Long and proud history of the Leis

There are generally two types of sources for Lei as a family name which are derived from several local ancient surnames and rooted from minorities in the Chinese history.


There are generally two types of sources for Lei as a family name which are derived from several local ancient surnames and rooted from minorities in the Chinese history.

It is estimated that there are about 3.69 million people surnamed Lei in China, ranking it the 78th most common name. Leis account for about 0.23 percent of the population. 

There are generally two types of sources for Lei as a family name which are derived from several local ancient surnames and rooted from minorities in the Chinese history.

One comes from the descendant of the Yan Emperor surnamed Jiang. As a brave soldier fighting for the Yellow Emperor, Lei was granted the land of Mountain Fang in today’s Henan Province. His offspring surnamed themselves as Fang Lei at first. Some chose Lei as their surname. 

There are also Leis derived from the ancient families of Zi and Ji. From the Ji family, there was an excellent physician official Lei Gong serving the Yellow Emperor. And from the Zi family, there was an official named Lei Kai in the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC). Descendants of both the families took Lei as their surname. 

There have also been many minorities who have chosen Lei as their surname. 

In the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220), the minorities in south China were called “Tu Shan Man” as a group. The tribal leaders of the group were called “Lei Qian.” Many tribe members surnamed themselves after the leaders’ rank as “Lei.” The group widely scattered in today’s Hubei Province at the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty, and also migrated south to today’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Guangdong Province.

Many Lei merged with the local ethnics like the Miao, Yao, Yi, Dong, She, Zhuang, Li and Buyi together. 

There are records of a tribe surnamed Lei in the Di minority group during the Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasty Period (AD 220-589), the people of which had inhabited Qinghai and Gansu provinces and gradually merged with the Hans. 

Among Mongolians, the people surnamed Lei mainly originate from musicians who played the hulei (a stringed instrument). Some families of the Mongolian and Man group also shorten or shifted their long surnames into Lei for convenience when communicating with the Hans. 

The population of Leis had mainly lived in Henan Province until they migrated east and formed a prominent clan in Yuzhang of Jiangxi Province in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). Today, 16 percent of Leis live in Sichuan Province.

Lei celebrities include the architect Lei Fada in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), who helped in the rebuilding of the Taihe Palace in the Forbidden City. His family and descendants were also royal architects for more than 200 years. The famous Summer Palace, the Old Summer Palace and Chengde Imperial Summer Resort were all built under the hand of members of the family.



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