Among numerous surnames, Chen is the fifth biggest surname on the Chinese mainland in terms of population. Initial surname Chen was from surname Yu, and the families were the descendants of Emperor Shun. When King Wu of Zhou established Zhou Dynasty (1046-256BC), he got acquaintance with Hu Gongman, a descendant of Shun, and gave the Land of Chen to him to establish the state of Chen. When coming to Chen Mingong, Chen was defeated by the state of Chu during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476BC). The descendants of this state began to use Chen as their surname; so surname Chen came into being.
Apart from originating from a state's name, people with other surnames also changed their surnames to Chen. There was a branch of ethnic minority people that changed surname to Chen in history. According to historical records, Houmochen, a noble lord of Xianbei in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534AD), moved to Luoyang together with Emperor Xiaowen of the dynasty who moved his capital there. The surname Houmochen was changed to Chen.
Through several thousand years, Chen families have scattered over the country, forming Chen families with the areas of Yingchuan, Runan, Xiapi, Guangling and Donghai as centers. The cradle of Chen families moved southward since Chen Bozhen, a senior official in West Jin Dynasty (265-316AD), who moved all of his families to the present Danyang County, Zhejiang Province. Later, his grandson Chen Shida became the magistrate of Changcheng County (now Changxing County of Zhejiang Province), and Chen families moved to Zhejiang. When Chen Baxian established Southern Dynasty (420-589AD), he made Chen families more outstanding, spreading over the broad areas between the Yangtze and Yuejiang (now Pearl River) rivers. During the reign of Emperor Gaozong in the Tang Dynasty ((618--907), Chen families moved to Fujian and Guangdong provinces. After the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-979), a great number of Chen families moved southward, or even overseas due to the long-term chaos caused by wars in the central plains, which further enlarged Chen families in the south of the Yangtze River. Now, surname Chen has become the fifth surname on the Chinese mainland and the first one in Taiwan Province.
By People's Daily Online