t present, Zhou was ranked ninth among Chinese surnames in terms of population.
In earlier times, the majority of the Zhou clan settled in Henan and Shanxi. During the Wei Dynasty (220-265), Western Jin Dynasty and Eastern Jin Dynasty (265-420) and Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589), the Zhou clansmen gradually moved south to places such as Jiangsu and Fujian due to the ongoing wars and turmoil in the northern regions. By the Tang Dynasty (618-907), traces of the Zhou family and tribe could be found throughout China. During the Great Migration of the Great Pagoda Tree of Hongtong in Shanxi in the early years of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Zhou was among the major surnames of the immigrants and was later relocated in Yunnan, Sichuan, Guizhou, and other places. Nowadays, the population with the surname of Zhou is mainly distributed across Hunan, Jiangsu, Sichuan, and Hubei.
Origin of Zhou
There are two main origins for the surname of Zhou: One is from the surname of Ji. and the other is from the surnames converted from ethnic minorities.
Originating from the surname of Ji: Houji, surnamed Ji with the given name Qi, was the ancestor of the ancient Shang Tribe. Houji specialized in planting millet, wheat, and other grains, and was therefore appointed by Yao as the agricultural officer in charge of farming. During the reign of Shun, he was conferred with the name Houji for his meritorious achievements in guiding agricultural production. Ji Fa, who was the descendant of Houji, eliminated the Shang Dynasty (1600 B.C.-1046 B.C.) in1046 B.C. and subsequently established the Zhou Dynasty (1046 B.C. -221 B.C.). In 256 B.C., the Zhou Dynasty was destroyed by the feudal State of Qin. In order to commemorate their fallen country, the imperial descendants of the Zhou Dynasty adopted their national name as their surname and became the Zhous.
Originating from the changed surnames of ethnic minorities: During the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589), Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei vigorously implemented Chinesization and bestowed the Han surname of Zhou upon the Tuoba clan of the Xianbei Tribe. In the following dynasties, ethnic minorities, including the Gaoshan, Yao, Yi, Bai, Tujia, Li, Zhuang, Qiang and Koreans, adopted Han surnames in an effort to assimilate into Han culture. The surname Zhou was among these Han surnames that were adopted.
Famous Personages Surnamed Zhou
Zhou Yu (175-210), courtesy name Gongjin, was a famous general and strategist of the Kingdom of Wu during the Three Kingdoms Period (220-8O). As recorded in the history book Romance of the Three Kingdoms written by Chen Shou during the Western Jin Dynasty (265-317), “Zhou Yu was strong with good-looking appearance”; he was praised for his strong figure and handsome appearance. Zhou Yu’s talent in military affairs was so prominent that his most particular achievement was his defeat of Cao Cao’s forces in the battle of Red Cliff, which directly determined the tripartite confrontation among the states of Wei, Shu, and Wu during the Three Kingdoms Period. In addition to this. Zhou Yu was also well-versed in music. There was a saying that, “Whenever there’s a flaw in the song, Zhou Lang would turn a look back.” It alluded to Zhou Yu’s proficiency in musical temperament that even after the wine was served around three times, Zhou Yu would still be aware of an error in musicality and would take a look back at the performer. In Chinese traditional operas, the role of Zhou Yu is mostly played by young men to display his refined, elegant and handsome qualities. Plays featuring Zhou Yu, such as Gathering of Heroes, Borrowing East Wind, Enraging Zhou Yu Thrice and many more, are all adapted from the classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
Zhou Dunyi (1017-1073) was a famous philosopher from the Northern Song Dynasty(960-1127)who inherited and developed the ideas of Confucian School and became the founder of the Neo-Confucian idealist philosophy. Both Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi, the masterminds of Neo-Confucianism, were his disciples. His theories have exerted far-reaching influence on Chinese philosophy and ideas. Zhou Dunyi’s major works were the All-Embracing Book and Explanations of the Tai Chi Diagram. Explanations of the Tai Chi Diagram inherited the ideology of Confucianism and Taoism, and utilized diagrams for the purpose of proposing a system for the theories on the origination of the universe. Zhou Dunyi was also very fond of lotus flowers. He excavated a pool and grew lotuses, calling it the Pond of Lotus Love. He also composed the essay Ode to the Lotus Flower, which has been passed down through the ages. In the prose, a metaphor is drawn between Zhou Dunyi himself and the lotus flower in such lines as, “I only love the lotus for its purity even though it is grown out of dirty mud, for its cleanness in rippled water without being coquettish, for its unblocked straightforwardness in the inside and unbent posture in the outside, for its being free of entanglements, for its light fragrance even at a distance, and for its decent and simple growth while you can only view in distance rather than holding it in your manipulation.” Like the unstained lotus flower, Zhou Dunyi was a man of noble character who never wallowed in the mire with any indecent people.