Thursday, January 07, 2010

My last name 单 - Shan4

It's a shocking day! I have not had an emotional day like today for a long time, I actually cried. The last time was reading Lu You and Tang Wan, but that doesn't count since it had nothing to do with me.

While I was in Guang Zhou, I met a couple which we had a brief discussion about population migration in Guang Dong Province, and my last name caught her attention. My last name is rather unusual in Chinese. She told me it must be from a noble ancestry. Chinese uses a phrase Gui Xing (noble/precious last name) when asking another person's last name due to respect as common practice. But Chinese phrases are rarely composed randomly. So the more rare the more noble?

Shan's family history

Today, some how, out of the blue, totally random, I googled my last name 单 - Shan4. I am related to Zhou Cheng Wang (1055 - 1021 BC) - 2nd emperor of Zhou dynasty! Zhou Cheng Wang assigned land (county) in He Nan today to his youngest son, named the land 单邑 - Shan4 Yi4 (county). His descendants take on the last name 单 after the assigned county name ever since. The original last name of the Zhou family and also mine was 姬 - Ji. The entire family are descendants of 黄帝 - Huang Di, 1 of the 5 earliest Chinese emperors in the history. Huang Di's original last name was 公孙 - Gong Shun, he lived in 姬水, He Nan region for a long time, then changed his last name to 姬 - Ji. Zhou Wu Wang assigned over 53 counties to the dukes and princesses of his, each descendant later took on name of the county as last name. 姬 - Ji was no longer a main last name as in the 黄帝 - Huang Di period for that reason.

Zhou Cheng Wang is son of Zhou Wu Wang whom is the son of Zhou Wen Wang. Naturally, the Shans were one of noble families of the Zhou dynasty, over 20 generations had important seats in the parliament during Zhou Dynasty.

Zhou Wen Wang is the original author of Zhou Yi, Confucius and his dispels translated it into Yi Jing (I-Ching). The king of Chinese Classic books which shaped the Chinese culture for over 3 thousand years.

It's not up to me to decide whether I should believe in fate. Zhou Yi has been my latest obsession, it has changed my mind set, it has changed my attitude, it has changed my perception of universal matters. I owe it to this 3000 years old ancient Chinese classic of philosophy for everything happening and taking changes in my life now and till the day I die. This is a book I worship!!! When I read philosophy books from the west and the east, I find my brain wave is more coherent with the eastern philosophy, so I automatically assumed me being Chinese, my mind is bias subconsciously. Now that I found out Zhou Wen Wang (author) is my ancestor, the shock was beyond imaginable. I have Zhou Yi in my blood!!!! This is the biggest news since the day I was born! :P

Through out Chinese history, Shan's has produced many famous and capable generals, politicians, poets, inventors, and a LOT of 进士-Jin Shi. Today, there are about half a million Shan's in China. The migration in the last 3 thousand years began at He Nan, west to Gan Shu/Yunnan/Sichuan, east to Shanxi/Shannxi/Shandong/Anhui/Zhejian/Jianxi/Shuzhou, the eastern branch split up north to Shenyang/Jilin, and south to Guangdong/Fujian, this branch has branched out to over seas countries like myself. My family is the Guangdong branch station in Dongguan. Today, a Shan's family Ci Tang is still standing in Dongguan which I'll visit one day. A family tree wood carved print record from the Qing Dynasty of this Guangdong branch is now at Utah Last Name Research Association! How convenient, I'll bug the heck out of them one day! I want to see it in person!!!! Btw, what the heck is a Chinese last name family record doing in Utah???

Boy, that's a lot to live up to after finding out there are so many of my ancestors were over achievers year after year for so many thousands years. No mater what, I am soooo darn proud of my heritage!

Tracing back the family tree is fun.... I was a 公孙 - Gong Shun, then a 姬 - Ji, now a 单 - Shan. :D

Zhou dynasty combined Western and eastern Zhou, together is an almost 800 years old empire which is the longest dynasty in Chinese history. Its longevity had much to do with Zhou Wen Wang's philosophy, Zhou Yi.

I should keep this hush hush, 黄帝 - Huang Di defeated 炎帝 (神农氏 - Shen Nong Shi), the discoverer of tea... I am born to pay a 5 thousand years old Karma bill?! :P


Justin said...

Wow! That's quite a surprised.

On an unrelated note, this makes me realize how I know nothing about China. It's so vast, and has such a long and rich history compared to the U.S..

Justin said...

Haha! Utah?! The Mormons have this thing where they are gathering all the genealogical data they can. Funny thing is I just moved to SLC for college. I can't wait to get out! Ahhhh! It sucks here.

By the by, nice blog. I just discovered it.


Maitre_Tea said...

My last name doesn't really have a rich history, and I think the most famous "ancestor" I have is 藍采和 of the Eight Immortals, which probably doesn't count since they're not "real."

*sigh* to be related to a sexually ambiguous, possible transsexual

Imen said...


You might be able to search your European family root.. :)

Thanks for reading and good luck with school!

Maitre Tea,
You are related to 藍采和! Fujian and Taiwan Lan's are descendants of the 14th great grandson of 藍采和, 蓝吉甫, he was a 进士 in Tang Dynasty. :P Lan's are related to Shen Nong Shi.

You should feel pretty good now. :P

Soïwatter said...

Interesting ancestry.

It is something that has always puzzled me, how people can recognize each other in Asia with so wild spread family name: your rare name is only held by half a million people people (when mine has only been held by 550 people in 400 years, all graphical variant mixed...)

By the way, your name is honourable, as part of the old Chinese culture. It shall be honoured, and I think you're doing it the best way, spreading the culture of tea.

Marlena said...

I know a little of how you feel, though not with so long a history. I worshipped in the church in Germany where my many greats grandfather was christened in 1731, visited the village his wife came from, visited the house in Switzerland my ancestors lived in since 1538. Tears filled my eyes to be so connected to them, to walk their streets, see their mountains and hills. It really is awe filling to be even a tiny part of history. In this country I have been where my Mohawk Indian many greats grandmother lived. Moving experiences. Thank you for sharing this

Imen said...


Wow, you are a rare kind!

Thanks for sharing your story as well! The need to be connected to our root is essential to our spiritual existence. :)

Lew Perin said...

I guess it was modesty on your part not to mention a fact that you - of all people! - must know: the character for your family name is the same as the first character of Dancong.

Imen said...


hahaha, that's coincidental. It doesn't mean much. But the more shocking discovery is that my tea master's ancestor was teacher of Zhou Wen Wang - author of Zhou Yi more than 3000 years ago. That gave me goose bumps! Perhaps my last name and Dan Cong are pointers or connecting signs for me to find him tens thousands miles away.

LACheesemonger said...

Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the US Constitution and 3rd US president, many people can trace ancestry back to him. I forget what famous people DNA analysis says current president Obama is related to :p.

Outline of Zhouyi

"According to Han shu (History of the West Han Dynasty), the invention of the 8 trigrams is attributed to China's first humanistic emperor, a mythological figure called Fu Hsi.

King Wen of Zhou is traditionally thought to be the inventor of the 64 hexagrams and the author of the remarks. Confucius studied and commented Zhouyi during his later years."

^ur saying, that your TM is related to a mythological Fu Hsi?

Sooooo, RU also related to US figure skating icon, Michelle WingShan Kwan (aka Guān Yǐngshān, 关颖珊)?