Coverage: Henan, Hebei, Anhui, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Hubei, Fujian, Guangdong, Taiwan
As descendants of Yan Emperor Shennong, Xu families were originally surnamed Jiang, later changed to Xu, taking after the name of Kingdom Xu. Together with Qi families, they were offspring of four tribes named Siyue in a far ancient age. Siyue, surnamed Jiang, allying with tribes surnamed Ji, won over Emperor Zhou of the Shang Dynasty in a war and established the Western Zhou Dynasty whose leaders were surnamed Ji. Later, Jiang families gained several lands from the emperor, among which a kingdom named Xu was established by Wenshu, also called Xu Wenshu. In the Spring and Autumn Periods, Kingdom Xu became a client state of Kingdom Chu. At the beginning of the Warring States Period, Xu was conquered by Kingdom Chu, after which descendants of Jiang changed their surname to their state name “Xu” and called themselves Xu families, a recognized surname now.
Xu families originated in east Xuchang area，Henan Province. Kingdom Xu moved its capital to places of Henan and North Anhui for several times in the Spring and Autumn Period, forced by other kingdoms. After Kingdom Xu had been eliminated by Kingdom Chu, most of the Xu families stayed where they were while some others moved northward, first to Hebei, then to Henan again. Therefore Xu families were abundant in Henan and Hebei during the Qin Dynasty and the Han Dynasty. Later, they spread to Anhui, Shaanxi, Shanxi, and other provinces. It was in the Wei, Jin and Northern and Southern Dynasties (220 - 581 A.D.) that they started to move southward. In the Tang Dynasty, some Xu families moved to Fujian out of official business. Since then, they moved to more places of the south in a large scale. A branch of Xu families moved to Guangdong in the years between the end of the Song Dynasty and the beginning of the Yuan Dynasty. In the Ming Dynasty, Fujian locals: Xu Chonghuai and Xushen moved to Taiwan, which was the beginning of several similar movements, even to overseas. Some of the Xu families moving to the south had mingled with ethnical minorities like Dong, Zhuang, Buyi, Tujia, etc.
Xushen: the creator of the Chinese dictionary
Xushen, with the academic name of Shuzhong, was born in about 58 A.D. in the Eastern Han Dynasty in a place now on the east of the Yancheng County of Henan Province and died in 147 A.D. As a famous scholar on classics study, literature, word interpretation and lexicology, he composed the first dictionary of Chinese characters, Shuowen Jiezi (Interpretation and Analysis of Chinese Characters), focusing on character forms, pronunciations, and meanings. This dictionary is a glorious pearl in the history of Chinese character study.
Shuowen Jiezi has 14 texts, 1 postscript, 9,353 Chinese characters, 1,163 chongwen (variants) and 133,441 definitions and analyses. More than 30 classics and 141 analyses from experts of his age or earlier were quoted. Its lexical order was arranged with 540 Chinese radicals. Shuowen Jiezi is a summary of achievements in Chinese character study since the Pre-Qin Period and Han Dynasty, keeping the form, the pronunciation and the meanings of Chinese characters, indispensable in the study of oracle bone inscriptions, Jin characters, ancient pronunciations, interpretation of ancient Chinese characters.
Xu You: the ancestor of Xu families
Xu You was a man of virtue in the far ancient ages of Emperor Yao and Emperor Shun. He led his tribes of Xu families to live in the drainage area of Yingshui River, later the enfieffment of Kingdom Xu, in Henan, thus being considered the ancestor of Xu families.
As the legend goes, Emperor Yao, who had consulted Xuyou many times for suggestions, wanted to hand down the imperial power to him, but he rejected it. He then fled to Qishan Mountain in Dengfeng County, Henan Province, for reclusion, hating to be involved with the outside world. Yao’s men found him at last, asking him to be the Prime Minister. He ran to the Yingshui River to wash his ears, showing that he hated such words. Winning the respect of the later generations, Xuyou was an esteemed ancestor of hermits for his high moral integrity of not seeking fame and interests. Xunzi, a great thinker in the Warring States Period once commented that “Xuyou, a person who knew how to behave himself in fairness, attached importance to morality and justice instead of fame and interests.”