Chen (surname)

Chen (surname)
Chen / Chan
Family name
Chén in traditional Chinese
Pronunciation Chén (Mandarin)
Chan (Cantonese)
Tan (Min Nan)
Chin (Hakka, Toisan)
Trần (Vietnamese)
Meaning after a region in Henan

Chén or Chan (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Chén; Wade–Giles: Ch'en) is one of the most common East Asian family names. It ranks as the 5th most common surname in China, as of 2007[1] and the most common surname in Singapore (2000)[2] and Taiwan (2010).[3] Chen is also the most common family name in Guangdong, Zhejiang, Fujian, Hong Kong (spelt Chan in Hong Kong and Macau).[citation needed] It is the most common surname in Xiamen, the ancestral hometown of many overseas Hoklo.[4]

It is usually romanised as Chan in Cantonese (most widely used by those from Hong Kong), and sometimes as Chun. In Min (including dialects of Chaozhou (Teochow), Hainan, Fujian, and Taiwan), the name is pronounced Tan. In Hakka and Toisan, the name is spelled and pronounced as Chin. Some other Romanisations include Zen (from Wu), Ding and Chern. Chen can be variously spelt Chan, Chin or Tan in Singapore and Malaysia.

The Korean surname 진 (Jin) would be the Korean equivalent of the surname Chen.

In Vietnam, this surname is written in Quốc Ngữ as Trần, and is the second most popular Vietnamese surname, accounting for 11% of the population,[5] after the surname Nguyễn (38.4%).

According to an unofficial count undertaken by the American company infoUSA, "Chan" is the 19th most common surname (and the third most common Chinese surname) found in Canadian telephone directories.[6]



The initial surname Chen was from Gui (Chinese: ; pinyin: Gūi), which was an ancient East Asia surname of descendants of Emperor Shun, who was one of the Three August Ones and Five Emperors. When King Wu of Zhou established the Zhou Dynasty, he gave the Land of Chen to Shun's descendants to establish their own state. To show his respect for Emperor Shun, the new state, which was also named Chen, was one of the Three Guest States of Zhou (Chinese: 三恪; pinyin: Sān Kè), which meant this nation was not a subordinate, but a guest of Zhou. However, the Chen state was occupied by Chu after the 10th century BC. Since then, the people of this state began to use Chen as their surname.

During the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-589), Chen Baxian established the Chen Dynasty (557-589), the fourth and the last of the Southern dynasties in East Asia, which was eventually destroyed by the Sui Dynasty.

Other pronunciations

Notable people

Fictional characters with surname Chen

  • Charlie Chan, a fictional detective
  • Chen, a fictional character in the British science fiction sitcom Red Dwarf
  • Chan Ho-nam, the fictitious Hong Kong triad boss in the Young and Dangerous film series
  • Chen Jialuo, protagonist of the Wuxia novel The Book and the Sword
  • Simon Chen / Tan Peng Liang, a character in Ca Bau Kan, a roman by Remy Sylado
  • Detective Grace Chen, a central character in Martial Law
  • Chen, the Holy Knight, a character in the Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos custom map Dota.
  • Chen Jin, Chinese badminton player
  • Chen Stormstout, a hero in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne
  • Chen Zhen, a fictional Chinese martial artist and culture hero


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ "厦门第一大姓陈氏:先辈300万贯钱买厦门岛" (in Chinese). China Review News. 2010-10-01. Retrieved 9 June 2011. 
  5. ^ Họ và tên người Việt Nam của Lê Trung Hoa, Nhà xuất bản Khoa học - Xã hội, 2005
  6. ^ "Common surnames". (CBC News). 2007-07-26. Retrieved 2008-01-27. "...the source is a Nebraska-based company called infoUSA, which claims to have put together a directory of every telephone listing in Canada." 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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