Puneet Varma

Teochew people

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The Teochew people (also known as Chaozhou in Mandarin or Chiuchow in Cantonese) are a Chinese people native to the historical Chaozhou prefecture (now the Chaoshan region) of eastern Guangdong province who speak the Teochew dialect. Today, most Teochew people live outside China in Southeast Asia, especially in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, and Indonesia. They can also be found almost anywhere in the world, including North America, Australia and France.


The Teochew speak Chinese Teochew dialect of Southern Min; Teochew cuisine is also distinctive. The ancestors of the Teochew people moved to present-day Chaoshan from the Central Plains of China in order to escape from a series of civil wars during the Jin dynasty (265–420).


Teochew can be romanised in a variety of schemes, and are known in Mandarin as cháo zhōu rén and Cantonese as Chiuchao yan. In referring to themselves as ethnic Chinese, Teochew people generally use Deung nang (唐人; Mandarin: Tangren), literally Tang Dynasty people, as opposed to Hang nang (漢人/汉人; Mandarin: Hanren), which means 'Han Dynasty people'.

Teochew people of the diaspora would generally use Hua nang (華人/华人; Mandarin: Huaren) to indicate Chinese heritage in a cultural sense. Huanang and huaren are broadly used by Chinese people living outside of China, referring to their maintaining a substantial cultural identity they consider to be Chinese. The Teochew people are those who speak the Teochew language and share some ancestry with Teochew.

Teochew people also commonly refer to each other as ga gi nang (自己人; Mandarin: zijiren) which means 'our own people'.


Historically, these people were called Helao or Fulao (Hoklo), as they came mostly from Henan and Shanxi via Fujian, with well-maintained language and customs from ancient north-central China. As was recorded in pedigrees and ancient inscriptions, these people who had originally migrated to southern Fujian, especially from Quanzhou and Putian, made settlements toward Chaoshan in batches from Tang dynasty to Ming dynasty and soon spread all over the Chaoshan area.

Geographic isolation and difficulty in traveling in the past made the Helao or Fulao become a relatively closed population.

The Teochew people are known to Cantonese speakers as "Hoklo", literally meaning "men of Fujian", although the term “Teochew” was used in the Strait Settlements in the 19th century and early 20th century. "Teochew" is derived from Teochew prefecture (Chaozhou Fu) the departmental city where they originate.

Teochew immigration to Singapore

From the 19th century, due to disadvantaged circumstances, significant numbers of Teochew people left their homeland for Singapore and a new life.

Early Teochew settlers could trace their origins to eight counties/prefectures: Chao'an, Chenghai, Chaoyang, Jieyang, Raoping, Puning, Huilai and Nan'ao. In addition to these, new immigrants leaving from Port Swatow, there were Teochew people relocating to Singapore from Siam and Riau Islands.

Today, Teochew is the second largest spoken Chinese language used in Singapore. They are the second largest dialect group in Singapore at 21% of the Chinese Population. As a result, they play a significant role in the opposition party scenes with orators

Teochew in Taiwan

See also: 潮州裔臺灣人 (in Chinese)

Most of the Teochew descendants in Taiwan have already been "hokkienized" ("hoklonized"). They speak the Taiwanese Hokkien language instead of Teochew. Some of them consider themselves as being Hakka. However, there are still some Teochew in Chaojhou township (潮州鎮), in Pingtung County (屏東縣).

A 1926 Japanese census found that there were 134,800 people in Taiwan of Teochew ancestry.


Throughout the history of over 1000 years, the region of Chaoshan, anciently named Teochew Prefecture, has bred and evolved a prestigious culture, which manifests its unique characteristics in language, opera, cuisine, tea practice, music and embroidery.

The Teochew dialect (潮州話) is considered one of the oldest Chinese dialects as it preserves many features from ancient Chinese that have been lost in some counterparts. It is spoken by roughly 10 million people in Chaoshan and more than five million outside the Chinese mainland.

