Minority name changed by Chinesization

Compared with many Chinese surnames, He is a quite young Chinese surname that did not appear until the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220).

Compared with many Chinese surnames that came into being before the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC), He is a quite young Chinese surname that did not appear until the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220).

It is estimated that there are about 2.7 million people surnamed He in China, ranking it the 85th in terms of population. The number of He accounts for about 0.17 percent of the population. 

Compared with many Chinese surnames that came into being before the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC), He is a quite young Chinese surname that did not appear until the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220). 

There is only one major source for He among the Han people, yet many sources in the minority communities. Scholars estimate most He in China are members of ethnic minorities. 

There were surnames like Helan, Helai, Helou and Hedun in the Xianbei group that once thrived in north China. But under the “Chinesization” of Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Syndasy (AD 386-534), all four surnames were changed to He. 

Similarly, the families of He-erjia, He-erji, Suhe and He-ni from the Tuguhun tribe all changed to He, as did the He-sheli, the oldest surname in the Man ethnic group.

There are also Hes in minorities such as the Xibo, Miao, Yugu, Buyi, Sala, Russian, Dongxiang, and the Hui. One branch of the He family originated from Shaoxing in Zhejiang Province with He Chun as the ancestor. There was a prominent family of He in Kuaiji County in Zhejiang Province together with the family of Yu, Wei and Kong during the Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties (220-589 AD).

A great number of Hes from the Xianbei group appeared in Northern China about the time of the Northern Wei Dynasty.

The Hes in the north and south merged continuously and formed two other prominent families of He in Henan County in today’s Henan Province and Guangping County in Hebei Province. 

Most Hes today are in Hunan and Shanxi provinces — accounting for about 30 percent of all Hes in China.

He Changling, an official in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), was a member of the Hes in Kuaiji County of Zhejiang Province.

In his 40-year official career, He ordered the building and repair of reservoirs in Shandong Province to prevent floods and banned opium and poppies in Guizhou Province.

He also encouraged storing food in case of famine and set up various educational organizations in Guizhou Province.

In the last year of his life, he commissioned Wei Yuan to help complete the “Huangchao Jingshi Wenbian” (the Compilation of Administrative Affairs of the Royal Dynasty), based on his experience and his collection of documents.

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