t present, Wu ranks the tenth among Chinese surnames in terms of population.
The region of Wuxi in Jiangsu Province is the birthplace of the surname Wu. It is from here that the Wu Tribe proliferated and multiplied During the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280), Western Jin Dynasty and Eastern Jin Dynasty (265-420) and Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589), the Wus were mostly concentrated in Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Fujian, displaying a trend of thriving in the south and declining in the north. By the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and Song Dynasty (960-1279), the Wus had already spread across China. In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), there were growing numbers of Wu tribesmen in the coastal areas of Guangdong and Fujian migrating to Taiwan. Today, the population with the surname of Wu is primarily distributed across Guangxi, Jiangsu, Guizhou, Guangdong, and Fujian.
Origin of Wu
There are two main origins for the surname of Wu. One is from the surname of Ji, and the other is from the changed or borrowed surnames of ethnic minorities.
Originated from the surname of Ji: Danfu. surnamed Ji, was the fifteenth generation descendant of the Yellow Emperor and the leader of the Zhou Tribe in ancient times. Due to the constant intrusions by the northern nomadic tribes, Danfu led his tribesmen to Zhouyuan (near the current Qishan County in Shaanxi) at the foot of Qi Mountain. From then on, the Zhou settled in Zhouyuan. Danfu had three sons, with the eldest son named Tai Bo, the second son Zhong Yong, and the youngest son named Ji Li. Among them, Ji Li was the wisest and most competent, and possessed the majestic demeanor of a ruler. Thus, both his brothers Tai Bo and Zhong Yong voluntarily gave up their rights to the throne, left home and traveled together to the vicinity of Jiangsu Province, where they established the State of Wu.The State of Wu perished in 473 B.C. To commemorate their lost country, the descendants adopted the name of the state as their surname, Wu.
Originating from the changed or borrowed surnames of ethnic minorities: In the process of the development of integration into Han culture, such ethnic minorities as the Manchu, Dong, Zhuang and Bai tribes took on Han surnames, and Wu was among these Han surnames adopted. There were also many ethnic minorities, such as the Miao Tribe, who had only first names but no surnames. Under the influence of Han culture, they adopted Han surnames as their own, and Wu was among these Han surnames.
Famous Personages Surnamed Wu
Wu Daozi, a famous painter from the Tang Dynasty, was respectfully called the Sage of Painting by later generations. Knowledgeable in Buddhism and Taoism, Wu Daozi was well-versed in portrait paintings and murals. Some of his representative works include Shariputra at the Bodhi Temple, Transformation of the Hell. Zhong Kui Catching Ghosts and The Golden Bridge. However, very few of his original works have survived. Most existing works are copies made by people in later generations. Wu Daozi did not stick to routine methods but enjoyed finding new means and styles, being inspired by nature. In Epilogue to Wu Daozi’s Painting, Su Shi wrote, “Poetry culminated in Du Zimei, the prose in Han Tuizhi, calligraphy in Yan Lugong, and painting in Wu Daozi. Everything good and changeable has been ended by these people!” This line expresses the idea that Du Fu, Han Yu, Yan Zhenqing and Wu Daozi established the benchmark for poetry, prose, calligraphy, and painting culminated in. This is a statement in high praise of the achievements made by these individuals.
Wu cheng’en (c. 1500-c. 1582), was a novelist in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and authored the Chinese classic Journey to the West. Journey to the west is based on the story of Xuanzang, a Buddhist master in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), in his westbound trip to India to obtain Buddhist scriptures. The novel tells of Xuanzang and his three apprentices, Sun Wukong (the Monkey King), Zhu Bajie (the Pig), and Sha Wujing (the Monk), as they headed to the West, went through 81 trials on the way, and ultimately succeeded in attaining the ultimate result. The author utilized the mythical characters in Journey to the West to express his dissatisfaction and anger in protest against the harsh reality and the feudal system of imperial examinations, as well as his desire to change the reality. Journey to the West has been translated into more than 10 different languages, including Japanese, English, French, German and Russian. Encyclopedia American praises Journey to the West as a mythic novel with rich content and brilliant ideas, while the French Encyclopedia highlighted the humor and wit in the book.