Teochew opera (潮劇) is a traditional art form which has a history of more than 500 years and is now loved by 20 million Teochew people in over 20 countries and regions. Based on local folk dances and ballads, Teochew opera has formed its own style under the influence of Nanxi Opera. Nanxi is one of the oldest Chinese operas and originated in the Song Dynasty. The old form of choral accompaniment still preserves its special features. Clowns and females are the most distinctive characters in a Teochew opera, and fan-play and acrobatic skills are prominent.

Teochew music (潮州音樂) is popularly played in Chaoshan's teahouse scene. The Teochew string instrument, gong, drum and traditional Chinese flute, are typically involved in ensembles. The current Chaozhou drum music is said to be similar to the form of the Drum and Wind Music of the Han and Tang Dynasties.

Teochew woodcarving(潮州木雕) is a form of Chinese woodcarving originating in the Tang Dynasty. It is very popular in Chaoshan. Teochew people used a great deal of Teochew wood carving in their buildings.

Yingge dance(英歌)is a form of Chinese folk dance originating in the Ming Dynasty. It is one of the most representative form of folk arts.

Although few movies or television dramas have been made of the Teochew people, one such notable drama is the Singaporean 1995 drama series The Teochew Family.

Prominent Teochew people

The people in this may include those who are fullblooded to partial Teochew ancestry.

  • Mainland China
  • Huang Guangyu (黄光裕; Ng Guangyu; Wong Kwong Yu) (1969–; Chaoyang, Guangdong), founder and chairman of GOME Group; once the richest person in mainland China
  • Ma Huateng (馬化騰/马化腾; Bhê Huejam) (1971–; Chaoyang, Guangdong), General Manager of Tencent Computer System Co., Ltd and creator of QQ
  • Lin Shouzhi (林受之) (1873-1924), rubber merchant and supporter of Sun Yat-sen
  • Hong Kong
  • Charles Heung (向華強)(1948-;Chaozhou, Guangdong; Born in Hong Kong) Hong Kong actor-turned-film producer and presenter. Founder of China Star Entertainment Group
  • Li Ka-shing (李嘉誠/李嘉诚; Li Jiacheng; Li Kaishing) (1928–; Chaozhou, Guangdong), founder and chairman of Cheung Kong Group; the richest person of Chinese and Chinese descent in the world; known for his enormous fortune, business acumen and generous charity work
  • Lim Por-yen (林百欣; Lin Baixin; Lim Bêhyan) (1914–2005; Chaoyang, Guangdong), founder of Lai Sun Group, media tycoon, banker and charitarian
