周 Zhou in PH

The ninth most populous surname in China is 周 (Zhou in Mandarin, Chiu in Hokkien). Yet, there is no 周 family association in the Philippines simply because there are not enough of the clan members living here.

Nevertheless, there are Chius in the Philippines. Among the prominent Chiu family in Cebu is Francisco L. Benedicto (Chiu Chin Ki 周清琦), who was our ambassador to China in 2009.

Francisco L. Benedicto (Chiu Chin Ki 周清琦)

While 周 is not a popular surname in the Philippines, the late beloved premier of the People’s Republic of China, Zhou En Lai (周恩來) is well known here. He signed the agreement with the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos to re-establish diplomatic relations between the two countries on June 9, 1975.

In China, Zhou is also the name of a the longest-lasting dynasty in Chinese history, from 11th century BC to 771 BC. There are two origins of the surname.

The first one said that China’s legendary Yellow Emperor (黃帝) had a general called Zhou Chang (周昌).

Later during the Shang (商) Dynasty (17th century BC to 11th century BC), there was an official historiographer name Zhou Ren (周任). All the heirs of Zhou Chang and Zhou Ren used the Zhou as their surname.

The other origin is more significant.

Hou Ji

It is said that the Yellow Emperor had 25 sons who were given 12 different surnames, among which is the surname Ji (姬), and one of the heirs of Ji, was fond of planting various plants and named agricultural officer for which he got his name Hou Ji (后稷).

The Chinese character 稷 is a kind of grain or broomcorn millet.

During the time of his 12th generation grandson Gu Gong Dan Fu (古公亶父), invasion from the northern and western barbarians forced the clan to move to Zhou Yuan (周原), now in northeast of Qi Shan (岐山) county of Shanxi province.

They changed the name of their state to Zhou.

Gu Gong Dan Fu’s grandson, Zhou Wu Wang (周武王) defeated the Shang dynasty and established Zhou dynasty. His grandfather was thus also called Zhou Tai Wang (周太王), his father Zhou Wen Wang (周文王). The Chinese character Wang (王) means king.

Finally, the famous great writer Lu Xun (魯迅) of China is actually a Zhou. His original full name is Zhou Shu Ren (周樹人). Lu Xun is his pen name. — First published in Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 23, no. 3 (July 06-19, 2010): 5.