The surname Zhao is used by an unusually large number of people in China and is the most common Chinese surname. According to historic records, the first ancestor with the surname Zhao was Shaohao Jintian, one of the five prehistoric emperors. The legend goes that Nuxiu, daughter of Shaohao, gave birth to Gaotao for swallowing a black bird egg. Zaofu, the 14th grandson of Gaotai, lived during the Zhou Dynasty. He was good at saddling horses and harnessing carts and was favored by Emperor Mu of the Zhou Dynasty. Later, to credit him for crushing the rebellion led by Lord Xuyan and for escorting Emperor Mu safely back to the capital, the descendents of Zaofu took the name of the city, Zhao, as their surname. At that point, the earliest Chinese Zhao family surname came into being.
In the late Zhou Dynasty, Shudai, the 7th grandson of Zaofu, went to the state of Jin for shelter with some clans because he had been ousted by his family. However, the remaining Zhao clan that had not moved to the State of Jin still lived in Zhao city. From then on, the surname Zhao not only took root in the state of Jin, but also became more popular. The state of Zhao which originated in the state of Jin later became one of the "Seven Overlord States" in the Warring States period.
After the state of Zhao was destroyed by the state of Qin, two branches of the surname Zhao emerged: Tianshui Zhao and Zhuojun Zhao. Emperor Qin Shi Huang expelled the last Emperor of the state of Zhao, Zhao Jia, to Xirong. Some followers with the Zhao surname also moved to Gansu, living in a place named Tianshui and thus forming the Tianshui branch of the Zhao surname. Zhao Qian, son of Lord Daoxiang of the state of Zhao, was exiled to Pangling (Pang county in central China's Hubei province) and later his descendants moved from Pangling to Liwu in Zhuo county (Boye county in north China's Hebei province), thus forming another branch of the Zhao surname, Zhuojun Zhao. From then on, the Zhao surname greatly expanded, reaching as far as the northern and central parts of Vietnam.
By People's Daily Online