Xiao (surname)


Xiao surname in regular script
Pronunciation Xiāo (Pinyin)
Siau, Sio (Pe̍h-ōe-jī)
Language(s) Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean
Language(s) Old Chinese
Word/Name Xiao County, Anhui
Derivation State of Xiao (萧国)
Other names
Variant(s) Xiao, Hsiao (Mandarin)
Siu, Siow, Seow (Cantonese)
Siao, Sio, Siaw (Hokkien)
Tiêu (Vietnamese)
The ancestral hall of the Xiao clan (蕭氏宗祠) in Yangxin County, Hubei

Xiao[1] (simplified Chinese: 萧/肖; traditional Chinese: ) is a Chinese surname. In the Wade-Giles system of romanization, it is rendered as Hsiao. It may also be romanized as Siaw, Siew, Siow, Seow, Siu or Sui.[2]

A 1977 study found that it was the 20th most common Chinese surname in the world. It is said to be the 30th most common in China.[3]


In mainland China

The Xiao surname originated from Xiao County in Anhui province, China. In the state of Song during the Spring and Autumn period of ancient China, the nobleman Daxin (蕭叔大心) was enfeoffed at Xiao, which became an attached state of Song. The people of Xiao later adopted the name of their state as their surname. Centuries later, Xiao He was the first prime minister of the Han dynasty. Later on, his descendant Xiao Biao (萧彪) moved to Lanling (兰陵), now Yicheng in Shandong province,[3] due to political problems during the reign of Emperor Wu of Han. The Xiao people therefore also trace their origin to Lanling, and sometimes they are called Lanling Xiao (“兰陵萧”).

Another mass movement of Xiao people came during the Disaster of Yongjia at the end of the Western Jin dynasty, when Xiao Zheng (萧整) moved to Danyang, Jiangsu. It was also called South Lanling (南兰陵). The descendants of Danyang Xiao (丹阳萧氏) later founded two dynasties: Xiao Daocheng was the founding emperor of the Southern Qi dynasty, and Xiao Yan founded the Southern Liang dynasty.

During the Tang dynasty, there were nine Xiao family members appointed as chancellors (or prime ministers), the continuous eight chancellors (八叶传芳, "八叶世家"). The first was Xiao Yu (萧瑀), followed by the other eight Xiao families:

his great grand nephew Xiao Song(萧嵩)
Xiao Song's eldest son Xiao Hua (萧华)
Xiao Hua's nephew Xiao Fu (萧復)
Xiao Hua's grandson Xiao Fu (萧俯, written with a different character for Fu)
Xiao Fu's grandson Xiao Zhen (萧真)
Xiao Hua's grandson Xiao Fang (萧仿)
Xiao Fang's son Xiao Gou (萧遘).

There were altogether nine chancellors from the Xiao family during the Tang dynasty.

The Xiao–Jiang Ancestral Hall in Jiangwan, Wuyuan

The Jiang family (江氏) from Jiangwan (江湾), Wuyuan, Jiangxi was originally surnamed Xiao and they call themselves the Xiao–Jiang family (萧江氏). The Xiao-Jiang family was from Danyang (丹阳 (南兰陵) 东城里萧氏). When the Later Liang dynasty overthrew the Tang dynasty in 907, the Tang general Xiao Zhen (萧桢) led a revolt against the Later Liang dynasty but failed. Xiao Zhen was the second son of the Tang chancellor Xiao Gou. The Xiao family left Danyang and escaped to the south. They changed their surname to Jiang; Xiao Zhen (萧桢) became Jiang Zhen (江桢) and he was the progenitor of the Xiao–Jiang family. They later moved to Yunwan (云湾, which changed the name to Jiangwan 江湾). This means that the Jiang family from this area is actually also part of the Xiao family, they are known as the Xiao-Jiang family. Former CPC General Secretary Jiang Zemin is a member of the Xiao-Jiang family.

During the Southern Song dynasty, Xiao Guoliang (萧国梁) was the first member of the Xiao family in Zhangzhou, Fujian province. His grandson, Xiao Xun (萧洵) became the county magistrate of Chaoyang in Guangdong province. He became the founder of the Xiao family of Chaoyang. During this period, some members of the Xiao family moved across the sea to Taiwan.

During the Yuan dynasty, members of the Xiao family moved from Jiangxi to Meizhou and Dabu in Guangdong province. They are mainly the Hakka Xiao family.

