Sima (Chinese surname)

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 occupational surname, literally meaning "control" (sī) "horses" (mǎ); in a similar way as the English 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 "Szema".[citation needed]

Sima (Szema)
司馬姓 - 楷体.svg
PronunciationSīmǎ (Pinyin)
Su-má (Pe̍h-ōe-jī)
Language(s)Chinese language
Word/nameOne of the offices of the Zhou dynasty's Three Excellencies
Meaninghorse master
Other names
Variant form(s)Sima (Mandarin)
Suma (Hokkien)
Sma (English)
See alsoSzema


The Sima clan were said to be the descendants of the mythological figures Gaoyang and Chongli (Gaoyang's son). They served as xiaguan (夏官; "officers of summer")[a] in the reigns of the mythical emperors Yao and Shun and through the Xia and Shang dynasties. During the Zhou dynasty, officials holding the appointment of xiaguan oversaw military affairs and were collectively known as "xiaguan sima". Cheng Boxiufu (程柏休父), a descendant of Chongli, helped King Xuan of the Zhou dynasty consolidate his rule over his kingdom. In return, the king awarded aristocratic status to Cheng Boxiufu's clan. Cheng Boxiufu and his descendants adopted Sima as their family name.[1] In the late Zhou dynasty, the Sima clan migrated to the states of Wei, Zhao and Qin. 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.

In the late Qin dynasty, Sima Ang served as a general in the insurgent Zhao state and joined other rebel forces in overthrowing the Qin dynasty. After the fall of the Qin dynasty, Sima Ang declared himself the king of a separate state, Yin (殷), with its capital in Henei (河內; in present-day Henan). In the early Han dynasty, Sima Ang's kingdom became a commandery of the Han Empire and his descendants had lived there since.[2] Sima Yi, a descendant of Sima Ang, served as an official, military general and regent of the Cao Wei state in the Three Kingdoms period. His grandson, Sima Yan, usurped the throne from the last Cao Wei emperor and established the Jin dynasty. After the Jin dynasty ended, many members of the Sima clan changed their surname to avoid persecution.

List of persons with the surnameEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ See the Rites of Zhou for details on the Offices of Summer.


  1. ^ (宣皇帝諱懿,字仲達,河內溫縣孝敬里人,姓司馬氏。其先出自帝高陽之子重黎,為夏官祝融。歷唐、虞、夏、商,世序其職。及周,以夏官為司馬。其後程伯休父,周宣王時,以世官克平徐方,錫以官族,因而為氏。) Jin Shu vol. 1.
  2. ^ (楚漢間,司馬卬為趙將,與諸侯伐秦。秦亡,立為殷王,都河內。漢以其地為郡,子孫遂家焉。自卬八世,生征西將軍鈞,字叔平。鈞生豫章太守量,字公度。量生潁川太守儁,字元異。儁生京兆尹防,字建公。帝即防之第二子也。) Jin Shu vol. 1.