History of Chen (1)
Around 1046 BC, a chieftain of the Zhou Clan (周) by the name of Ji Fa (姬發) won a decisive battle against the armies of the last Yin/Shang Dynasty (殷/商朝) (the latter part of Shang was renamed Yin) under emperor Zhou Wang (紂王) at a place called Muye (牧野) (Shepherd's Wild) in northern Henan Province (河南省) just south of the Yin (殷) capital of Anyang (安陽).
That was the beginning of one of the most illustrious dynasties of China, the Zhou Dynasty (周朝) and with its conquest came a vast empire which became quite a challenge to administer. Ji Fa assumed the dynastic title Wu Wang (武王) or Martial Emperor.
In order to administer the empire he had to rely on people he could trust and this immediately began with his children, relatives, comrades-at-arms, trusted associates, officials and so on, who would then be entrusted with the government at various levels and locations. They would periodically report back to him on the status of the empire.
During the search for relatives they found a descendant of Shundi (舜帝), one of the Five Sage emperors. Shundi was the 9th generation descendant of Huangdi which was also the lineage of Wu Wang. Shundi’s 34th generation descendant was a potter (like his father) by the name of Gui Man (媯滿) who was also an official with the title of marquis or Hou (侯) in the previous Shang court.
Wu Wang summoned Gui Man to the Zhou court to perform two edicts; he was conferred the inheritable title of marquis of Zhou and was enfeoffed to a feoff called Chen. In addition, Wu Wang also approved the marriage of his daughter, Tai Ji (太姬) to Gui Man, thus making him a son-in-law.
This was the beginning of a noble called Gui Man who with his wife came to reside at a place called Chen in Henan Province. In time the feoff of Chen was upgraded to a minor state, Chen Guo (陳國) which is today located in Huaiyang, Henan Province (河南省淮陽).
Here is an interesting tidbit about Chen Guo (陳國) during the latter part of its history. It was visited by the illustrous Chinese philosopher Confucius (Kong Zi [孔子]) (born: 552BC) on two occasions. His first visit was in late 495BC when he sojourned for about a year at the residence of the city wall warden (Sichengzhenzi [司城真子]). The following year, in 494BC Chen Guo (陳國) was attacked by the powerful warring Wu Guo (吳國), so he returned to Wei Guo (魏國) in present day Luoyang (洛陽) to the west. He returned again for the second time in 491BC and he left in 490BC for neighboring Cai Guo (蔡國) where he remained till 488BC. He never returned to Chen Guo (陳國) and later died in 479BC at the age of 73 years in Lu Guo (魯國) in Shandong Province (山東省). That was also the same year of the final demise of Chen Guo (陳國).
According to Chinese history, Chen Guo survived for 20 generations during which time there were 24 marquises and lasted for 588 years. It was destroyed and annexed by the State of Chu (楚國) in 479BC. Thereafter, the Gui (媯) royal family adopted Chen (陳) as their surname in remembrance of the loss of their Chen State (陳國). Thus, surname Chen only has a history of about 2500 years.
Thereafter, Gui Man was also posthumously named Chen Hugong (陳胡公) in remembrance of Chen Guo the place he ruled. Notice it contains the character Gong (公) which normally means “duke” but this title was only conferred upon immediate relatives and descendants of the royal family and not for distant relatives as was the case with Gui Man who was only a marquis (hou 侯) of Zhou State (周國). In this instance Gong was a posthumous title conferred upon the ruler of an enfeoffed minor state, in this case Chen State (陳國) akin to the English term "lord". As well Gong is also a term for "male" or “ancestor” as is often seen on tombstones, jiapus (家譜) and zupus (族譜).
This then was the beginning of the current Chen surname which was derived from the name of a place which in turn was named after Chen Feng who resided in this place originally called Wanqiu. Chen Hugong was therefore considered the first Chen clan ancestor or progenitor and the blood line came from surname Gui (媯).
Following the demise of Chen Guo (陳國), the remnants of the nobles and their families fled and scattered.