Lin (surname)

Lin (林)
Pronunciation Lín (Mandarin)
Lim, Liem (Min Nan, Korean)
Lam (Cantonese)
Ling (Eastern Min, Northern Min, Wu Chinese)
Language(s) Chinese
Language(s) Middle Chinese
Meaning "forest"

Lin (Chinese: ) is the Mandarin romanization of the Chinese surname written 林 in Chinese character. It is also used in Korea and the Philippines. It is also common among overseas Chinese families, in which it is at times pronounced and spelled as Lim because many Chinese descendants are part of the Southern Min diaspora and speak Min Nan. In Hong Kong and Macau, it is spelled as Lam via Cantonese.

Name origin

King Zhou of Shang (reigned 1154 to 1122 B.C.), the last king of the Shang dynasty, had three uncles advising him and his administration. The king's uncles were Bi Gan, Jizi, and Weizi. Together the three men were known as "The Three Kind-Hearted Men of Shang" in the kingdom.[1] Bi Gan was the son of Prince Ding, son of King Shang and, thus, was King Zhou's uncle.

Zhou was a cruel king, but his three uncles could not persuade him to change his ways. Failing in their duty to advise the king, Weizi resigned. Jizi faked insanity and was relieved of his post. Only Bi Gan stayed on to continue advising the king to change his ways. "Servants who are afraid of being killed and refrain from telling the truth are not righteous" he said. This put him in danger of incurring the king's wrath. Bi Gan stayed at the palace for three days and nights to try to persuade the blood-thirsty and immoral king to mend his ways.[2]

The stubborn king would not relent and had Bi Gan arrested for treason. Upon hearing this, his pregnant wife escaped into the forest and went into labor there. With no one to help her, she gave birth to a boy in the rocky cave in the forest.

Before long, King Zhou was overthrown and killed by King Wu of the Zhou dynasty. King Wu knew about the courageous court advisor Bi Gan and sought his wife and child. When he found them, he honoured them in respect of Bi Gan. The mother and child were restored to the royal family. The new king conferred the surname Lin (meaning forest) on Bi Gan's son.[3]

Different versions of the name

Notable people surnamed Lin in English contexts

This is a Chinese name, meaning the surname is stated "before" the given name, though Chinese persons living in Western countries will often put their surname after their given name.


(Mandarin and Shanghai form):


(Cantonese form)


(Also Cantonese form)


(Southern Min)


(Indonesian and Dutch form):


(Eastern Min, Northern Min, and Wu form):

See also


  4. PBS episode Finding Your Roots February 2, 2016
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