I happen to stumble upon this article about the Leow (廖) surname which is my family surname. Don’t know much about it till I read this article. All I know so far was that my ancestor hailed from Hainan somewhere in the Southern China. Anyway, this article shed some interesting light about the history of the Leow surname.
Other Romanised forms of the Leow name include Liao, Liau, Liaw, Leeau, Liow, Leaw, Leou, Lau, Loh, Liu, Lieu, Liew and Lew.
The History of the Surname 廖 Leow as Recorded in 2 Documents
Use Big 5 to display the Chinese characters.
1. The Chinese surname LIAO (廖)
The word ‘Liao’ is designated a surname.
The surname Liao is about 3000 years old.
The surname Liao originated in an area referred to during the Han Dynasty (漢朝 206 B.C. to 220 A.D.) as the Ru Yang Prefecture (汝陽郡). The present day location of Ru Yang Prefecture is in an area about 60 kilometers southeast of Ru Nan county 汝南縣 in Henan province (河南省).
Zhou King Wu (周武王) destroyed the Shang Dynasty (商朝 1783 B.C. to 1122 B.C.) and established the Zhou Dynasty (周朝 1134 B.C. to 250 B..C). Zhou King Wu claiming that he was the “Tian Zi” (天子 Son of Heaven) and he had the “Tian Ming” (天命 Mandate of Heaven) to destroy the preceding wicked Shang Dynasty. Zhou King Wu also claimed he was the mediator between man and nature. As a result of this proclaimation all the future Kings and Emperors (the title Emperor was first in used in 221 B.C. by Qin Shi Huang Di 秦始皇帝) called themselves the “Son of Heaven” and that they possessed the “Mandate of Heaven” to do so. Zhou King Wu also proclaimed that the rules of inheritance should be from father to son and not from brother to brother as the preceding Shang Dynasty.
Zhou King Wu now controlled a vast country. The primitive communications at that time made it impossible to govern such a big country efficiently from a centralised authority. Instead Zhou King Wu gave the authority to relatives, officials, generals and aristocrats to rule on his behalf. Zhou King Wu created five titles to honour his relatives and followers:
(1) Gong (公) or the Duke;
(2) Hou (侯) or the Marquis;
(3) Bo (伯) or the Count or Earl;
(4) Zi (子) or the Viscount;
(5) Nan (南) the Baron;
Zhou King Wu had many brothers and they had all assisted him in overthrowing the preceding Dynasty. One of them was Ji Liao (姬廖) whom Zhou King Wu employed as a high-ranking official. Zhou King Wu bestowed upon Ji Liao the title of Bo. Ji Liao came to be known as Liao Bo (廖伯). After Zhou King Wu died in 1116BC his son Zhou King Cheng (周成王) succeeded him. Liao Bo continued to serve in the Zhou Court and helped the new King to govern the fledging
Zhou empire. Liao Bo’s offspring adopted LIAO as their surname in remembrance of him.
by CHUNG Yoon-Ngan (鄭永元) E-mail: chungyn[at]mozart.joinet.net.au
(C) Copyright 1999. All rights reserved.
This page appears by courtesy of the author given on 20 May 2000.
An earlier article on the surname by the same author.
2. The Family Clan Record of Liao
The family clan of Liao was originated from Shu An who was a descendant of Kao Yang Shih and was the son of King Wen and also the brother of King Wu. He was granted the vassal state of Liao by the king (Chou dynasty 1122-255 B.C.). Later on he adopted the name of his state as his surname. During the Ch’un Chiu period (722-481 B.C.), Po Kao changed the Chinese character 飂 to 廖. Thus from him started the direct line of the Liao family clan.
When it came to Duke Hui who belonged to the 11th generation, the Emperor of the Ch’in dynasty (246-207 B.C.) was extremely tyrannical. His atrocious oppression of his subjects also extended to his officials. So Duke Hui preferred to live a scluded life in the north-west side of River Huang 246 B.C. Later he moved to Honan province.
Duke Chang belonged to the 32nd generation. During the Chin dynasty in the 2nd year of the Hsien Ling era (280-275 B.C.) Wu Ti’s reign, Duke Chang was bestowed the title of General because of his military achievements. From Lo Yang, he moved south of River Yangtse. This was the beginning of the Liao family clan in Nanking. Then he married a girl by the surname of Lan who gave him two sons, Yuan Hsien and Ts’ung Hsien. Yuan Hsien was given the title of General and he resided in Lo Yang. Ts’ung Hsien, the younger son instead moved from Lo Yang to Sung Yang county in Yung Chia prefecture in Chekiang province. Five generations passed. Duke Ch’eng Hsi became the Governor of Yangchou. Owing to the troubles caused by the Five Barbarians, he moved south of River Yangtze in the 9th year of the Tai Yuan era (384 A.D.).
After another five generations, came Duke Ch’i K’o who had three sons, Yen Pang, Yen Ling and Yen Ch’un. Pang became the governor of H’ing Ho and was given the prefecture of Ch’ing Ho and was given the prefecture of Ch’ing Ho as a vassal state. Yen Ling became the Governor of Wu Wei and was given the prefecture of Wu Wei as a vassal state. Yen Ch’um become the Governor of Tai Yuan and was given the prefecture of Tai Yuan as a vassal state. That was how the Liao family clan branched out into three prefectures.
Duke Yen Ling, also named Nien-wu Lang, became the Governor of Wu Wei. He married a girl by the surname of Teng and had a son, called Ch’ung Te.
