Zhao (surname)

Zhao (//;[1] traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; pinyin: Zhào) is a Chinese surname, ranking as the 7th most common surname in Mainland China and carried mainly by people of Mandarin-speaking regions. Zhao is the 1st surname in the famous Hundred Family Surnames – the traditional list of all Chinese surnames – because it was the emperor's surname of the Song Dynasty (960–1279) when the list was compiled.

Zhao / Chao / Chiu
MeaningName of a feudal state during the Zhou Dynasty
Other names
Variant form(s)Cho, Triệu
"Zhao" in seal script (top), Traditional (middle), and Simplified (bottom) Chinese characters
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese alphabetTriệu
Korean name

Zhao may be romanized as Chiu from the Cantonese pronunciation, and is romanized in Taiwan and Hong Kong as Chao as in the Wade–Giles system. It is cognate with the Vietnamese family name Triệu and with the Korean family name most commonly romanized as Cho (조).

The romanization is shared with the much rarer family name Zhào (兆).


Zhao is one of the most ancient of Chinese surnames, and its origins are partly shrouded in legend. During the reign of King Mu of Zhou (976/956 BC – 922/918 BC), an officer named Zaofu (Chinese: 造父) proved exceptionally adept at training horses and driving chariots and won the respect of King Mu. During a battle with the eastern state of Xu, an ethnically different state which was resisting Zhou rule, Zaofu drove a chariot into the battle and escorted King Mu back to the Zhou capital. In gratitude, King Mu enfeoffed Zaofu as the lord of Zhao, a town in what is now Hongdong County, Shanxi Province, to be held by his descendants in perpetuity. Zaofu's descendants took Zhao as a surname to mark their prestigious association with the city. Records such as Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian say that Zaofu was a descendant of legendary kings Zhuanxu, Shaohao, and the Yellow Emperor.

The town Zhao became part of the state of Jin during the Warring States period, when the Zhou Dynasty began to collapse. In 403 BC, Jin split into three smaller states, one of which was the state of Zhao.

The Zhao clan rulers of State of Qin and State of Zhao were highly successful, and State of Zhao were one of the last major states conquered by the State of Qin during its unification of China.

As with all ancient Chinese surnames, the Zhao family was constantly added to by marriages, its bestowal upon commoners for meritorious deeds, and its adoption by non-Chinese peoples assimilated into Han Chinese culture. The Zhao name experienced a great revival after Zhao Kuangyin became the first emperor of the Song Dynasty in 960 AD, leading to 300 years of Zhao rule over China. Notably, it is during this dynasty that the famous Hundred Family Surnames – the traditional list of all Chinese surnames – was compiled, leading the surname Zhao, that of the royal house, to be the first name listed.

However, some cadet clans on the mainland have genealogy records preserved from the Cultural Revolution as well as some Hata clans of Japan, which could trace back to a significant amount of generations to verify the authenticity of the bloodline.

Evolution of the Zhao clan

Zhao Clan (趙氏) – China, Royal house of Song Dynasty
Zhao clan (趙氏) – Royal house of Qin Dynasty
Ying (Ancestral name) (嬴姓) – Royal house of Qin (state)
The clans of Lian (廉), Xu (徐), Jiang (江), Qin (秦), Zhao (趙), Huang (黄), Liang (梁), Ma (馬), Ge (葛), Gu (谷), Mou (繆), Zhong (鍾), Fei (費), and Qu (瞿)

Modern Culture

In Lu Xun's novel The True Story of Ah Q, Ah Q said he belonged to the same clan as Mr. Zhao, who was an honored landlord of the village. Mr. Zhao was very angry. He slapped Ah Q's face and said, 'How could you be named Zhao!—Do you think you are worthy of the name Zhao?'[2]

Since 2015 or earlier, in Chinese internet, Zhao became the intimation of Communist Party of China and 'State of Zhao' became the intimation of China. Similarly, 'The Zhao Family' refers to the dignitaries of China, and "The Zhao's Army" refers to People's Liberation Army.[3] 'How could you be named Zhao!' is popular to satirize the people who are humble but pretend to be powerful.

In 2016, the blog writer Program Think set up a GitHub project named Zhao.[4] The project collects the relationships among more than 700 people in over 130 families include Xi Jinping, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and many other high level government officials of Communist Party of China. Cyber Security Association of China requested GitHub to remove the project.[5] Error status code 451 would be reached if the connection request to the project is from China.

Prominent people with the family name

Historical figures

  • Zhao Zheng (traditional Chinese: 趙政), the first emperor of China, most commonly known as Qin Shi Huang (traditional Chinese: 秦始皇)
  • Zhao Chengjiao (趙成蟜), the first emperor's half brother, after the first emperor inherited the throne, he rebelled and was killed by the emperor.
  • Zhao Chou Warlord during the Late Tang Dynasty
  • Zhao Dejun general of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period state Later Tang and Later Tang's predecessor state Jin
  • Zhao Gao close advisor to emperors during the Qin Dynasty one of the most corrupt, villainous, violent and powerful eunuchs in Chinese history
  • Zhao Guangyi Chancellor of Southern Han
  • Zhao Jieyu a consort of Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty
  • Zhao Kuangyin (趙匡胤) or Emperor Taizu of Song (宋太祖), the founder of the Song Dynasty
  • Zhao Deyin warlord late in the Tang Dynasty,
  • Zhao Dezhao second son of Emperor Taizu
  • Zhao Feiyan Empress of the Western Han Dynasty to Emperor Cheng
  • Zhao Hede Imperial Consort to Emperor Cheng of Han sister to Empress Zhao Feiyan
  • Zhao Kuangyi Brother of Zhao Kuangyin and Second Emperor of the Song Dynasty
  • Zhao Heng Third Emperor of The Song Dynasty
  • Zhao Zhen Fourth Emperor of The Song Dynasty
  • Zhao Shu Fifth Emperor of The Song Dynasty
  • Zhao Xu Sixth Emperor of The Song Dynasty
  • Zhao Xu Seventh Emperor of the Song Dynasty
  • Zhao Ji Eighth Emperor of The Song Dynasty famous for being a skilled poet, painter, calligrapher, and musician.
  • Zhao Boju Painter during the Song Dynasty
  • Zhao Yun General of Shu Han during the era of Three Kingdoms
  • Zhao Mengfu calligrapher, descendant of Song Imperial Family
  • Zhao Yong calligrapher, son of Zhao Mengfu, descendant of Song Imperial Family
  • Zhao Yiguang , Literary figure and author during Ming dynasty, relative of Zhao Mengfu, descendant of Song Imperial Family

Modern figures

Meanings of Zhao (赵)

See also


  1. "Zhao Ziyang". Collins English Dictionary.
  2. Ah-Q, Lu Xun, Lu Hsun. "The True Story of Ah-Q". www.marxists.org. Retrieved 2017-06-30.
  3. "赵家人 - China Digital Space". chinadigitaltimes.net. Retrieved 2017-06-30.
  4. 编程随想 (2017-07-01), zhao: 【编程随想】整理的《太子党关系网络》,专门揭露赵国的权贵, retrieved 2017-07-01
  5. gov-takedowns: Text of government takedown notices as received. GitHub does not endorse or adopt any assertion contained in the following notices, GitHub, 2017-06-29, retrieved 2017-06-30
  6. 汉典:赵的解释https://www.zdic.net/hans/%E8%B5%B5
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