Liu, a name patronized by Confucius

There are an estimated 1.14 million people surnamed Liu, accounting for 0.09 percent of the total population in China. Liu is the 133th-most-common surname in China.


There are an estimated 1.14 million people surnamed Liu, accounting for 0.09 percent of the total population in China. Liu is the 133th-most-common surname in China.

There are mainly three sources of Liu as a family name. The Liu family with the longest history originated from the ancient family of Ji (姬). Zhan Huo, a descendant of Duke Xiao of the Lu Kingdom surnamed Ji, was a law enforcement officer of the domain during the Spring and Autumn Period of (770-476 BC). He was granted the land of Liuxia (柳下), as well as a posthumous title “Hui” (惠) after his death. Called “a neglected sage” by Confucius, Liu was a man of eminent virtue. It is said that on a freezing day Liu held a homeless woman, who felt cold, for one night, without an evil thought. Today “Liuxia Hui” is widely used as synonymous with a man of moral integrity. 

The Liu family can also be traced back to Xiong Xin, the grandson of the King Huai (355-296 BC) of Chu Kingdom. In the late Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC), he was propped up to govern the Chu state, of which the capital was named Liu (柳), today’s Changde City in Hunan Province. His descendants then took Liu as a surname. 

Quite a number of Lius are from ethnic groups, including Manchurin, Yi, Miao, Shui and Mongolian. Besides, many people changed their original surnames to Liu, including Liu Jinting and Liu Rushi, celebrities in the late Ming dynasty (1368-1644).

First originated in the northern Henan Province, Lius moved northward entering Shanxi Province and became a distinguished family after the Qin Kingdom overthrew six states. After Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), Lius are commonly found in southern China, in provinces of Sichuan and Fujian. 

In today’s Jincheng City, Shanxi Province, the former residences of the descendants of Liu Zongyuan (AD 773-819), a prominent poet and litterateur, are well preserved. The complex has become the most complete most original Liu’s habitation in China. 



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