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Shared last names


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Han Chinese, Vietnamese and Koreans share common last names. I always wonder if their ancestors are related by blood.

Unlike most Japanese who didn't acquire last names until the 19th Century, Vietnamese and Koreans had already acquired their Chinese last names in their early history.

In fact, Koreans care about their last names and their hometowns more than most Chinese do. Their family trees could trace back to centuries ago. Moreover, they had the strange custom/law that couple with the same last name could not get married (It seems that it has not been abolished yet).

So is Korea's Yi related to China's Li by blood? Or is Vietnam's Nguyen related to China's Ruan by blood?

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I'm almost sure that the Vietnamese Tran and the Chinese Chen are related - since my current girlfriend is last named Tran (and Vietnamese) - and over at her house, I've heard her mom speak Vietnamese - it's quite similar to Cantonese at times (not that I can understand any though - it's just familar sounding).

Wouldn't it make more sense that the Korean Lee and the Chinese Li were related though?

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Even though two Kims may stir a uproar if they get married in Korea (I pity if such taboo still exists since there are much fewer last names in Korea than in China), I personally know about a family feud after two Chans got married.

Is it okay for two Nguyens or two Phams to get married in Vietnam?

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"There are around a dozen two-syllable surnames include:

Hwangbo (황보; 皇甫)

Seon-u (선우; 鮮于)

Jegal (제갈; 諸葛)

Seomun (서문; 西門)

Dokgo (독고; 獨孤)

Sagong (사공; 司空)

Namgung (남궁; 南宮)


interesting lol, these two syllable surnames disappeared in China and are still found in Korea.

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Lee/Yi/Rhee are all Korean equivalent of Chinese Li.

Could someone tell me why the korean surname 李 is romanized as "Lee" when in fact it is pronounced as "yi" or "ee"? I've asked this at the thorntree but no one seemed to know.

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stuff may help










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Vietnamese and Chinese last names are related though not necessarily by blood.

After 1000 and more years as a Chinese province, the Vietnamese have adopted Chinese last names. Throughout the last thousand years, many Chinese immigrants have also settled in Vietnam and become assimilated, and kept their last names (pronounced Vietnamese way).

For example Lê quý Ly (Li2 ji2 Li2 黎季犛) who seized the throne in 1400 from the Trần 陳 (1225-1400) was a descendant of a Chinese from Zhe4 Jiang1 浙江 . His first ancestor was a Hồ (Hu2 胡) and came to Vietnam during the Chinese Five Dynasties period (907-960), another of his ancestor was adopted by a Lê (黎) family, so changed his last name to Lê (Li2 黎). When Lê quý Ly became emperor, he changed his last name back to Hồ (Hu2 胡)...

In 1407, the Ming invaded Vietnam and captured Hồ quý Ly 胡季犛 and his sons. The prisoners were killed as "rebels" except two of them who were spared because they knew the technique of making cannons (and eventually became high-ranking officials in Ming's court).

The founder of the Lý (Li2 李) dynasty in Vietnam (1009-1225) was Lý Công Uẩn (Li2 Gong1 Yun4 李公藴). He was born not far from present day Hanoi, and was adopted at the age of three by a monk whose last name was Lý (Li2 李). Curiously enough, some Chinese sources claim he was a Chinese from Fu2 Jian4 福建...

But what is more interesting (and verified...) is what happened later... In 1225, the Trần (Chen2 陳) seized the throne from the Lý (Li2 李), killed all the members of the Lý family, and force all people whose last name was Lý to change their last name into Nguyễn (Ruan2 阮)...

But the story did not end there...One of the Lý princes Lý Long Tường (Li2 Long2 Xiang2 李龍詳) managed to escape, and went to... Korea and settled there. He was the ancestor of the Korean Lee family from Hua2 Shan1 (花山李氏, Korea) as you can read here :


(even if you don't know japanese, you may guess the meaning from the common words...)

The family record (家谱) of the Lee family from Hua2 Shan1 contains 32 generations, beginning with Lý Công Uẩn, including the 7 Vietnamese Lý emperors and the following generations in Korea...In 1994, one member of the Lee family visited Vietnam and gave one copy of the family record as a present...

(to be continued...)

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In Korea' date=' the names of every city/province are composed in Chinese characters with the exception of Seoul.

