Fri, Nov 02, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Seasons, flavors feature in unusual surname list

By Fang Cheng-hsiang and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with Staff writer

The latest statistics released by the Ministry of Interior on people’s surnames highlight a great variety of unusual and sometimes fascinating family names.

As of July 2 this year, Taiwan had a total of 1,517 family names. Of these, 1,398 are single-character surnames, accounting for 23.22 million people, while 119 double-character surnames account for 30,428 individuals.

There are also a few thousand people with special surnames that utilize characters not usually used in Taiwan for surnames, the data showed.

Among these rare surnames are Tung (東, east), Hsi (西, west), Nan (南, south) and Pei (北, north), used by 893, 450, 45 and eight people respectively.

There are also people whose surnames are the words for seasons, namely Chun (春, spring), Hsia (夏, summer), Chiu (秋, autumn) and Tung (冬, winter). There are 37 Chuns, 16,839 Hsias, 197 Chius and 78 Tungs, the data show.

Other rare surnames are Chia (甲), Yi (乙), Ping (丙) and Ting (丁), which are the first four sets of “Heavenly Stems” (天干) used in Taoist divination and familiar to Taiwanese students as a grading system used in schools equivalent to ABC and D. These four rare family names account for 28, 27, 1 and 48,234 individuals respectively, according to the ministry.

There are also people whose surnames are calendar notations such as Nien (年, year), Yueh (月, month) and Jih (日, day), accounting for 79, 390 and 231 people respectively.

Two surnames whose meanings are amounts, To (多, many) and Shao (少, few) account for 63 and 5 people; six people are called Chen (真, true) and seven Chia (假, false); Shih (是, yes) and Fei (非, no) account for 27 and two people; 140 people are named Kung (公, male) while 86 are called Mu (母, female), while there are two people called Suan (酸, sour) and two called Ku (苦, bitter), the ministry said.

Across the nation, there are 981 people whose surnames are composed of more than six characters, with one having the nation’s longest name, which contains 13 characters.

Deputy Minister of the Interior Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) said these unusually long names originate mostly in Aboriginal communities or are of Tibetan or Mongolian origin, or are those of naturalized citizens of foreign origin.

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