The origins of Confucius’ surname

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Did you know that Confucius’ surname ‘Kong’ (孔) still remains as one of the most influential and highly regarded surnames today in Chinese society? There is an estimated 2.7 million inhabitants in China carrying this surname which equates to approximately 0.22% of the nation’s population.

The history of “Kong” (孔) can be traced back to three family sources in China namely:

– Kong Jia, who worked as an official historian during the Yellow Emperor’s reign.

-The family of ‘Zi’ from the Shang Dynasty (16ht-11th century BC). “Zi” (子) was considered a royal surname during this time, and some descendants chose “Kong” as their surname after combining “Zi” (子) with “Yi” (乙) from “Taiyi” (太乙) . “Taiyi” was the courtesy name of Tang of Shang, the founder of the Shang Dynasty. The combination of ‘子’ and ‘乙’ formed’ 孔’- Kong. A noble named Jia in the Zhou Dynasty adopted “Kong” as his courtesy name, and it later used by his son to name his clan when he settled in Qufu to escape war after Jia was murdered. Confucius was one of the descendants from this source.

– Minority groups including Tujia, Miao, Mongolia, Hui and Tibetan groups who adopted this name during their interactions with the Hans throughout history.

The “Kong” family thrived in Qufu, and it eventually became the primary origin of most people surnamed Kong in China today. In particular, when Confucius and his teachings received official sanction during the Han Dynasty after the philosophers death,  the “Kong” clan was recognized as a distinguished and influential clan within the country.

By the Yuan Dynasty (1000 years after the Han Dynasty), the Kong family had managed to spread to most regions in China as well as other countries such as Korea.  Today, it is estimated more than 80 generations of Kong descendants have passed since Kong Fujia, 2500 years ago.

The origins of the Kong family in Qufu and its most famous descendant, Confucius is still celebrated to this very day, as seen by the opening of the first official Confucius Post Office in Qufu last month.

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