  • Albert Yeung (楊受成/杨受成; Yang Shoucheng; Yêng Siuseng) (1944–; Chaozhou, Guangdong; born in Hong Kong), founder and chairman of Emperor Group
  • Joseph Lau (劉鑾雄/刘銮雄; Liu Luanxong; Liu Luanghiong) (1951–; Chaozhou, Guangdong), founder, chairman and CEO of Chinese Estates Group
  • Vincent Lo (羅康瑞/罗康瑞; Luo Kangri; Lua Kangsui) (1948–; Puning, Guangdong), founder and chairman of Shui On Group
  • Thailand
  • Low Kiok Chiang (1843–1911; born in Swatow, Guangdong), founder of Khiam Hoa Heng entreprises (1872–1950s)
  • Chin Sophonpanich (Thai: ชิน โสภณพนิช; Chinese: 陳弼臣) (1910–1988; Chaoyang, Guangdong; born in Thailand), founder of Bangkok Bank
  • Dhanin Chearavanont (Thai: ธนินท์ เจียรวนนท์; 謝國民/谢国民; Xie Guomin; Zia Gokmi) (1939–; Chenghai, Guangdong), CEO of Charoen Pokphand Group(Chia Tai Group)
  • Prachai Leophai-ratana (Thai: ประชัย เลี่ยวไพรัตน; 廖漢渲/廖汉渲; Liao Hanxuan; Liu Hangsuang) (Chao'an, Guangdong), founder and former CEO of Thai Petrochemical Industry (TPI) and TPI Polene
  • Chatri Sophonpanich (Thai: ชาตรี โสภณพนิช; 陳有漢/陈有汉; Chen Youhan; Tan U-hang) (1931–; Chaoyang, Guangdong), CEO of Bangkok Bank
  • Krit Ratanarak (李智正; Li Zhizheng; Li Dizian) (–; Chenghai, Guangdong), CEO of Siam City Cement Public Company Limited and Bank of Ayudhya Public Company Limited
  • Singapore
  • Lien Ying Chow (連瀛洲/连瀛洲; Lian Yingzhou; Lian Yingzio) (1906–2004; Chaoyang, Guangdong), founder and CEO of Overseas Union Bank
  • Tang Choon Keng (董俊競/董俊竞; Dong Junjing; Dang Junggeng) (1901–2000; Shantou, Guangdong), founder of Tangs
  • Lim Nee Soon (林義順; Lin Yishun) (1879–1936; Shantou, Guangdong)
  • Lim Tau Yong (林道荣; Lin Daorong), millionaire founder of Emporium Holdings Singapore
  • Malaysia
  • Tan Sri William Cheng (鐘廷森/钟廷森; Zhong Tingsen; Tong Tingsiam) (Chaoyang, Guangdong), chairman of Lion Group and Parkson Retail Group
  • France
  • Tang Frères (陳氏兄弟, 陳克威陳克光; Chenshi Xiongdi, Chenkewei Chenkeguang; Tansi Hiandi, Tankiog-ui Tankiogguang) (Puning, Guangdong), founder and CEO of Tang Frères
  • United States
  • David Tran (陳德) (1945-, Chaozhou, Guangdong, born in Saigon), founder of Huy Fong Foods
  • Vietnam
  • Quách Đàm (郭琰) (1863–1927; Chaozhou, Guangdong), founder of Bình Tây Market, one of the most famous and important markets in Cholon and Saigon; one of the richest people in Indochina at that time
  • Tram Be (1959–; Chaoshan, Guangdong; born in Vietnam), founder of Trieu An Hospital in Saigon; one of the richest people in Vietnam
  • Film directors