During the Chen Kuan era (627-649 A.D.) in the Tang dynasty (618-906 A.D.) in the Tang dynasty (618-906 A.D.), Ch’ung Te also named Hsueh Wu Lang, was successful in the Ming Ch’ing Examination and was appointed the Prefect of Ch’ien Hua county. After completing his service, he settled down down in Ch’ien Hua which was later known as Ning Tu. Ch’ung Te was the first ancestor of Liao in Kangsi province. He had three sons, the eldest, Kuang Lu became a court official in the year of Ting Wei, during the Ching Lung era (707-710 A.D.) in the Tang dynasty. He became the Regional Commandant of T’ing Chou. The second son, Kuang Yao was also a court official during the Tang dynasty. He was given the title of Vice-Minister of War.
The third son, Kuang Ching, born in the 6th year of Wu Hou’s reign, became the Inspector of Hsuan Chou. He married a girl by the surname of Sun and had three sons. The eldest was Ch’iung Hsuan also name Ta I was given an appointment by the Emperor in the T’ien Pao era (742-756 A.D.), Tang dynasty. While he was travelling to take up his appointment, he died on the way. Owing to Huang Ch’au’s rebellion (874-888 A.D.), Ch’iung Hsuan’s only son, Ssu-shih-i Lang moved to reside in Shih Pi district in Ting Hua subprefecture in Fujien province. After some time, Fukien province also faced a military destruction and no records were preserved during that time. So there was a gap in the records of events for three generations. Records were found again when Duke Hua moved to Hanchow for the second time.
Duke Hua, also named Shih Fan and Wu Lang, was appointed Assistant Administrator for Hu Huang (i.e. Hunan and Hupei provinces). Owing to the political troubles between the Sung and the Yuan dynasties (13th century), he moved to Yen Ping prefecture in Fujien province and then to Yung Ting county in Ting Chou prefecture. He became the first ancestor of Liao in Hang Yung and Yung Ting counties, He married a girl by the surname of Feng and had a son called Chang. Chang had three sons, the eldest was Duke Ch’e, the second Duke Cheng and the third Duke Min. The descendants of these three families scattered all over the provinces of Fujien, Kwangtung and Kangsi. Forty years ago, these descendants jointly produced a genealogical book which records the names of all the descendants of Ch’e Kung, Cheng Kung and Min Kung.
According to the old record kept by the Tung Lin branch of the Liao family clan in Hsiang Yuan in Ch’ing county in Fujien province, the first ancestor of Liao was Duke Ch’ing, also named Shih Tan. He was the fifth child in the family and came from Honan province. During the declining years of the Tang dynasty, in Chao Tsung’s reign (889-904 A.D.), he followed the prince of Fujien Wang Shen-shih into Fujien province. He was first appointment Deputy General and Regional Commandant. Later on, he was appointed General and Exchange Intendant. In the 1st year of K’ai P’ing era (907 A.D.), during the Later Liang Period of the Five Dynasties, he resided in Chiang Lo county in Nan Chien subprefecture. Ch’iung Kung’s second son, Duke Yen also named Tuan Chuang, was appointment a court official in Chao Tsung’s reign, Tang dynasty. During the third year of the Kuang Hua era (900 A.D.), Later Liang Period, he has appointed to the posts of Palace Censor, Grandee Attendant, Adviser to the Heir Apparent, Chancellor of the Imperial College, Pillar of the State and Palace Assistant of the Imperial College, Pillar of the State and Palace Assistant of the Imperial Secretary consecutively.
Owing to the political troubles during the Five Dynasties, Duke Yen escaped to Choung Chou and lived in seclusion in Hsiao Ch’i. The local people remembered the famous virtues and the high reputations of his forefathers, so they elected him to be their Chief. As the Chief, Duke Yen removed all the wicked people and settled the virtuous ones. Thus he maintained good public order. He was known as Lord Liao among his people.
Later, he declared the place a county and named it Ch’ing Ch’i. During the Hsuan Ho era (1119-1125 A.D.) in the Sung dynasty (960-1279 A.D.), robbers emerged from Ch’ing Ch’i Tung which was east of Chekiang province; the local people of Ch’ing Ch’i Tung which was east of Chekiang province hated this because the names of the two places were similar. So Yen Kung ordered the name to be changed to An Ch’i. The local people erected a monument and built a temple to remember him after his death.
His three wives bore him seven sons, namely : 1. T’ai also named Chun P’ing, 2. P’ing also named Chun Sang, 3. Kai, 4. Hui, 5. Pei 6. T’an and 7. Huan. They had many descendants who were dispersed in three places, Ch’uan Chou, An Ch’i and Nan An. Duke Yen and his wives were buried in Yung An village in Pu Hsun district. His stone tablet reads “the graves of Liao, Lord of C’ing Ch’i County. This record is found in the local gazetteer. The landscape of the grave resembles a crow. So it is known as the grave of a crow.
The family clan of Liao has a long history spanding over 2000 years, from the 1st ancestor in the Ch’un period 481 B.C. to the present day. Originated in the Central Region of China, these people multiplied and spread south to the provinces of Kangsi, Fukien and Kwangtung. They flourished and scattered about like branches and leaves. Many of them have migrated to overseas.
According to our 4000-year-old Chinese family and clan tradition, the clan record is regarded as a communal jewel among small and big clans alike. Without a family clan record, there will be no order of seniority of inferiority in the family clan and no way of tracing relationships.
Translated into English by,
(Mrs.) Elsie Leow, F.L.A., B.A.,
University of Malaya,
University of Leeds, England.