated Jin or Chin (진).

Chen is 5th most common in mainland China, but 4th most common in the world due to Chen's larger overseas population. With all its various spellings and pronunciations, there are around 80-100 million people surnamed 陳 / 陈 worldwide.[4]

Chen was listed 10th in the Hundred Family Surnames poem, in the verse 馮陳褚衛 (Feng Chen Chu Wei).

The surname Cheng (程) is sometimes romanized as Chen (e.g. John S. Chen). Another less common Chinese surname / (Shen) can also be romanized as Chen.[5]


The Chinese character 陳 / 陈 means 'to describe' (陈述) or 'ancient'. It is a combination of the radical 阝and the character 東 / 东 which means 'East'.


Chen descends from the legendary sage king Emperor Shun from around 2200 BC via the surname Gui ().[6][7]

A millennia after Emperor Shun, when King Wu of Zhou established the Zhou dynasty (c. 1046 BC), he enfeoffed his son-in-law Gui Man, also known as Duke Hu of Chen or Chen Hugong (陈胡公). Chen Hugong, a descendant of Emperor Shun, found the State of Chen in modern Huaiyang County, Henan Province.[6][7] In 479 BC, Chen was absorbed by Chu and became the Chu capital. The people of Chen adopted the name of their former state as their surname.[6][7]

At the end of the Qin dynasty, Chen Sheng initiated the Chen Sheng Wu Guang Uprising that overthrew the Qin and paved the way for the Han dynasty, one of China's golden ages.[8][9] In 2019, Chen Sheng Wu Guang uprising is removed from middle school textbook in China.[10]

During the Northern and Southern Dynasties period (420-589), Chen Baxian established the Chen Dynasty (557-589), the fourth and the last of the Southern dynasties, which was eventually absorbed by the Sui Dynasty.[11][12][13]

During this period, the nomadic Xianbei people had systematically assimilated into China's agrarian culture and adopted Han Chinese surnames under the state directives of Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei. The Xianbei subjects whose surname of "侯莫陳" (Hóumòchén) were converted to "陳" (Chen).[14]

Some descendants of Chen migrated to Vietnam (Dai Viet) and established the Trần dynasty, a golden age in Vietnam. Their original home was Fujian, and they migrated under Trần Kinh (陳京 Chén Jīng). Trần Thái Tông (陈太宗 Chen Taizong) became the founding emperor of the Tran dynasty, and his descendants would rule Vietnam for more than a century, expanding Vietnam's territory and promoting developments in language, chu nom, culture, and art. Certain members of the clan could still speak Chinese, like when a Yuan dynasty envoy had a meeting with the Chinese-speaking Tran Prince Trần Quốc Tuấn in 1282.[15][16][17][18][19][20][21]

During the Yuan-Ming transition, Chen Youliang founded the Chen Han dynasty, which helped overthrow Yuan rule and pave the way for the Ming dynasty, another Chinese golden age.[22]

In the 20th century, Chen Duxiu cofounded the Chinese Communist Party and became its first general secretary.[23]


Chen is the 5th most common surname in mainland China (around 70 million) and 4th most common in the world (around 80-100 million, including all its variants like Chan, Tan, Tran).

A 2013 study found that it was the 5th most common surname, shared by 61,300,000 people or 4.610% of the population, with the province with the most being Guangdong.[24]

According to 2018 census, it was 5th most common in mainland China at around 63 million, but 4th most common surname in the world with 80-100 million people. It is the most popular Chinese surname overseas.[4]

In 2019 Chen was again the fifth most common surname in mainland China. It is the most common surname in the southern provinces of Zhejiang, Fujian, and Guangdong.[25]

Hong Kong has 61,000 Chens, ranks 32nd.

In Thailand, last names are more unique therefore the Chinese last name Chen ranks 2nd with 88,000 and with an incidence of 1 to 900.

There are 187,000 Chens in the US, as of 2014. It is the 30th most common last name in California where there are 70,000. 11,300 in Texas, 6,800 Illinois, 5,900 Maryland. New Jersey was undercounted with data missing; New York had 5,400.

In Canada there are 32,900 Chens; 16,600 Ontario and 11,000 British Columbia.[26]

Chen is usually one of the top 5 common Asian last names and top 3 most common Chinese in the US.

Other pronunciations and transliterationEdit

Chen family ancestral temple, in Xiazai Village, Cangnan County, Zhejiang

Notable people surnamed 陳 / 陈Edit

This list includes Chen, Chan, Tran, Tan, Tang and other common spellings of 陈

Historical figuresEdit

Dynasties and States

Modern figuresEdit

Note: this list is primarily ordered by spelling of the surname, secondarily ordered by given name commonly used in English, regardless of name order.


The Hebrew surname חן is also spelled Chen.



  1. ^ "Common Chinese Names". Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  2. ^ "Statistics Singapore - Popular Chinese Surnames in Singapore". Archived from the original on 23 February 2008. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  3. ^ 厦门第一大姓陈氏:先辈300万贯钱买厦门岛. China Review News (in Chinese). 1 October 2010. Retrieved 9 June 2011.
  4. ^ a b "公安部发布去年全国姓名报告,"王、李、张"姓排前三" 公安部发布去年全国姓名报告,"王、李、张”姓排前三. 30 January 2020. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  5. ^ "谌(諶) Shèn 名 姓。另见162页 chén。")現代漢語詞典(第七版). Contemporary Chinese Dictionary (Seventh Edition). Commercial Press. 1 September 2016. p. 1165. ISBN 978-7-100-12450-8.
  6. ^ a b c Yang 2003, p. 121.
  7. ^ a b c Han 2010, pp. 2776–7.
  8. ^ Hong Liu (2015). The Chinese Strategic Mind. Edward Elgar Publishing. p. 145. ISBN 9781783474141.
  9. ^ Joshua Zhang, James D. Wright (2018). Violence, Periodization and Definition of the Cultural Revolution: A Case Study of Two Deaths by the Red Guards. BRILL. ISBN 9789004360471.
  10. ^ "Chinese school book's omission of farmers' revolt provokes debate". South China Morning Post. 26 February 2019. Retrieved 27 June 2021.
  11. ^ Book of Chen, vols. 1, 2.
  12. ^ History of Southern Dynasties, vol. 9.[1]
  13. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, vols. 158, 159, 161, 162, 163, 164, 165, 166, 167.
  14. ^ "". Archived from the original on 10 September 2004.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  15. ^ Taylor 2013, p. 120.
  16. ^ Taylor 2013, p. 103.
  17. ^ ed. Hall 2008, p. 159.
  18. ^ eds. Dutton & Werner & Whitmore 2013 .
  19. ^ Gunn 2011, p. 112.
  20. ^ Embree & Lewis 1988, p. 190.
  21. ^ Woodside 1971, p. 8.
  22. ^ 《明史》
  23. ^ Lee Feigon (1983). Chen Duxiu, Founder of the Chinese Communist Party. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-05393-6.
  24. ^ 中国四百大姓, 袁义达, 邱家儒, Beijing Book Co. Inc., 1 January 2013
  25. ^ "新京报 - 好新闻,无止境". Archived from the original on 30 August 2020. Retrieved 15 January 2021.
  26. ^ "Forebears Chen".
  27. ^ Xinhua News Agency. "秘鲁改组内阁 华裔 何塞·陈出任总理". 15 September 2010. Accessed 22 December 2016.

External linksEdit