Soul of China

張 (Tiu/Zhang) in the Philippines

More than 90 million Chinese carry the surname 張 (Tiu in Hokkien, Zhang in Mandarin). Together, they represent the third largest group in China with the same family name.

The name carries with it more than 5,000 years of history, with intimate ties to both royalty and warfare. Its origin has to do with the bow.

The first person with this surname was 揮 (Hui in Mandarin), said to be a grandson of the Yellow Emperor (黃帝).

The surname Tiu was conferred to him by the legendary Emperor Zhuan Xu (顓頊) — his elder brother — as recognition for his invention of the bow and arrow, a creation that helped the kingdom dominate in warfare.

The Chinese character of Tiu (張) has two parts: 弓 gong in Mandarin, means bow, the shape of which really looks like a bow; and 長 (zhang in Mandarin, means chief in this case).

By combining 弓and 長 for Hui, Emperor Zhuan Xu created a new surname and Chinese character: 弓 because Hui invented the bow, 長 from the title he conferred to Hui as the chief (長) of bow officer (公正長官, gong zhen zhang guan).

So Hui became 張揮 (Tiu Hui in Hokkien, Zhang Hui in Mandarin) and is the first ancestor of the Tius.

And for your information, there were 15 Chinese emperors who had the 張 surname.

An illustrious name indeed. — First published in Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 22, no. 12 (November 17-December 14, 2009): 5.