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Cài (Simplified and Traditional Chinese: 蔡) is a Chinese surname that derives from the name of the ancient Cai state.

Cài s a Chinese surname that derives
from the name of the ancient Cai state.

“It ain’t what they call you,
it’s what you answer to”
  W.C. Fields

According to legends, Chinese surnames originated from the Emperor Fu Xi (2852BC). He standardized all Chinese surnames and defined matrimonial relationship. Thus a proper system of population census was established. It was also believed that there is a close relationship between surnames and totem worship; the early Chinese adopted the names or symbols of certain animals as their surname (e.g. Long (2) which means dragon.)

A song in the Shi Jing, recounting the birth of Hou Ji, the earliest ancestor of the Zhou people, shows clearly the link between surnames and totem worship. Jiang Yuan the consort of the fiery Emperor prayed to God for a son. She followed his footprints for a distance and became pregnant. The giant footprints actually belonged to a bear the Zhou people then worshipped. They gave themselves the surname ‘Ji’, which was made up of the characters ‘Nu’ and ‘Chen’. These characters represented Jiang Yuan and the bear, respectively.

The book, “Surnames of a Hundred Families”, which was popular in China during the old days, was written more than 1,000 years ago during the Northern Song Dynasty (960 AD).It records 438 surnames of which 408 are single-word surnames and 30 were double-word surnames.

According to the latest statistics from China, Chinese with the surname Zhang alone number more than 100 million, making it probably the surname which the most number of the Chinese have. Another set of statistics compiled in 1977 reveals that the number of the Chinese with the first 10 major surnames make up 40% of the Chinese population.

The 10 major Chinese surnames are:

Zhang, Wang, Li, Zhao, Chen, Yang, Wu, Liu, Huang and Zhou.

Below are the next 10 major surnames.
The Chinese with these surnames make up over 10% of the Chinese population:

Xu, Zhu, Lin, Sun, Ma, Gao, Hu, Zheng, Guo and Xiao.

The number of the Chinese in the third category of 10 major surnames
make up just about 10% of the population:

Xie, He, Xu, Song, Shen, Luo, Han, Deng, Liang and Ye.
The following 15 surnames form the fouth largest group of the Chinese surnames are:
Fang, Cui, Cheng, Pan, Cao, Feng, Wang, Cai, Yuan, Lu, Tang, Qian, Du, Peng and Lu.

A total of 70% of the Chinese population have one of the surnames above.

The surnames of the remaining 30% are comparatively rare.
Some of these surnames are:
Mao, Jiang, Bai, Wen, Guan, Liao, Miao and Chi.

DynastiesPeriod

Xia (Hsia) 

2205 B.C.-1766 B.C.

Shang 

1766 B.C.-1122 B.C.

Zhou (Chow) 

Western Zhou (Chow)1122 B.C.-770 B.C.
Eastern Zhou (Chow) 770 B.C.-256 B.C.
Spring & Autumn Annals770 B.C.-476 B.C.
Warring States Period475 B.C.-221 B.C.

Qin (Chin) 

221 B.C.-207 B.C.

Han 

Western Han206 B.C.- 24
Estern Han25-220

Three Kingdoms Period

Wei220-265
Shu221-263
Wu222-280

Jin (Tsin)

Western Jin (Tsin)265-316
Eastern Jin (Tsin)317-420

Southern and Northern Dynasties

Southern DynastySong420-479
Qi479-502
Liang502-557
Chen557-589
Northern DynastyNorthern Wei386-534
Eastern Wei534-550
Northern Qi550-577
Western Wei535-556
Northern Zhou557-580

Sui

581-618

Tang

618-907
Five DynastiesLater Liang907-923
Later Tang923-936
Later Jin936-947
Later Han947-950
Later Zhou951-960

Song (Sung) 

Northern Song (Sung)960-1127
Southern Song (Sung)1127-1280

Liao

916-1125

Jin

1115-1234

Yuan

1271-1368

Ming

1368-1644

Qing (Ching)

1644-1911

Republic of China (ROC)

1911- (moved to Taiwan after 1949)

People’s Republic of China (PRC)

1949-

Bron: Wikipedia, This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons.