Lin (surname)

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Lin (林)
Pronunciation Lín (Mandarin)
Lim, Liem (Min Nan, Korean)
Lam, Lâm, Lum (Cantonese, Vietnamese)
Ling (Eastern Min, Northern Min, Wu Chinese) ,
Lim (Thai)
Language(s) Chinese
Language(s) Middle Chinese
Meaning "forest"

Lin (Chinese: ) is the Mandarin romanization of the Chinese surname written 林 in Chinese character. It is also used in Korea and the Philippines among the Chinese Filipino community. It is also common among overseas Chinese families, in which it is at times pronounced and spelled as Lim because many Chinese descendants are part of the Southern Min diaspora and speak Min Nan. In Hong Kong and Macau, it is spelled as Lam or Lum in Cantonese.

Name origin

King Zhou of Shang (reigned 1154 to 1122 B.C.), the last king of the Shang dynasty, had three uncles advising him and his administration. The king's uncles were Bi Gan, Jizi, and Weizi. Together the three men were known as "The Three Kind-Hearted Men of Shang" in the kingdom.[1] Bi Gan was the son of Prince Ding, son of King Shang and, thus, was King Zhou's uncle.

Zhou was a cruel king, but his three uncles could not persuade him to change his ways. Failing in their duty to advise the king, Weizi resigned. Jizi faked insanity and was relieved of his post. Only Bi Gan stayed on to continue advising the king to change his ways. "Servants who are afraid of being killed and refrain from telling the truth are not righteous" he said. This put him in danger of incurring the king's wrath. Bi Gan stayed at the palace for three days and nights to try to persuade the blood-thirsty and immoral king to mend his ways.[2]

The stubborn king would not relent and had Bi Gan arrested for treason. Upon hearing this, his pregnant wife escaped into the forest and went into labor there. With no one to help her, she gave birth to a boy in the rocky cave in the forest.

Before long, King Zhou was overthrown by King Wu of the Zhou dynasty. King Wu knew about the courageous court advisor Bi Gan and sought his wife and child. When he found them, he honoured them in respect of Bi Gan. The mother and child were restored to the royal family. The new king conferred the surname Lin (meaning forest) on Bi Gan's son.[3]

Different versions of the name

  • This family name is common among the Malaysian Chinese community. However, because the vast majority of Chinese Malaysians romanized their surnames according to the pronunciations of their respective southern Chinese dialects, it is very rarely romanized as "Lin". The Hakka, Hokkien, Teochew and Hainan communities romanize it as "Lim" whereas the Cantonese-speaking community uses "Lam" or "Lum".
  • The Korean surname Im ( in South Korean spelling; in North Korean spelling; commonly romanized as Lim or Rim) is the Korean pronunciation of the same Chinese character (林). A much less common Korean surname Im is derived from another character (; spelled Im in both North and South Korean) the character used to write the surname Ren. In Korean, the former is called Supul Rim (수풀 림) and the latter Matgil Im (맡길 임) when they need to be distinguished.
  • A common Japanese surname, Hayashi, is written with the same character 林 and also means forest. A much rarer Japanese surname, Rin, is also written with same character.
  • The Vietnamese surname, "Lâm", was formerly written using the same character.
  • In Singapore, although "Lim" and "Lam" are generally more common variants, the extremely rare spelling "Lynn" can be found in select families of Chinese, Japanese, or other East Asian ancestry (also transcribed using the 林 character) and bears no known relation to the English or Scottish surname of the same spelling, or alternate spelling "Ling".
  • A rare Chinese surname which is also transcribed Lin is (pinyin Lìn).
  • Indonesians of Chinese ancestry bearing this surname sometimes spell it as "Liem."
  • Guamanians and Filipinos of Chinese descent with this surname mostly use the Hokkien spelling "Lim", as the majority have Fujianese ancestry. It is sometimes found in Hispanicised compound surnames such as "Limjoco" in the Philippines, and "Limtiaco" in Guam; this type of surname is often derived from the full and complete original name of a Spanish-era immigrant patriarch.
  • Prominent Thai-Chinese royalist families with this surname are bestowed by member of the royal family some indigenised derivative such as "Limthongkul" "Sirilim".
  • The character "霖" (Lin = heavy rain showers) is also a popular personal name in China.

Notable people surnamed Lin in English contexts

This is a Chinese name, meaning the surname is stated "before" the given name, though Chinese persons living in Western countries will often put their surname after their given name.


(Mandarin and Wu Chinese form):

  • Lin Biao, military general and former Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China
  • Lin Yutang, inventor, linguist, writer, Nobel prize nominee
  • Lin Zexu, nineteenth-century governor-general, imperial commissioner, poet, scholar, diplomat
  • Lin Shihong (林士弘), king of Chu dynasty
  • Lin Bu (林逋), poet
  • Lin Xu (林旭), scholar, poet
  • Lin Sen, former president, chairman of National Government of China
  • Lin Ling-san, former Minister of Transportation and Communications of the Republic of China
  • Lin Xiangru, Chinese politician of the Warring States period
  • Lin Yang-kang, former mayor of Taipei city, Chairman of Taiwan province, Taiwanese politician
  • Lin Wenyue, scholar, writer and translator from Taiwan.
  • Lin Yu-fang, Taiwanese politician
  • Lin Dan (林丹), world Olympic champion, men's singles badminton player, People's Republic of China
  • Lin Weining (林伟宁), world Olympic champion, weightlifter, athlete
  • Lin Yue (林跃), world Olympic champion, diver
  • Lin Qingfeng (林清峰), world Olympic champion, weightlifter, athlete
  • Lin Sang, world Olympic silver medalist, athlete, archer
  • Kevin Lin (林義傑), marathon runner
  • Jeremy Lin (林書豪), U.S. basketball player
  • Cho-Liang Lin, musician, U.S. Taiwanese violinist, "Instrumentalist of the Year" in 2000
  • Lin Di, musician, pipa player with Chinese rock band Cold Fairyland
  • Lin Hwai-min, choreographer and founder of Taiwan's Cloud Gate Dance Theater
  • Jenny Lin, musician, pianist
  • Lin Youren, musician, Chinese guqin player
  • Lin Shicheng musician, Shanghai-born pipa player
  • Lin Jun Jie, Singaporean singer and songwriter
  • Justin Lin, U.S. film director
  • Shu Qi (Lin Li-hui 林立慧), Taiwanese actress and model
  • Maya Lin, artist and architect[4]
  • Lin Peng, actress
  • Ruby Lin (Lin Xin-ru 林心如), Taiwanese actress
  • Ariel Lin (Lin Yi-chen), Taiwanese actress
  • Lin Yu-chun Taiwanese singer
  • Estrella Lin (Lin Wei-ling 林韋伶), Taiwanese singer
  • Alfred Lin, Taiwanese-born American venture capitalist
  • Brigitte Lin (Lin Ch'ing-hsia 林青霞), Taiwanese film actress
  • Jimmy Lin (Lin Chih-ying 林志穎), Taiwanese film actor and singer
  • Lin Chi-ling (林志玲), Taiwanese supermodel, actress
  • Lin Youyi (林有懿), Hong Kong-born Singaporean television host and actress
  • Tzu-Wei Lin, infielder for the Boston Red Sox
  • Mariano Lin, musician, basketball player, actor and model, film director, choreographer, politician and inventor


(Cantonese form)


(Also Cantonese form)


(Southern Min)

  • Lee Hong Susan Lim, Malaysian parasitologist (1952-2014)
  • Lim Eng Beng, Philippine Chinese professional basketball player
  • Alfredo Lim, Philippine Chinese politician and former mayor of Manila
  • Amparo Lim (born 1969), Filipino badminton player
  • Zeryl Lim, a Philippine Chinese actress
  • Vicente Lim, Brigadier General during WWII, anti-Japanese Resistance fighter in the Philippines
  • Danilo Lim, Philippine Chinese Brigadier General originally from Amoy
  • Lim Bo Seng, World War II anti-Japanese Resistance fighter based in Singapore and British Malaya
  • Catherine Lim, Malaysian-born Singaporean author
  • Jennifer Lim, British-Born Chinese Actress
  • Lim Koon Teck, first person of East Asian descent to be appointed to the British Colonial Legal Service during the twentieth century
  • Lim Chin Siong, cofounded Singapore's People's Action Party (P.A.P.) along with Lee Kuan Yew
  • Lim Chong Eu, former Malaysian-born Singaporean politician
  • Lim Giong, Singaporean Taiwanese musician, songwriter and actor
  • Lim Goh Tong, Fujianese billionaire and casino tycoon
  • Lim Guan Eng, Malaysia politician, current Chief Minister of Penang (2008–present)
  • Ken Lim, Singaporean record producer and composer
  • Lim Kit Siang, Malaysian politician, known as Mr. Opposition
  • Norman Kwong (Lim Kwong Yew), former professional athlete and Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, Canada
  • Moses Lim, T.V. and movie actor (e.g. "Just Follow Law"), food gourmet and entrepreneur from Singapore
  • Peter Lim, Singaporean billionaire
  • Phillip Lim, U.S. fashion designer
  • Pilar Hidalgo-Lim
  • Ron Lim, U.S. comic book artist
  • Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, Chairman and C.E.O. of Genting Berhad conglomerate
  • Lim Yew Hock, second Chief Minister of Singapore
  • Xian Lim, Philippine Chinese actor
  • Freddy Lim, Taiwanese musician and lead singer of Taiwanese metal band Chthonic
  • Lim Boon Keng Singaporean national reformist of Peranakan descent
  • Wendell Lim, Professor at University of California, San Francisco and director of SynBERC
  • Lim Hng Kiang (林勛強), Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry
  • Lim Chin Tsong (林振宗), Overseas Chinese oil tycoon during British Burma
  • Lim Por-yen (林百欣), Hong Kong industrialist
  • Lim Kim San (林金山), Singaporean politician noted for contributions to public housing policy
  • Rebecca Lim (林慧玲), Singaporean Actress


(Indonesian and Dutch form):


(Eastern Min, Northern Min, and Wu form):

  • Ling How Doong (林孝谆, born 1934), Singaporean politician and lawyer
  • Ling Liong Sik (林良实, born 1943), Malaysian politician
  • Victor Ling (林重慶, born 1943), Chinese-born Canadian scientist
  • Jahja Ling (林望傑, born 1951), Indonesian-born American orchestral conductor
  • Tschen La Ling (林球立, born 1956), Dutch football player
  • John Wey Ling (林建伟, born 1958 or 1959), Chinese-born American ballet dancer
  • Alan Ling Sie Kiong (林思健, born 1983), Malaysian lawyer
  • Julia Ling (林小微, born 1983), American television actress
  • Landon Ling (林家亮, born 1987), Canadian football player

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ PBS episode Finding Your Roots February 2, 2016
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