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Lin (Chinese: ) is the Mandarin romanization of the Chinese surname written 林 in Chinese character. It is also used in Korea and the Philippines among the Chinese Filipino community. It is also common among overseas Chinese families, in which it is at times pronounced and spelled as Lim because many Chinese descendants are part of the Southern Min diaspora and speak Min Nan. In Hong Kong and Macau, it is spelled as Lam or Lum in Cantonese.

Lin (林)
PronunciationLín (Mandarin)
Lim, Liem (Min Nan, Korean)
Lam, Lâm, Lum (Cantonese, Vietnamese)
Ling (Eastern Min, Northern Min, Wu Chinese) ,
Lim (Thai)
Language(s)Middle Chinese


Name originEdit

King Zhou of Shang (reigned 1154 to 1122 B.C.), the last king of the Shang dynasty, had three uncles advising him and his administration. The king's uncles were Bi Gan, Jizi, and Weizi. Together the three men were known as "The Three Kind-Hearted Men of Shang" in the kingdom.[1] Bi Gan was the son of Prince Ding, son of King Shang and, thus, was King Zhou's uncle.

Zhou was a cruel king, but his three uncles could not persuade him to change his ways. Failing in their duty to advise the king, Weizi resigned. Jizi faked insanity and was relieved of his post. Only Bi Gan stayed on to continue advising the king to change his ways. "Servants who are afraid of being killed and refrain from telling the truth are not righteous" he said. This put him in danger of incurring the king's wrath. Bi Gan stayed at the palace for three days and nights to try to persuade the blood-thirsty and immoral king to mend his ways.[2]

The stubborn king would not relent and had Bi Gan arrested for treason. Upon hearing this, his pregnant wife escaped into the forest and went into labor there. With no one to help her, she gave birth to a boy in the rocky cave in the forest.

Before long, King Zhou was overthrown by King Wu of the Zhou dynasty. King Wu knew about the courageous court advisor Bi Gan and sought his wife and child. When he found them, he honoured them in respect of Bi Gan. The mother and child were restored to the royal family. The new king conferred the surname Lin (meaning forest) on Bi Gan's son.[3]

Different versions of the nameEdit

  • This family name is common among the Malaysian Chinese community. However, because the vast majority of Chinese Malaysians romanized their surnames according to the pronunciations of their respective southern Chinese dialects, it is very rarely romanized as "Lin". The Hakka, Hokkien, Teochew and Hainan communities romanize it as "Lim" whereas the Cantonese-speaking community uses "Lam" or "Lum".
  • The Korean surname Im ( in South Korean spelling; in North Korean spelling; commonly romanized as Lim or Rim) is the Korean pronunciation of the same Chinese character (林). A much less common Korean surname Im is derived from another character (; spelled Im in both North and South Korean) the character used to write the surname Ren. In Korean, the former is called Supul Rim (수풀 림) and the latter Matgil Im (맡길 임) when they need to be distinguished.
  • A common Japanese surname, Hayashi, is written with the same character 林 and also means forest. A much rarer Japanese surname, Rin, is also written with same character.
  • The Vietnamese surname, "Lâm", was formerly written using the same character.
  • In Singapore, although "Lim" and "Lam" are generally more common variants, the extremely rare spelling "Lyn" can be found in select families of Chinese, Japanese, or other East Asian ancestry (also transcribed using the 林 character) and bears no known relation to the English or Scottish surname of the same spelling, or alternate spelling "Ling".
  • A rare Chinese surname which is also transcribed Lin is (pinyin Lìn).
  • Indonesians of Chinese ancestry bearing this surname sometimes spell it as "Liem."
  • Guamanians and Filipinos of Chinese descent with this surname mostly use the Hokkien spelling "Lim", as the majority have Fujianese ancestry. It is sometimes found in Hispanicised compound surnames such as "Limjoco" in the Philippines, and "Limtiaco" in Guam; this type of surname is often derived from the full and complete original name of a Spanish-era immigrant patriarch.
  • Prominent Thai-Chinese royalist families with this surname are bestowed by member of the royal family some indigenised derivative such as "Limthongkul" "Sirilim".
  • The character "霖" (Lin = heavy rain showers) is also a popular personal name in China.

Notable people surnamed Lin in English contextsEdit

This is a Chinese name, meaning the surname is stated "before" the given name, though Chinese persons living in Western countries will often put their surname after their given name.


(Mandarin and Wu Chinese form):


(Cantonese form)


(Also Cantonese form)


(Southern Min)


(Indonesian and Dutch form):


(Eastern Min, Northern Min, and Wu form):

  • Ling How Doong (林孝谆, born 1934), Singaporean politician and lawyer
  • Ling Liong Sik (林良实, born 1943), Malaysian politician
  • Victor Ling (林重慶, born 1943), Chinese-born Canadian scientist
  • Jahja Ling (林望傑, born 1951), Indonesian-born American orchestral conductor
  • Tschen La Ling (林球立, born 1956), Dutch football player
  • John Wey Ling (林建伟, born 1958 or 1959), Chinese-born American ballet dancer
  • Alan Ling Sie Kiong (林思健, born 1983), Malaysian lawyer
  • Julia Ling (林小微, born 1983), American television actress
  • Landon Ling (林家亮, born 1987), Canadian football player

See alsoEdit