莊 (Ching, Zhuang) in the Philippines

 First published in Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 23, no. 18 (February 15-March 7, 2011): 5.

Although Chinese surname 莊 (Ching in Hokkien, Zhuang in Mandarin) ranks outside the 100 most populous surnames in China, it ranks 12th among Chinese in the Philippines.

We can trace its origin to Chu Zhuang Wang (楚莊王). He was king of Chu (楚), a state in the southern part of China during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC). The king was given the name Zhuang (莊) posthumously, and his heirs used this as their surname. Thus, a new surname came into being in China. Shi (謚) – giving a name to kings, nobles and high-ranking officials after their death – was common practice in ancient China.

The original surname of Chu Zhuang Wang was 羋 (mi), heir of one of the five legendary emperors in China’s Zhuanxu (顓頊). Heirs of his fifth generation grandson Jilian (季連) got that rare surname Mi.

During the East Han (東漢) Dynasty (25-220 AD), there was an emperor named Zhuang (莊), with surname Liu (劉) in Mandarin, Lao in Hokkien.

Since it was taboo to use the emperor’s name as one’s own, (either the first name or last name), all those with the surname Zhuang had to take on a new one: Yan (嚴, Yam in Hokkien).

Certainly, that was why people in China surnamed Zhuang did not number enough to place this last name among the top 100. Nevertheless, many of those original Zhuang people restored their original surname after the demise of the East Han Dynasty.

The late Alfredo Ching

In the Philippines, the more renowned is the Ching clan: Ching Chai Un (材允), Ban Lee (萬里) and Chai Bi (材美)are the three brothers who founded the famous Sam Ki (三己) Company.

Ban Lee’s son Alfredo Ching (長江 of Baguio Oil and Philippine Blooming Mills) and daughter Rita Ching Tan (良友, a renowned Chinese ceramics expert) donated their father’s collection of priceless Chinese paintings and calligraphy to the Shanghai Museum.

Other members of the clan, Chung Tiong Tay (莊長泰 of La Suerte Cigar and Cigarette Manufacturing Corp., makers of Philip Morris) and Johnny Cheng Ching Chuan (莊清泉 of La Perla Cigar and Cigarette Company, where Taipan Lucio Tan first worked) are Tsinoy community leaders.

Johnny Cheng’s father is Chai Lun (莊材潤), for which a wing of the Chinese General Hospital is named.