The surname Liu is the fourth most popular family name in China and one for the offspring of Emperor Yao also called Yaotang, and posterity of Maojin. It bears enduring history and complicated origins.
According to the history book Tongzhi Shizulue the surname Liu has five origins. Emperor Yao had a descendent called Liu Lei who inherited the surname Liu; King Cheng of the Zhou Dynasty conferred fief Liu on the son of Wang Ji, hence the surname Liu; the Han Dynasty combined the surnames of Xiang and Lou into Liu; and the Hun people inherited their mothers' surname, also Liu.
Although the surname Liu has many origins it has only two main lines. One is the descendents of Emperor Yao or Yaotang, one line of the surname Qi. Among the offspring of Emperor Yao there was a Liu Lei who was good at training dragons. It is said that when he was born there were the Chinese characters "Liu Lei" on his palm, for which he gained his name. Liu Lei is the source of the surname Liu. This line originated in today's Tang county of Hebei province.
The other line is from a senior official in the Zhou Dynasty, who had a fief in Liu. In the Zhou Dynasty the aristocrat was conferred the fief Liu and his descendents were thus called Liu. This line was born out of the surname Ji with its aboriginal place in today's southwest Yanshi of Henan province.
After Liu Bang established the Han Dynasty he went a long way to confer people of his own surname. The surname Liu therefore gained tremendous development and became a big surname in China, with its presence covering the whole country.
By People's Daily Online