In the early Ming dynasty, the population in North and Central China was declining due to wars. In order to increase the population and start the economic recovery of these war-torn areas, the Ming government organized many large-scale forced mass migration to the area. People were moved from Shanxi province, which had been less affected by the wars, to the war-torn, less-populated area of North and Central China. The people were ordered to move to a location near "the tree" (大槐树), and prepare themselves for the family migration. The Shanxi Xiao family were part of this group of "immigrants under the tree" (在大槐树下集中移民), which were moved to the modern provinces of Henan, Shandong, Hebei, Beijing, Tianjin, Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Anhui, Jiangsu, Hubei, Hunan, Guangxi, Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Shanxi and other places. Today, the Xiao family still has memorial tablets dedicated to their ancestors among the "immigrants under the tree" at the fourth cabinet of the memorial hall at the "large tree roots memorial garden" (大槐树寻根祭祖园祭祖堂四号供橱).

During the Ming dynasty, many members of the Xiao family also moved to Yunnan province. They became the first members of the Yunnan Xiao family (云南萧氏).

During the Ming and Qing dynasties, there were also mass migrations of Xiao kinspeople from Jiangxi to Sichuan, especially at the beginning of these dynasties, when two major revolutions took place. Historians have called this process of mass migration "Jiangxi filled Huguang, Huguang filled Sichuan" (江西填湖广,湖广填四川). "Huguang" refers to the provinces of Hunan and Guangdong. According to historical materials, from the beginning of the reign of the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing dynasty, many members of the Xiao family moved to Sichuan.

During the Chinese Civil War between the Communists and the Nationalists, Xiao people, especially those from Fujian, moved to Taiwan with the Nationalists. In Taiwan, they lived primarily in the cities and counties of Changhua, Chiayi, Taipei, Kaohsiung and Taoyuan. Today, Xiao is the 30th-most common surname in Taiwan.

The World Congress of Xiao people was held in Chaoyang, Guangdong province, China in 2010.


At the end of the Qing dynasty, Chinese started to move to other countries to work there. The Xiao also moved to other countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Others migrated from Fujian to Taiwan.

In Malaysia and Singapore, direct transliterations from the various Chinese dialects were used to write Chinese surnames. The Hokkien or Teochew Chinese romanized "Xiao" as "Seow". Teochew "Seow" are mainly Xiao from Chaoyang in Guangdong province. The Hakka Xiao, especially Huizhou Hakka of Titi (知知港) (in Negeri Sembilan state of Malaysia), a village with a high concentration of Hakka people surnamed Xiao, romanized "Xiao" as "Siow" or "Seow". These days, some members of younger generations use hanyu pinyin and write their surname as "Xiao".

Simplified Chinese problem

The traditional surname 蕭 is currently represented by three different characters derived from traditional Chinese (), simplified Chinese (), and the rescinded second-round simplification (). Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan maintain traditional Chinese characters and therefore write 蕭. In mainland China and Singapore, where simplified Chinese is used, most linguistics agree the surname should be written as 萧.[4] However, many people in mainland China still have 肖 as their surname in their legal documents for historical reasons (see below). In mainland China, people may regard them as two separate surnames. However, in circumstances where traditional Chinese is used, e.g. in cross-strait relations, this may lead to confusion.

People have long been writing the surname 肖 for simplicity, but the form was considered informal and not used in formal texts. However, the second-round Chinese simplification established 肖 as the standard form. When the second-round simplification was rescinded in 1984, some people restored their surname in legal documents to the traditional writing form, but some others did not.

Most other surnames do not share these problems. For example, Liao (廖) was simplified to a character with 广 and 了 combined in the second-round simplification. All Liao people reverted to using 廖 after the rescission, because the modification is no longer considered a valid character and cannot be typed into the computer. However, 肖, which has other meanings, is still valid so some people have continued to use this form even in legal documents.

Notable people surnamed Xiao

Historical figures

Modern times


  1. The approximate pronunciation in English is /ˈʃj/.
  2. "那些年,我們叫錯的設計師". Daily Cold. July 30, 2016. Retrieved September 15, 2016. 之所以會跟我們比較熟悉的 Xiao 或是 Hsiao 不同,是因為...廣東裔,所以 Sui 是把蕭的粵語發音直接拼音字母化而來。
  3. 1 2 Origin of Xiao, Siu, Siew, Seow, Hsiao, yutopian.com. Retrieved 2009-09-23.
  4. 姓“萧”还是姓“肖”? Archived July 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. (Simplified Chinese)
  5. "那些年,我們叫錯的設計師". Wen Xue City. July 26, 2016. Retrieved September 15, 2016.
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