Coverage: Henan (Kaifeng, Yuzhou, Xuchang, Gushi); Fujian, Guangdong, Taiwan and South Asia
The origin of Chen families can be traced back to the age of Emperor Shun.
At the end of the Shang Dynasty, Efu, the descendant of 33rd generation of Shun, went to Kingdom Zhou and in charge of making pottery there since he was an expert in this field, winning much praise from the king. After the perdition of Shang and the establishment of the Zhou Dynasty, Emperor Wuwang made Guiman, the son of Efu, Lord of Chen (a land near Kaifeng), allowing him to establish a kingdom there and offer sacrifices to his ancestor Shun. After Guiman died, his descendants took the name of Kingdom Chen as their surname.
In 672 B.C. Chenwan, Guiman’s descendant of the 12th generation, escaped to Kingdom Qi and there he changed his surname to Tian. Tianhe, Chenwan’s descendant of the 10th generation took the power of Kingdom Qi. In the end of the Warring States Period, Qi was eliminated by Kingdom Qin. Tianzhen, the third son of the last king of Qi, escaped to Yingchuan (now near Yuzhou and Xuchang of Henan) and changed his surname back to Chen, since which Chen families flourished in Henan for generations.
It was in the Southern Song Dynasty that Chen families started to move to Guangdong. As Jin soldiers invaded southward in the end of the Northern Song Dynasty, central China aristocrats moved to the south in large scale. Chen Kui a descendant of Chen led his clan of 93 people to Fujian. Later, some of his descendants moved on to Guangdong. In the end of the Ming Dynasty, Chen Yonghua moved to Taiwan, following General Zheng Chenggong. As the Lord of Dongning, a high government official, Chen Yonghua carried out agricultural reform and established schools in Taiwan, being admired as the ancestor of Taiwan Chen families. During the 300 years from the establishment of the Qing Dynasty to 1949, many Chen families moved to Taiwan, including some large clan of more than 2,000 people. Since then, Chen has become the surname of the largest population in Taiwan, taking up nearly half of the general population together with Lin, another surname of large members there.
Chen families had moved to Vietnam since long before. Some of them became ministers of great power in the Annan Dynasty (now Vietnam). Chen Ri, the husband of the Vietnam Queen Li Zhaohuang, established the Chen Dynasty of Vietnam in 1228 A.D., promoting the development of Chen families during a span of 175 years. Chen is also the top one of the ten surnames of the largest population in Vietnam till now. Chen families migrated into Japan since the beginning of the Ming Dynasty, most of them being sailors sent by Taizu Emperor. Since the Ming and Qing Dynasties, some Chen families of the costal areas went to the Southeast Asia to make a living. Some people moved on to the Philippines, Indonesia, America, England, France, Canada, Australia and other countries, contributing to the development of their residential areas.
Xuanzang: a Buddhist dignitary of the Tang Dynasty
Xuanzang was named Hui and surnamed Chen before he became a Buddhist monk. In 602 A.D. of the Sui Dynasty, Xuanzang was born in Yanshi of Henan in a family of generations of Confucians. He was later called “Buddhism Master Sanzang” or “Tang Sanzang” since he was such an expert in classics, regulations, and theories of the Buddhism, the three of which referred to as “Sanzang” in Chinese. When he was 10 years old, his brother Chen Su, a monk, took him to the Jingtu Temple for a living since his family went bankrupt. There, Xuanzang started his life-long career of Buddhism study.
At the age of 13, Xuanzang was exceptionally permitted by the Court to be a monk, for his great devotion to Buddhism and his unusual savvy. In the beginning years of the Tang Dynasty, Xuanzang decided to go to India, the origin of Buddhism, to learn the essence of Buddhism. He left Chang’an, the capital of the Tang Dynasty, and reached the destination, a temple of India, after a journey of four years with unimaginable hardships.
Xuanzang stayed in India for five years, studying the most difficult Buddhism classic of Yoga and lot of other Buddhism books of various categories besides mastering the classic ancient Indian language of Sanscrit and many dialects. Xuanzang was an outstanding translator besides being a dignitary of vast Buddhism knowledge. He presided over the translation of 75 Buddhism classics of various categories, adding up to 1,335 volumes which took up more than half of the amount of translated Buddhism books in the whole Tang Dynasty.
Xuanzang devoted his entire life, with great pains and efforts, to the development of Buddhism and the flourish of world culture, thus winning the respect of people of all generations.