Coverage: Henan, Shandong, Taiwan, Anhui, Heilongjiang, Hebei, Liaoning, Jiangsu, Jilin
The surname Sun has four major sources namely surname Ji, Gui, Zi and the alteration from other surnames.
The first branch of Sun families was derived from surname Ji. Emperor Wuwang established the Zhou Dynasty in 1046 B.C and bestowed Ji, his brother, a land named Kang. Since then Ji was called Kangshu in history. Kangshu was awarded a title of “Lord of Huai” and more power in land Wei for his contribution in cracking down a riot of the royal family. The grandson of Kangshu was awarded the land of Wei (now near Qi County of Henan Province) officially after the death of Kangshu. That’s why Kangshu was also called Wei Kangshu in history. Among his descendants who ruled Kingdom Wei generation after generation, a grandson named Huisun took “Sun” as the surname, thus coming this branch of Sun families of a long history of over 2,700 years since the Spring and the Autumn Period.
The second branch of Sun families was derived from Gui families. After Wuwang Emperor ended the Shang Dynasty in 1046 B.C., he bestowed the land Chen to one of the direct descendant of Shang who was named Guiman. In 672 B.C., Chenwan, a descendant of Guiman escaped to Kingdom Qi from Kingdom Chen and changed his surname to Tian. Tian Huanzi, the fifth descendant of Chenwan had a son named Tianshu who was rewarded both a land and a surname “Sun” by the King of the Kingdom Qi for his contribution in striking Kingdom Ju. This branch of Sun families deriving from Gui families also had a long history of over 2,500 years.
The third branch of Sun families were originally surnamed Zi. At the end of the Shang Dynasty, the royal court was in a chaos for Emperor Zhou was fatuous and licentious. Bigan, the uncle of Zhou, the worthy minister of Shang, was killed for frank expostulation. To escape the disaster, his descendants changed their surname to “Sun”, a word in Chinese meaning “the grandson”, reminding them of their royal parentage. This branch of Sun families has a history of over 3,000 years.
The fourth branch of Sun families came from people of other surnames as well as ethnical minorities. Taking some major events of name changing for example, descendants of Xunzi, a famous scholar in the Warring Sates Period, changed their surname to Sun since their surname might offend their king for pronunciation; Xiahou Po, the great-grandson of Xiahou Ying, a high official in the Han Dynasty, took the surname Sun from his maternal grandfather; and Yuhe, a general in the period of Three Kingdoms, changed his surname to Sun to follow his master Sun Jian (the king of Wu kingdom). Some minorities, including the Qidan (Khitan) people of the Tang Dynasty and Sunjia families of the Man people of the Qing Dynasty, changed their name to Sun out of long-term living together with Han people.
Sun families lived in Henan and Shangdong since they took the surname between the end of the Shang Dynasty and the beginning of the Zhou Dynasty. In the beginning years of the Spring and Autumn Period, Sun families of Ji branch held the power of Kingdom Wei, by taking up key positions for generations, bringing a rapid development of Sun families in Henan area till the end of the Spring and Autumn Period when they lost their power and moved northward to Kingdom Jin. The branch of surname Gui in Shandong also flourished because of a well-known militarist named Sun Wu, whose son was bestowed a land named Fuyang in Zhejiang for the contributions of Sun Wu, leading to the establishment ancient Wu County, a famous supreme center of Sun families in southern China. Since Qin and Han Dynasties, Sun families of the Gui branch boomed as the main force among the four branches, extending from Shandong to all directions, including Shanxi in the west, Zhejiang in the south, Hubei in the southwest. In the period of the Three Kingdoms, Sun Jian and his son established Kingdom Wu, one of the three powers, in southern China, bringing about the peak of development of Sun families. In the Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties, large clans of Sun families appeared in the north, the central and the southern China. Till the Tang and Song Dynasties, Sun families covered nearly everywhere of China. In the famous book of Surnames which came into being in the Song Dynasty, Sun ranked No.3 among all the others, showing the status and the social influence of Sun families. Between the end of the Ming Dynasty and the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, some Sun families moved to Taiwan, too.
The surname Sun covers a population of approximately 18.48 million today, ranking No.12 among all the surnames in China, taking up 1.54% of the general population of the nation. Population of Sun families grew by 16 times during the 600 years since the Ming Dynasty, exceeding the average increasing number of 13 times. The curve of population increase of Sun families takes the shape of “V” in the latest one thousand years. People surnamed Sun mainly lived in Shandong and Henan Province, accounting for 28% of the general population of all Sun families in China. 42% of them live in six provinces namely Anhui, Heilongjiang, Hebei, Liaoning, Jiangsu and Jilin. 16.9% of the Sun families live in Shandong, the top province for Sun families at present as to the amount of members, accounting for 3.3% of the general population of Shandong. Sun families take the largest proportion of the population in Heilongjiang Province, with a ratio of 3.5%; and in Jilin Province, with a ration of 3.4%. Sun families live mainly in coastal provinces of east central China and the northeast China, having obviously a larger population in those areas to the north of the Yangtze River than in areas to the south of it. The degree and the direction of migration of Sun families during the latest 600 years were quite different from those in the Song, Yuan and Ming Dynasties, characterized by a strong trend of moving back to the center and the north from the southeast China with those Sun families living in the lower Yellow River areas moving to the northeast China in large scales.
Sun Shu’ao: the best prime minister
As far as high officials of great reputation are concerned, Sun Shu’ao, the prime minister of Kingdom Chu in the Spring and Autumn Period, is both the earliest and best-known one. Devoted and frugal, he was a firm reformer as well as a talent of military affairs. Commented as “the Top Minister” by the great historian Sima Qian in his masterpiece Shiji (Historical Records), Sun Shu’ao was respected for both his personality and his achievements.
Appointed prime minister by King Zhuangwang of Kingdom Chu in 599 B.C., he advocated civil education and policy in accordance with morals. He attached much importance to the civil economy, formulating and carrying out lots of related laws and regulations to promote the development of agriculture, industry and business. He implemented water conservative engineering in Jushui River in Hanxi and constructed a plain reservoir of large scale named “Haizi” in Jiangling. He promoted greatly the development of bronze industry by encouraging farmers to mine in mountains in autumns and winters. His efforts brought a peak flourishing era in Kingdom Chu with rich and happy civilians, booming business and a proper social order with high moral standards.
Sun Shu’ao was also a talented militarist. He picked out suitable military regulations for Kingdom Chu and established a clear system of actions, tasks and disciplines which were carried out in trainings and actual combats. In a war with Kingdom Jin in 597 B.C., he helped King Zhuangwang win over the enemy by encouraging his soldiers to attack the enemy timely and effectively at one fling, forcing Jin to retreat to the north of the Yellow River, thus winning Kingdom Chu the leading position of central China.
For his contributions in politics and military affairs, King Zhuangwang awarded him many times, which were all declined. As a high official for many years, he died without any savings. Sima Qian, the great historian, ranked him as “the Top Minister” in his masterpiece Shiji (Historical Records). He was buried in Baituli of Jiangling after his death, with also a memorial tomb of his clothes in Shatou Town (now Sha City). A stele, with inscriptions of “Grave of Sun Shu’ao - Prime Minister of Kingdom Chu”, now standing at the northeast corner of the Zhongshan Park was set up in 1757 (the period of Qianlong, the emperor of the Qing Dynasty).