Cai (surname)

Cai (surname)
Chinese name
Japanese name
Hiragana さい
Korean name
Vietnamese name
Quốc ngữ Thái or Sái

Cài (Simplified and Traditional Chinese: ) is a Chinese surname that derives from the name of the ancient Cai state. It is regionally more common in China's Fujian Province and in countries settled by ethnic Chinese from that province than in China as a whole. The surname is the 34th most common surname in China[1], but the 9th most common in Taiwan, where it is usually romanized as Tsai[2], and the 8th most common in Singapore, where it is usually romanized as Chua.[3] It is also a common name in Hong Kong where it is romanized as Choy or Choi and in Malaysia as Chua.



The Cais are said to be the descendants of the 5th son of King Wen of the Zhou Dynasty (9th century BC256 BC), Ji Du 姬度. Ji Du was awarded the title of marquis (hóu) of the State of Cai (centered on what is now Shangcai, Zhumadian, Henan, China), and he was known as Cai Shudu ("Uncle Cai"). Together with Guan Shu and Huo Shu, they were known as the Three Guards. When King Wu died, his son King Cheng was too young and his uncle, the Duke of Zhou, became regent. Seeing that the power of the Duke of Zhou was increasing, the Three Guards got jealous and rebelled against Zhou together with Wu Geng. The Duke of Zhou suppressed the rebellion, and Cai Shu was exiled. King Cheng reestablished Cai Shu’s son Wu as the Duke of Cai. Some 600 years later in the Warring States Period, the State of Chu conquered Cai in 447 BC and was itself conquered by the Qin state which, in turn, formed the Qin Empire, China's first empire. With the spread of family names to all social classes in the new empire, many people of the former state of Cai began to bear it as a surname.

The Cai descendants have undertaken two major migrations. During the Huang Chao Rebellion (AD 875) at the end of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), the Cai clan migrated to Guangdong and Fujian provinces. Another later migration occurred when Ming Dynasty loyalist Koxinga moved military officials surnamed Cai and their families to Taiwan in the 17th century. As a result, the surname is far more common in these areas and in areas settled by their descendants (e.g., Southeast Asia) than in other parts of China.

Transliteration and romanization


Cai is written the same (蔡) in both simplified and traditional Chinese characters.

In Mandarin Chinese, the surname is transliterated as Cài in pinyin and Tongyong Pinyin, Ts'ai in Wade-Giles, and Tsay in Gwoyeu Romatzyh. In Minnan or Taiwanese, it is Chhoà in Pe̍h-oē-jī. In Cantonese, it is Coi3 in Jyutping and Choi in Yale. (This should not be confused with the predominantly Korean family name Choi which has a different Chinese character [崔]). In Hakka it is Tshai in Pha̍k-fa-sṳ. (In Tongyong pinyin, it is Cai in Siyen Hakka and Ca̱i in Hoiliuk Hakka.) In Mindong, it is Chái (in Bàng-uâ-cê).

Other languages

Koreans use Chinese-derived family names and in Korean, Cai is 채 in Hangul, Chae in Revised Romanization, and Ch'ae in McCune-Reischauer. Vietnamese also use Chinese-derived family names and in Vietnamese, it is Thái or Sái. Japanese do not use Chinese family names but for Chinese in Japan who carry the name, it is さい in Hiragana and Sai in the major romanization systems.


Cai is romanized as Cai in the People's Republic of China, Tsai (or occasionally Tsay or Chai) in the Republic of China (Taiwan), and Choi or Choy in Hong Kong. In Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei, the most common forms are Chua for Hokkien and Teochew speakers, Chai for Hakka speakers, Choi for Cantonese speakers, and Toy or Toi for Taishanese speakers. In Indonesia it is usually romanized as Tjoa and in the Philippines it is Chua, Cua.

Other variations include Chye, Coi, and Tsoi.

Derivative names

In addition, some of the Chuas (Cais) who resided in the Philippines adopted Spanish names to avoid persecution by the Spanish rulers during the Philippines' Spanish colonial rule from the early 16th to late 19th century. Hispanicized forms of the name include Chuachiaco, Chuakay, Chuapoco, Chuaquico, Chuacuco, Chuateco, and Chuatoco.[4] These names were formed from the surname, one character of the given name, and the suffix "-co", a Minnan honorific ko (哥), literally meaning "older brother".[4]

In Thailand, most Thais of Chinese descendance use Thai surnames. Legislation by Siamese King Rama VI (1910-1925) required the adoption of Thai surnames which was largely directed at easing tensions with Chinese community by encouraging assimilation. Thai law did not (and does not) allow identical surnames to those already in existence[5], so ethnic Chinese formerly surnamed Chua incorporating words that sound like "Chua" and have good meaning (such as Chai, meaning "victory") into much longer surnames.

