Lai (surname)

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Lai (赖)
PronunciationLài (Mandarin)
Lua, Nua, Nai, Loa (Hokkien)
Lai (Cantonese, Hakka)
Language(s)Middle Chinese

Lai (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Lài) is a common Chinese surname that is pronounced similarly in both Mandarin and Hakka dialect. The meaning of the character used in the Lai (賴) surname is "depend on; trust in; rely on".

It is also a Hokkien (Southern Fujian)/ Minnan (Southern Min) surname that is romanized as Lua, Nai or Nua. In Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines and other parts of South East Asia there are Lai migrants from southern Fujian Province who are usually surnamed Lua/ Luah, Loa (romanized from Hokkien / Minnan - Southern Min dialect) or Lye (romanized from Hakka dialect) for the Hakka dialect groups .

In Indonesia, most of the Indonesians of Chinese descent changed their surname to an Indonesian surname to comply with 'Cabinet Presidium Decision 127 of 1966' laws during President Suharto's despotic rule; however they usually change to surnames that has the same sound or a surname which contains a part of the original surname hence the Indonesia's Lai surname has evolved into Laya, Lais, Lasuki.


The Lais' ancestry were from the State of Lai (賴國) at the beginning of the ancient Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC).

Marquis Shu Ying (叔穎) was the 19th son of King Wen of Zhou ( widely considered to be the Founder of the ancient Zhou Dynasty), he was conferred the heritable title of Hou (侯) or Marquis to rule over a territory which is approximately in the northeast of the present day Baoxin town (包信鎮) in Xi Xian (息縣) of Henan province. This was the reward from King Wu of Zhou, his elder brother (the first King of Zhou Dynasty, reign 1046–1043 BC ) for his assistance in defeating King Zhou of Shang and thereby terminating the ancient Shang dynasty. Marquis Shu Ying named his domain the State of Lai.

Marquis Shu Ying and his succeeding descendants continued to rule the State of Lai well until the year 538 B.C when it was conquered by King Ling of Chu (reign 540 - 529 BC). Many Lais were dispersed to the south during their defeat by the Chu state; some changed their surname to escape persecution; as in the case of those who fled to the neighboring states of Luo (羅) and Fu (傅), some adopted the Luo (or Loh) or Fu (or Poh, Po) surname. (Because of this, the Lai, the Fu and the Luo are closely related).

Others migrated north and settled in Da Yan (Yanling in Henan). Most of them adopted the surname Lai (賴) to commemorate their old state.


The largest Lai (賴) clans are in China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines and Melbourne. Majority of the overseas Lai (賴) clans are of the Hakka people followed by the Hokkien/Minnan people.

According to the 2010 data, people who are surname Lai (賴) ranked 98th most populous in China; the total Lai (賴) population is approximately 0.18% or around 2.4 million people out of the China's population of 1.338 billion in 2010. In Taiwan people who are surname Lai (賴) is ranked 19th most populous in 2007.

Notable people surnamed Lai (賴)[edit]

Politicians and public office[edit]


Academics and literary[edit]

  • Loa Ho (賴和): Poet, medical doctor and anti-Japanese Occupation political activist. Hailed as the "Father of Modern Taiwanese Literature".

Entertainment and sports[edit]

  • Stan Lai: playwright and theater director
  • Lai Runming: 1984 Olympic Games, silver medalist in Men's 56 kg weightlifting
  • Lai Kuan-lin: Taiwanese singer and actor, former member of disbanded group WANNA ONE.
  • Lai Pei Jing: Malaysian professional badminton player, Gold medalist : Mixed team event at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Mixed team event at the Asian Junior Championships 2009.
  • Lai Meiyun: Chinese singer, S.I.N.G and Rocket Girls 101 member.

Other fields[edit]

  • Pinky Lai (賴平): Car designer; ex-chief designer with Porsche AG.
  • David Jung-Hsin Lai (賴榮信): Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Taiwan.
  • Lai Afong (赖阿芳): considered to be the most significant Chinese photographer of the nineteenth century.
  • Lai Ning (赖宁): teenager celebrated as a martyr after his death fighting a wildfire in China.

See also[edit]