What is the origin of the last name Xu?

The last name Xu originated in China, commonly found among the Han Chinese population. It is a surname with a rich historical background that traces its roots back to ancient times. The name Xu can be traced to the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE) and was derived from the royal Xuyi clan. Over time, the surname Xu spread among various regions in China, and today it remains one of the most prevalent surnames in the country, signifying a lineage that spans thousands of years.

Countries of origin for the last name Xu

The last name XU has its origins in China. It is a relatively common surname among the Chinese population, ranking as the 12th most common surname in China according to the 2019 Chinese government census data. The name is pronounced as “shoo” in Mandarin and “soo” in Cantonese. It consists of a single character, which is written with the radical for “wood” on the left and the phonetic component “ji” on the right.

Genealogically, the surname XU can be traced back to ancient times. It is believed to have originated from the state of Xu during the Spring and Autumn Period (771-476 BC) in China. The state of Xu was located in the present-day eastern part of Henan Province. As was common in ancient China, the ruling class often adopted the name of their state as their surname, leading to the proliferation of the surname Xu.

Etymologically, the surname XU carries the meaning of “wood” or “timber” in Chinese. The radical for “wood” in the character represents the literal meaning of the surname. In Chinese culture, wood is associated with strength and durability, reflecting the virtues that the surname Xu is believed to embody.

Historically, the Xu clan played significant roles in Chinese history. The most notable figure from the Xu clan is Xu Guangqi (1562-1633), a prominent Chinese scholar, astronomer, and mathematician. He was a close collaborator of the Italian Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci and contributed greatly to the introduction of Western science and technology to China during the Ming Dynasty.

In modern times, the surname XU continues to be widely used both in China and among the Chinese diaspora. Many individuals bearing the surname have achieved success in various fields, including business, academia, and the arts. Notable contemporary personalities with the surname Xu include Xu Jiayin, the chairman of Evergrande Group, one of China’s largest property developers, and Xu Bing, a renowned Chinese artist known for his innovative use of Chinese characters.

While the surname XU has a rich historical and cultural significance, its specific meaning and origins beyond ancient China remain subjects of ongoing research and speculation. Given its prevalence and the vastness of Chinese history and culture, there may still be undiscovered connections, variations, or unique stories associated with the surname XU.

Interesting facts about the last name Xu

  • The surname Xu (徐) is one of the most common Chinese surnames and ranks 42nd in terms of population in China.
  • The Chinese character 徐 can be traced back to the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC) and has been used as a surname for more than 2,000 years.
  • In ancient times, the surname Xu was associated with respectability, diligence, and courtesy, and it was often used to refer to a person’s calm and composed demeanor.
  • Due to its long history, the Xu surname has many different origins and branches, with different clans and sub-clans scattered across different regions of China.
  • There are various maps that illustrate the distribution of the Xu surname in China, showing concentrations in provinces such as Jiangsu, Shandong, Anhui, and Zhejiang.
  • Xu is also a common surname among overseas Chinese communities, particularly in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world where Chinese immigrants have settled.
  • The surname Xu is not limited to China, as it is also found in other East Asian countries like Korea (서) and Vietnam (Tô).
  • Famous historical figures with the Xu surname include Xu Shichang (1855–1939), a Chinese politician and President of the Republic of China, and Xu Guangqi (1562–1633), a celebrated Chinese scholar-official during the Ming Dynasty.
  • The Xu surname has been adopted by notable individuals in various fields such as literature, art, sports, and academia, contributing to their prominence and influence in their respective domains.

Name Rank


There are around 25622 people with the last name Xu in the US

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