Prominent people surnamed Cai

Cai Wenji, also known as Cai Yan, a Han Dynasty poet and composer
  • Cai Cheng, a Chinese politician
  • Cai Chusheng, an early Chinese film director
  • Cai E, a Chinese revolutionary and warlord in early 20th century
  • Cai Fu, a character in the Chinese literature classic the Water Margin
  • Cai Gongshi, a Chinese emissary killed by Japanese soldiers during the Jinan Incident
  • Cai Guo-Qiang, a Chinese contemporary artist and curator.
  • Cai He, an officer in the Three Kingdoms period, brother of Cai Zhong and cousin of Cai Mao
  • Cai Jing, a Song Dynasty official and a character in the Chinese literature classic the Water Margin
  • Cai, Lady, the wife of Three Kingdoms period naval officer Huang Zu
  • Cai Lun, the inventor of paper in the Han Dynasty
  • Cai Mao, a naval officer in the Three Kingdoms period who served under Liu Biao, cousin of Cai He and Cai Zhong
  • Cai Pei, a diplomat and politician in the Republic of China
  • Cai Qian, a Chinese pirate in the Qing Dynasty
  • Cai Qing, a character in the Chinese literature classic the Water Margin
  • Cai Shangjun, a Chinese film director and screenwriter
  • Cai Shu, a Chinese high jumper
  • Cai Tingkai, a Chinese general during the Republican era
  • Cai Wen, a Chinese academic
  • Cai Wenji, a Han Dynasty poet and composer also known as Cai Yan, daughter of scholar Cai Yong
  • Cai Xiang, a calligrapher, scholar, official and poet during the Song dynasty also known as Cai Zhonghui
  • Cai Xitao, a Chinese botanist
  • Cai Yong, a Han Dyansty scholar and father of Cai Wenji
  • Cai Yuanpei, a chancellor of Peking University and first president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Academic Sinica)
  • Cai Yun, a Chinese badminton player
  • Cai Zhong, an officer in the Three Kingdoms period, brother of Cai He and cousin of Cai Mao
  • Cai Zhuohua, a Chinese Christian preacher
  • Chae Ji-Hoon, a Korean speed skater
  • Chae Jung An (stage name), a Korean actress and singer
  • Chae Man-shik, a Korean novelist
  • Chae Sang-Byung a Korean baseball player
  • Chae, Suchan, a Korean Politician and Economist
  • Chae Sung-Bae, a Korean heavyweight boxer
  • Chae Yeon (stage name), a Korean pop singer
  • Chai Trong-rong or Trong Chai, a Taiwanese politician
  • Choi, Ada, a Hong Kong actress
  • Choi, Charlene, a Hong Kong singer, member of the Twins duo
  • Choi Chi-sum, a Hong Kong evangelist
  • Choi, Fátima, a Macanese government minister
  • Choi, Sandra, an English creative director and designer for shoemaker Jimmy Choo Ltd
  • Choi, Vin, a Hong Kong actor
  • Choi York Yee, a Hong Kong footballer and sports commentator
  • Choy, Anna, an Australian actress, TV presenter, and Australia Day Ambassador
  • Choy, Elizabeth, a North Borneo-born Singaporean World War II heroine
  • Choy González, Gonzalo, a Uruguayan footballer
  • Choy So-yuk, a Hong Kong politician
  • Choy Weng Yang, a Singaporean artist
  • Choy, Wilbur Wong Yan, an American Methodist bishop
  • Chua, Alfrancis, a Filipino basketball coach
  • Chua, Amy, an American academic and author of Filipino Chinese descent
  • Chua, Brent, a Filipino model
  • Chua Ek Kay, a Singaporean artist
  • Chua, Glen, a Canadian film director, actor, and writer
  • Chua, Joi (Joi Tsai), a Singaporean singer
  • Chua, Carlo Dino, a Filipino former vice mayor of Cavite
  • Chua Jui Meng, a Malaysian health minister and prominent politician
  • Chua Lam, a Singaporean-born Hong Kong columnist and movie producer
  • Chua, Leon O., an American professor and inventor of Chua's circuit
  • Chua Ling Fung, Simon, a bodybuilder from Singapore
  • Chua, Mark, a Filipino murder victim
  • Chua, Paige, a Singaporean model and actress
  • Chua, Paul, a Singaporean bodybuilder
  • Chua Phung Kim, a Singaporean weightlifter
  • Chua Poi Suan, a Singaporean television actress
  • Chua, Robert, a Singapore-born Asian television executive
  • Chua Sock Koong, a Singaporean telecom executive
  • Chua Soi Lek, a Malaysian health minister and prominent politician
  • Chua Soon Bui, a Malaysian politician
  • Chua, Tanya, a Singaporean singer
  • Chua Tee Yong, a Malaysian politician
  • Chua Tian Chang, or Tian Chua, a Malaysian politician
  • Chuah, Tricia, a Malaysian squash player
  • Sai On, a scholar-bureaucrat official of the Ryūkyū Kingdom
  • Tjoa Ing Hwie or Tjoa Jien Hwie, the birth name of Surya Wonowidjojo, founder of Gudang Garam
  • Tjoa, Marga, the real name of Indonesian writer Marga T
  • Tjoa To Hing, the birth name of Indonesian businessman Rachman Halim
  • Thái Phiên, a Vietnamese scholar and revolutionary
  • Tsai, Angela, an American actress and television host
  • Tsai Chia-Hsin, a Taiwanese badminton player
  • Tsai Chih-chieh, a Taiwanese footballer (soccer player)
  • Tsai Chin, a Taiwanese popular music singer
  • Tsai Eddie, a Taiwanese American founder of tsaiclip, a moustache shaped tie clip
  • Tsai Horng Chung, a Chinese-Sarawakan painter
  • Tsai Hsien-tang, a Taiwanese footballer
  • Tsai Hui-kai, a Taiwanese footballer (soccer player)
  • Tsai Ing-wen, a former Vice Premier of the Republic of China
  • Tsai, Jeanne, an American academic
  • Tsai, Jolin, a Taiwanese music singer
  • Tsai, Kevin, a Taiwanese writer and television host
  • Tsai Min-you , the real name of a Taiwanese singer Evan Yo
  • Tsai, Ming, an American chef and host of television cooking shows
  • Tsai Ming-Hung, a Taiwanese baseball player
  • Tsai Ming-liang, a Taiwanese movie director
  • Tsai Shengbai, a Chinese industrialist
  • Tsai Wan-lin, a Taiwanese billionaire and founder of Cathay Life Insurance Company; brother of Tsai Wan-tsai and father of Tsai Hong-tu
  • Tsai Yi-chen, a Taiwanese actress
  • Tsoi, Herbert, former president of the Law Society of Hong Kong

