Last name origins & meanings:

  1. Chinese: from the name of the ancient state of Xu. The model emperor Yu (2205–2198 bc) granted this state to one of his retainers. The retainer’s family governed the state from this time on until the Western Zhou dynasty (1122–771 bc), when the Xu prince of the time believed it to be God’s will that he should oppose the Zhou dynasty, on account of a prophecy associated with a red bow and arrow that he pulled out of a river. The Zhou king, Mu Wang, was far away to the west in the Kunlun mountains, but raced back to confront and defeat the Xu prince (see Chao 1). Mu Wang then granted the state of Xu to the defeated prince’s son, giving him the ‘style name’ of Xu. Descendants of this new ruler eventually adopted Xu as their surname.
  2. Chinese: this name goes back as far as the 23rd century bc. According to tradition, there existed a philosopher named Xu You, who was offered succession to the throne by the model emperor Yao. Having heard this proposal, Xu You washed his ears in a river to rid them of such defilement. The main stock of this name probably came later, however, when Wu Wang, the first king (1122–1116 bc) of the Zhou dynasty, granted the area of Xu in present-day Henan province to Wen Shu, a descendant of Bo Yi, adviser to the model emperor Shun (who coincidentally accepted the offer of power which Xu You had declined). The descendants of Wen Shu eventually adopted the name of the area of Xu as their surname.
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