Lin (surname)

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Lin (林)
Pronunciation Lín (Mandarin)
Lim (Min Nan)
Lam (Cantonese)
Language(s) Chinese
Language(s) Middle Chinese
Meaning "forest"
Other names
Variant(s) Lim, Lam

Lin (Chinese: ) is the Mandarin romanization of the Chinese surname written 林 in Chinese character. It is also used in Korea and the Philippines. 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, and Vietnam it is spelled as Lam via 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 and killed 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".
  • A Korean surname Im (Korean name) is the Korean equivalent of "Lin". Specifically, only the first and by far the more numerous of the two clan branches of 임, 수풀 림 (Supul-Lim), is equivalent to "Lin". The second, 맡길 임(Matgil-Im), is equivalent to the rare Chinese surname Ren. The romanization of 林 is commonly spelt "Lim" (임) with the rarer spelling being "Rim" (림). While the romanization of 任 (임) is commonly spelt "Im" with the rarer spelling being "Yim".
  • A common Japanese surname, Hayashi, is written with the same character 林 and also means forest.
  • The Viet Namese 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."
  • 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 "Limtiaco"; this type of Philippine surname is often derived from the 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".

Notable people surnamed Lin

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 Shanghai form):


(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
  • 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
  • Lim Kwong Yew (Norman Kwong), 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
  • 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 [Dr. Lim Boon Keng], famous 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, builder of Singapore


(Indonesian and Dutch form):


(Min Dong, Min Bei, and Wu form):

See also