THERE are an estimated 4.1 million people surnamed Fang in China, ranked 63rd in terms of population. Fangs account for about 0.33 percent of the total population.
There are generally four major sources of Fang as a family name. One is derived from a descendant of the Yan Emperor in primitive times. His name was Lei and he was given the land of Mount Fang. Some of his offsprings took Lei as surname while others took Fang.
A second big branch of Fang originated from the family of Ji. An officer named Ji Fangshu of Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC) was granted the land of Luo for defeating the tribes in south. His offspring then took Fang as surname.
Another branch was born relatively late in Song Dynasty (AD 960-1279). A man named Weng Qiandu in Quanzhou of Fujian Province had six sons, all of whom made jinshi, the highest degree at the imperial examination. Weng told each of his sons to choose another surname and start a new prosperous family of their own. Fang was one of the surnames chosen.
There are also Fangs in minority groups like Manchu, Mongolian, Dai, Hui, Tujia, Korean and Gaoshan.
The Fang families mainly originated from Henan Province and moved to north Anhui Province by the end of Western Han Dynasty (206 BC–AD 24). Their traces were found in most parts of China during Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). The number of Fangs in Anhui today accounts for 15 percent of the total population of Fang, ranking right at the top.
In late Ming and early Qing dynasties, the family of Fangs headed by Fang Yizhi in Tongcheng of Anhui Province initiated the Yi school which advocates combination of philosophy and science, Chinese and Western achievements, metaphysics and practical studies.
It was said to be the second most influential scholarly families in ancient China, next to the Kong (Confucius) family in Shandong Province.