By Yi (Julian) Cao, Medill, Immigrant Connect
[See main story-New blood: The future of Chicago’s Chinese community]
The surname of Lee, according to legend, originated from the famous Chinese philosopher, Laozi, who founded Taoism. Originally from the northwestern and central part of China, the surname of Lee spread across China over dynasties because of warfare and natural disasters. The Mongol invasion of China in the 13th century caused widespread depopulation of northern China, and Lee was hit especially hard. Many Lee people migrated to southern part of China during this period.
The Lee family that founded the Lee Association of Chicago is from the southern province of Canton, in China (the Ling-Nan Lee Family), which can be traced back to the Song Dynasty. The family pedigree in the Chicago Lee Family Association marks the first generations of Ling-Nan Lee Family, originated from sons of madams Chen and Zhu, wives of the oldest Lee. The heyday for the surname of Lee may have been in the Tang Dynasty, during which the royal family’s surname was Lee.
According to the sixth national census, Lee is the most common surname in the People’s Republic of China. It is the fifth most common last name in Taiwan and the second most common last name in South Korea. There are more than one hundred million people with the surname of Lee around the world. The surname of Lee comprises 7.19 percent of China’s total population, with the province of He-nan having the largest Lee population.