  • Mainland China
  • Zheng Zhengqiu (鄭正秋/郑正秋; Dên Zianciu) (1888–1935; Chaoyang, Guangdong), director; his film Nan Fu Nan Qi (難夫難妻/难夫难妻; Nang Hu Nang Ci) was the first feature film in China's history
  • Cai Chusheng (蔡楚生; Cua Cosên) (1906–1968; Chaoyang, Guangdong), director; his film Yu Guang Qu (漁光曲/渔光曲; Heu Guang Kêg) received the first international film prize in China's history
  • Hong Kong
  • Ringo Lam (林嶺東/林岭东; Lin Lindong; Lim Lingdang) (1954–; Chaozhou, Guangdong), director
  • Herman Yau (邱禮濤/邱礼涛; Qiu Litao; Yau Loito) (1961–; Chaozhou, Guangdong), director
  • Literary figures and artists

    Mainland China
  • Da-Wen Sun (孫大文/孙大文) (Chaozhou, Guangdong), world authority in food engineering education and research
  • Xu Dishan (许地山) (1893–1941; Jieyang, Guangdong), philosopher
  • Hong Zicheng (洪子誠/洪子诚; Hong Zeshin) (1939–; Chaozhou, Guangdong), scholar in the field of the history of literature
  • Chen Pingyuan (陳平原/陈平原; Tan Pêngnguang) (1954–; Chaozhou, Guangdong), literary professor
  • Hong Kong
  • Tchan Fou-li (simplified Chinese: 陈复礼; traditional Chinese: 陳復禮; pinyin: Chen Fuli; 1916- ), founder of Chinese Photographic Association of Hong Kong and internationally known photographer
  • Zhao Tingyang (趙汀陽/赵汀阳; Dio Teng-iang) (1961–; Shantou, Guangdong), Chinese philosophy researcher
  • Jao Tsung-I (饒宗頤/饶宗颐; Rao Zongyi; Dziau Zong-i) (1917–; Chaozhou, Guangdong), Chinese scholar, poet, calligrapher and painter
  • Chua Lam (蔡澜/蔡瀾; Chai Lan; Cua Lam) (1941–; Chaozhou, Guangdong), columnist, food critic, and movie producer
  • Canada
  • Vincent Lam, born in Canada, novelist
  • United States
  • Wena Poon (方慧娜) (1974–), born in Singapore, novelist
  • Politicians

  • Alice Wong (黄陳小萍), Minister of State for Seniors; the first Chinese-Canadian woman sitting in Cabinet
  • Singapore
  • Tan Soo Khoon (1949–; Chaozhou, Guangdong; born in Singapore), former Speaker of the Parliament of Singapore
  • Lee Boon Yang, former Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts
  • Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister
  • Low Thia Khiang, Secretary-General, Workers’ Party, Member of Parliament for Aljunied
  • Lim Swee Say, Cabinet Minister in Prime Minister's Office
  • Lim Boon Heng, former Cabinet Minister
  • Baey Yam Keng, Member of Parliament, Tampines
  • Seng Han Thong, Member of Parliament, Yio Chu Kang
  • George Yeo, former Minister for Foreign Affairs (Singapore)
  • Teo Ser Luck, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and Ministry of Transport
  • Chiam See Tong, prominent Opposition Member of Parliament
  • Thailand
  • Banharn Silpa-archa, 21st Prime Minister of Thailand
  • Chamlong Srimuang, former Deputy Prime Minister and Governor of Bangkok
  • Pridi Banomyong, 7th Prime Minister of Thailand
  • Taksin the Great, the first and only monarch of Thonburi kingdom
  • Malaysia
  • Chua Jui Meng, former Minister of Health
  • Chua Soi Lek, former Minister of Health
  • Chua Tee Yong, Member of Parliament
  • Sportspeople

    Mainland China
  • Guo Weiyang (1988–; Shantou, Guangdong; born in Yuxi, Yunnan), gymnast, gold medalist at the 2012 Summer Olympics
  • Liao Lisheng (1993–; Jiexi, Guangdong), footballer, Chinese international team player
  • Lin Yue (1991–; Chaozhou, Guangdong), diver, gold medalist at the 2008 and 2016 Summer Olympics
  • Sun Shuwei (1976–; Jieyang, Guangdong), diver, gold medalist at the 1992 Summer Olympics
  • Zhang Yanquan (1994–; Chaozhou, Guangdong), diver, gold medalist at the 2012 Summer Olympics
  • United States
  • Michael Chang (1972–; Chaozhou, Guangdong; born in the United States), former professional tennis player
  • Singapore
  • Tan Howe Liang (1933–; Shantou, Guangdong), the first Singaporean Olympic individual silver medalist
  • Entertainers