See also

  • Choa Chu Kang (蔡厝港 Càicuògǎng, literally "Cai house harbor"), a suburban area in the West Region of Singapore
  • Choi Uk Tsuen (蔡屋村 Càiwùcūn, literally "Cai house village"), a village in the Yuen Long district of Hong Kong
  • Choy Gar (蔡家拳 Càijiāquán, literally "Cai family fist"), a Chinese martial art that was created by Choy Gau Yee (蔡九儀)
  • Choy Li Fut (蔡李佛拳 Càilǐfóquán, literally "Cai, Li, and Buddha's fist"), a Chinese martial arts system named to honor the Buddhist monk Choy Fook (蔡褔) among others
  • Choy Yee Bridge Stop (蔡意橋站), a MTR Light Rail stop in Hong Kong

External links


  1. ^ "新'百家姓'新鲜'出炉'" (Newest 100 Surnames). 2006 ranking. (Chinese)
  2. ^ "Common Chinese Names." 2007 ranking.
  3. ^ "Popular Chinese Surnames in Singapore." at Statisitics Singapore. 2000 ranking based on romanized form of Chua.
  4. ^ a b Hector Santos. Katálogo ng mga Apelyidong Pilipino (Catalog of Filipino Names). (English)
  5. ^ Kriengsak Niratpattanasai. "Why many Thais have a long surname." Thailand Tales column in the APMF Asian Business Strategy Ezine.

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