More than 40% of the Vietnamese population has Nguyen as a surname, which means that every third person in Vietnam has Nguyen as a surname. There are about 38 million people worldwide whose last name is Nguyen.
A Vietnamese full name differs slightly in structure from Korean and Chinese names as it includes three main parts: Last name, middle name, first name in that order, with the most common length being three or four words. Some even have six or seven words in their name. But why is Nguyen the most popular surname in Vietnam? There are a few explanations.
Why are so many people named „Nguyen“ in Vietnam? Explanation
In the years from 420 to 528, China’s reign was at a chaotic peak. In order to survive, a large part of the Nguyen family from Anhui, Guangzhou and Zhejiang moved south and migrated to Vietnam. Their community began to adopt the Vietnamese culture and create the main foundation for the growth of the Nguyen surname. By the end of the first century, the wave of immigration of Nguyen families from China was still strong and since then continued to increase the number of people with Nguyen surnames in Vietnam.
However, the biggest milestone in the development of the Nguyen surname occurred during the Tran government period. After taking over the country from the Ly dynasty, Tran Thu Do made a decision that had a tremendous impact on the entire community of people whose surnames were Ly. He required all members of the Ly royal family who lived in hiding to change their last name to Nguyen. The purpose behind this was to remove Ly as a surname so that no one would know about its existence. But the question of why Tran Thu Do chose Nguyen as a surname to replace Ly is not clear. It was probably just a random choice. All citizens with Ly as their surname had to change it to Nguyen.
Surprisingly, this event of changing surnames has actually existed since ancient times. Whenever the country was taken over by a new empire, it was an unwritten rule that all people who had the surname of the previous royal family must change their name to Nguyen.
History repeated itself when the Ho family defeated the Tran monarchy and took over the country. The royal family wanted to find and kill all members of the Tran family. At the end of the Ho era, members of the Ho family, fearing the revenge of the next reign, changed their surname to Nguyen so that the enemy could not find them.
Similarly, in the 16th century when Mac ruled, all Mac members changed their surname to Nguyen for security reasons. In the early years of the 19th century, the Nguyen government ruled the country. The people of Trinh (the former royal family) also changed their surname to Nguyen to avoid being killed. During Nguyen’s reign, people who had the same surname as the king were more likely to receive more benefits. Many people and prisoners took advantage by changing their last name to Nguyen.
As a result of these many historical events that led to the establishment of Nguyen, the last royal family in the history of Vietnam, the number of Nguyen families throughout the country was greater than ever before.
Modern times and the „Nguyen“ family name
Before talking about what happened in modern times, note that in the Middle Ages, people from the lower class did not have a family name at all. It is an honor that was dedicated only to noble people in the society. In the 19th century, Vietnam was under French leadership. The French conducted a large-scale population survey during that time and faced the great challenge that many Vietnamese people did not have a correct surname. So the French decided to give these people a last name and they chose Nguyen. They chose this name because it was the last monarchy in Vietnam.
Despite the decision of the French, Nguyen was still the most common surname among Vietnamese people. So the number of the name Nguyen continued to increase.Now when you meet a Vietnamese with the family Nguyen, you can not only be sure of the country of origin, but also know about the special history of his surname.