Is that the case with Vietnam too? It sounds like the ancient capital Hue is not composed in Chinese characters.[/quote']

Huế is another pronunciation of Hóa (Hua4 化) from Thuận Hóa(顺 化) the ancient and full name of the city.

Many towns in the South have names which come from minorities' languages : PleiKu, Kontum, Darlac, Buon Me Thuot, etc...

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Even though two Kims may stir a uproar if they get married in Korea (I pity if such taboo still exists since there are much fewer last names in Korea than in China)' date=' I personally know about a family feud after two Chans got married.

Is it okay for two Nguyens or two Phams to get married in Vietnam?[/quote']

No problem if the kinship is not too close...

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nnt, thanks for the very interesting story. Too bad the Lýs did not become the emperor in Korea. THAT would be even more interesting. :wink:

Could someone tell me why the korean surname 李 is romanized as "Lee" when in fact it is pronounced as "yi" or "ee"?


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Seoul is the only city in Korea (North and South) that cannot be written by Hanmun (Chinese) but Hangul (Korean alphabets).

Its origin comes from:


Few cities are as aptly named as Seoul, which comes from the Korean "sorabol," meaning "the center of everything."

When Gyeongju was the capital of the Silla Kingdom, it was also known as Sorabol by that time.

In the new shopping mall built on the previous Lee Theater in HK, there is also a Korean restaurant called Sorabol.

Interestingly when PRC established diplomatic relationship with ROK in 1992, Seoul government requested Beijing to stop calling Seoul with its previous name "Hancheng" -- Castle of Han.

But until today Mainland, Taiwan and HK still call Seoul as Hancheng officially and unofficially.

Old habits die hard.

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Read this -

History of Seoul

The history of Seoul can be traced back as far as 18 BC. In that year the newly established kingdom of Baekje built its capital in the Seoul area. During the time when the three kingdoms fought for hegemony in Korea, Seoul was often the site where disputes were carried out. It was thought that only the kingdom who controls the area around Seoul is able to control the whole of the peninsula. This was the reason why in the 11th century the ruler of the Goryeo Dynasty built a palace in Seoul, which was referred to as the Southern Capital. This city was renamed from Hanyang (漢陽) to Hanseong (漢城) when it became the capital of the Joseon Dynasty in 1394. It was renamed Gyeongseong (京城 -- Keijo in Japanese) during the Japanese Colonial Period, and finally given the name Seoul after the 1945 liberation. The word seoul means "capital" in Korean; it has no Hanja and can only be written in Hangul.

The name apparently has to do with the river that runs through the place - Hangang (漢江).

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Could someone tell me why the korean surname 李 is romanized as "Lee" when in fact it is pronounced as "yi" or "ee"?


From this link:


you can read:

Korean language has the 'initial law' which pronounces differently from its original pronunciation in the case of starting personal names (forenames or

surnames) with ‘ㄴ' or ’ㄹ'. When starting with ‘ㄴ' or ’ㄹ', mostly ‘ㄹ’ is recorded by ‘ㅇ', or ’ㄴ' by ’ㅇ'.

The original pronunciation of family name “李” is“리(lee)”. Actually, it is pronounced as “이(yi)” because of “The Initial Law.”

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No I can't read it (the acrobat reader in this machine does not support korean or japanese fonts and I am not allowed to download anything.)

But I have found something which is interesting but very confusing here -

... another rule of Southern Korean phonology, one that deletes both /n/ and /l/ immediately preceding the vowel /i/ and its semi-vowel counterpart /j/. That is why the common family name 李 (hangul 이, formerly 리) is pronounced in Southern Korean dialects, and why it is variously romanized Lee, Li, Yi, Yee, Ri, Ree, and Rhee. So the embassy spokesman was referring to the fact that word-initial /l/ is pronounced [n] except before /i/ and /j/, where it is not pronounced at all.

So when "ㄹ/L" appears in the initial position it becomes "ㄴ/N", but if it is followed by an "|/I" it becomes silent (i.e. "ㅇ"). Since Korean no longer use Chinese characters, and the hangul they write has to reflect how they speak, so 李 has turned from "리" to "이". Am I right?

But if there is such a rule, why don't they just write "리" in hangul? Wouldn't people know the rule and automatically pronounce it as "yi"?

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