First published in Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 24, no. 5 (August 9-22, 2011): 5.
The surname 鄭 (Zheng in Mandarin, Ty in Hokkien) ranks 21st among common surnames in China, and 19th among Chinese in the Philippines.
The origin of surname Ty is quite simple. It originated in 806 BC when Emperor Zhou Xuan Wang (周宣王) of Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century BC-771 BC) conferred the title and territory upon his younger half-brother Ji You (姬友) at a place called Zheng Di (鄭地) in Shanxi (陝西) province. So the original surname of 鄭 is actually 姬, the surname of the Zhou royal family.
The State 鄭 moved to a new place called Xingyang (滎陽) in Henan province in 772 BC. Although the State 鄭 was a strong one during the Spring and Autumn (春秋) period (770-476 BC), it was eventually eliminated by other states in 375 BC. While its heirs scattered to other places in China, they continued using the surname of their state 鄭.
In connection to the Philippines, the most famous figure in China’s history with surname 鄭 is Koxinga, whose Chinese name is 鄭成功 (Zheng Chenggong in Mandarin, Ty Sieng Kong in Hokkien). (See “Koxinga and the Philippines,” Tulay May 18-June 14, 2010 issue for more details.)
Another famous figure with surname 鄭 is the great explorer Admiral Zheng He (鄭和). He led seven great naval expeditions westward 1405-1433. Emperor Yong Le (永樂) of Ming (明) Dynasty gave him the surname 鄭. Zheng He was a Muslim; his original surname was Ma (馬). And since he is a eunuch, there were no heirs to inherit his surname 鄭. (See “Zheng He: Did China’s great explorer visit the Philippines?” Tulay Nov. 15, 2005 issue.)
In the Philippines, it is said that many of the Ty clan are engaged in the jewelry and textile businesses. Walk along Ongpin Street in Manila’s Chinatown, and you would find a lot of owners of those jewelry shops carry the surname. The other family engaged in jewelry is 顏 (Yan in Mandarin, Gan in Hokkien).
Among famous Tsinoys, there is the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee (鄭建祥) and his father Dr. Tee Han Kee (鄭漢淇) who was the first president of Chinese General Hospital, the first Tsinoy to study Western medicine and the first Tsinoy to be appointed public health officer.
George Ty (鄭少堅) is the majority owner of Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co., the second largest commercial bank in the country.
Leonardo Ty (鄭龍溪), was the late former president of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. and founder of Ajinomoto Philippines Corp.
Finally, Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran past president, Lyonel Ty (鄭朝暉) is the current president of the Tee’s Charitable Association Inc. (菲律濱滎陽鄭氏宗親會).