    Mainland China
  • He Meitian (何美鈿/何美钿; He Meitian; Ho Muitiang) (1983–; Chaozhou, Guangdong), actress
  • Chen Chusheng (陳楚生/陈楚生; Tan Cosên) (1981–; Puning, Guangdong; born in Sanya, Hainan), singer
  • Chrissie Chau (周秀娜) (1985–; Chaozhou, Guangdong), actress and model
  • Hong Kong
  • Canti Lau (劉錫明/劉锡明; Liu Ximing; Liu Siahmêng) (1964–; Chaoyang, Guangdong; born in Hong Kong), actor and singer
  • Sammul Chan (陳鍵鋒/陈键锋; Chén Jiànfēng; Chan Gin-fung) (1978–; Chaozhou, Guangdong; born in Hong Kong), actor, singer
  • Emil Chau (周華健/周华健; Zhou Huajian; Chiu Hua-giang) (1960–; Chaoyang, Guangdong; born in Hong Kong), actor and singer
  • Matthew Ko (高鈞賢/高钧贤; Gao Junxian; Gao Jao-ghao) (1984–; Chaozhou, Guangdong; born in Hong Kong), model
  • Kwong Wa (江華/江华; Jiang Hua; Gang Hua) (1962–; Shantou, Guangdong; born in Hong Kong), actor and singer
  • Miriam Yeung (楊千嬅/杨千桦; Yang Qianhua; Yêng Cainhua) (1974–; Jieyang, Guangdong; born in Hong Kong), actress and singer
  • Sammi Cheng (鄭秀文/郑秀文; Zheng Xiuwen; Dên Siu-mung) (1972–; Chenghai, Guangdong; born in Hong Kong), actress and singer
  • Ada Choi (蔡少芬/蔡少芬; Cai Shaofen; Choi Siufun) (1973–; Chaoshan, Guangdong; born in Hong Kong), actress
  • Steven Ma (馬浚偉/马浚伟; Ma FengWei; Maa Zeonwai) (1971–; Chaozhou, Guangdong; born in Hong Kong), actor and singer
  • Stephen Wong Cheung-Hing (黃長興) (1978–; Shantou, Guangdong; born in Hong Kong), actor
  • Singapore
  • Zoe Tay (郑惠玉/鄭惠玉; Zhèng Huìyù; Jeng Wai Yuk) (1968–; Chaozhou, Guangdong; born in Singapore), actress
  • Chen Shucheng (陈澍承) (1949–;Chaoshan, Chaozhou; born in Singapore, actor
  • Chen Liping(陈莉萍) (1965–;Chaozhou, Guangdong; born in Singapore, actress
  • Huang Wenyong(黄文永),actor
  • Celest Chong (1973–; Chaozhou, Guangdong; born in Singapore), singer and actress
  • Stefanie Sun (孫燕姿/孙燕姿; Sun Yanzi; Sung Ince) (1978–; Chaozhou, Guangdong; born in Singapore), singer
  • Jessica Henwick (1992–; Chaozhou, Guangdong; born in United Kingdom), actress
  • South Korea
  • Moon Lau Hong Kong actress
  • Jang Yong (Korean: 張龍/장용; 張龍/张龙; Zhang Long; Dion Leng) (1945–; Chaozhou, Guangdong; born in South Korea), actor
  • Richard Be
  • Others

  • Limahong (林鳳/林凤; Lin Feng; Lim Hong) (15??–15??; Raoping, Chaozhou, Guangdong), pirate
  • Lê Văn Viễn (aka Bảy Viễn; Vien the seventh) (1904 – 1972; Chaozhou, Guangdong; born in Vietnam), leader of a powerful Vietnamese criminal organisation—Bình Xuyên Organisation
  • Somdet Phrachao Taksin Maharaj (Thai: สมเด็จพระเจ้าตากสินมหาราช) or Somdet Phrachao Krung Thonburi (Thai: สมเด็จพระเจ้ากรุงธนบุรี; Chinese: 鄭昭; pinyin: Zhèng Zhāo; Teochew: Dênchao) (1734–1782; Chenghai, Shantou, Guangdong; born in Thailand), former King of Thailand
  • Henry Lau (1989–; born in Canada), singer from Super Junior-M who is currently active in South Korea
  • Amber Liu (1992–; born in Los Angeles, California), singer from f(x) who is currently active in South Korea
  • Haing S. Ngor (1940–96); born in Samrong Yong, Cambodia. Khmer and partial Chinese Teochew, award winning actor.
  • References

    Teochew people Wikipedia

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