Teochew people

The Teochew people or Chaoshan people (rendered Têo-Swa in romanized Teoswa and Chaoshan in Standard Chinese also known as Teo-Swa in mainland China due to a change in place names[1]) is anyone native to the historical Chaoshan region in south China[2] who speak the Teo-Swa Min (Chaoshan) language (typified by the Chaozhou dialect). Today, most Chaoshan people live throughout Chaoshan and Hong Kong, and also outside China in Southeast Asia, including in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The community can also be found in diasporas around the world, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and France.

Teochew people/Chaoshan people
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Mainland China10 million
 Hong KongMinority population
 ThailandLargest group of Thai Chinese
 CambodiaLargest group of Chinese Cambodians (~200,000)
 SingaporeOne of the three largest groups of Chinese Singaporeans
 MyanmarOne of the three largest groups of Burmese Chinese
 MalaysiaOne of the largest groups of Chinese Malaysians
 IndonesiaOne of the largest groups of Chinese Indonesians
 VietnamOne of the largest groups of Hoa people
 LaosOne of the largest groups of Laotian Chinese
 PhilippinesMinority population
 United StatesMinority population
 CanadaMinority population
 AustraliaMinority population
 New ZealandMinority population
 FranceMost Chinese from France are of Teochew background
 TaiwanFull assimilation into Hoklo Taiwanese society
Chaoshan Min, Standard Chinese, Thai, English, other languages of their countries of residence
Predominantly Chinese folk religions (including Taoism, Confucianism, ancestral worship and others), Protestant, Mahayana Buddhism.
Teochew people


Chaoshan can be romanized in a variety of schemes, and are known in Mandarin as Cháoshan rén and in Cantonese as Chiushan yan. In referring to themselves as ethnic Chinese, Chaoshan people generally use Deung nang (Chinese: 唐人; pinyin: Tángrén; lit. 'Tang Dynasty people'), as opposed to Hang nang (simplified Chinese: 汉人; traditional Chinese: 漢人; pinyin: Hànrén; lit. 'Han Dynasty people').

Chaoshan people of the diaspora would generally use ting nang (Chinese: 唐人; pinyin: tangrén) to indicate Chinese heritage in a cultural sense. tingnang and tangren are broadly used by most of the southern Chinese people living outside of China, referring to their maintaining a substantial cultural identity they consider to be Chinese. The identification of "tingnang" could perhaps be due to their early affiliation with the Tang dynasty. The Teochew people are those who speak the Teochew dialect and identify with Teochew culture, cuisine, and customs.

Teochew people also commonly refer to each other as ga gi nang (Chinese: 家己人; pinyin: Jiājǐrén; lit. 'our own people').


The ancestors of the Chaoshan people moved to present-day Chaoshan as refugees possibly from central China due to various reasons.[3] The Teochews were often called Fulao (Hoklo) because they came mostly passed through Fujian during migration, with some well-maintained language and customs from ancient China.[4] As was recorded in pedigrees and ancient inscriptions, one of the two groups of those who temporarily migrated to the capital city of Fujian later moved to parts of Chaoshan instead in batches during the Tang Dynasty, genetically intermixing with the local people within Chaoshan there.[5]

The Chaoshan people are mistakenly known to the Cantonese as "Hoklo", literally meaning "men of Fujian", although the term "Teochew" was used in the Straits Settlements in the 19th century and early 20th century. "Teochew" is derived from Teochew prefecture (Chaozhou Fu) the departmental city where they originate.[6]

Teochew immigration to Singapore

Teochew Association in Muar, Johor, Malaysia.

From the 19th century, significant numbers of Teochew people left their homeland for Singapore and a new life.[7] 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 from the port of Swatow (Shantou), Teochew immigrants from Siam and the Riau Islands also began settling in Singapore after 1819.[8]

Today, Teochew is the second-most spoken Chinese dialect in Singapore.[9] They are the second-largest Chinese dialect group in Singapore, comprising 21% of the Chinese population. As a result, they play a significant role in commerce and politics.

Teochew in Taiwan

Most of the Teochew descendants in Taiwan have already been "hokkienized" ("hoklonized"). They speak the Taiwanese Hokkien language instead of Teochew,[10] but some Teochew are still in Chaozhou township, in Pingtung County.

A 1926 Japanese census found that 134,800 people in Taiwan were of Teochew ancestry.[11]


Chaozhou opera

Throughout a history of over 1000 years, the region of Chaoshan, known in ancient times as Teochew Prefecture, has developed and cultivated a prestigious culture, which manifests its unique characteristics in language, opera, cuisine, tea practice, music, and embroidery.

The Teochew language (simplified Chinese: 潮州话; traditional Chinese: 潮州話) is spoken by roughly 10 million people in Chaoshan and more than five million outside the Chinese mainland.

Chaoshan cuisine is known for its distinctive sauces, seafood dishes, and stews.

Teochew opera (Chinese: 潮劇) is a traditional art form, which has a history of more than 500 years and is now enjoyed 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 distinctive features. Clowns and females are the most distinctive characters in Teochew opera, and fan play and acrobatic skills are prominent.

Teochew music (Chinese: 潮州音樂) is popular 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 Drum and Wind Music form of the Han and Tang dynasties.

Teochew woodcarving (Chinese: 潮州木雕) is a form of Chinese woodcarving originating from Chaoshan. Teochew people used a great deal of Teochew wood carving in their buildings.

Yingge dance

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

Although few movies or television dramas have been made about the Teochew people, one such notable drama is the Singaporean 1995 drama series The Teochew Family. In 2019, Netflix released the documentary series Flavorful Origins, which focused on Teochew cuisine.

Notable Teochew people


Cabinet ministry

  • Bhichai Rattakul (陳裕財), President of the National Assembly, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand.
  • Chumpol Silpa-archa, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, Minister of Tourism and Sports, Minister of Education.
  • Kalaya Sophonpanich (龍宛虹), Minister of Science and Technology of Thailand.[13]
  • Korn Dabbaransi, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, Minister of Office of the Prime Minister, Minister of Science and Technology, Minister of Public Health, Minister of Industry.
  • Bhichit Rattakul, Governor of Bangkok.
  • Alice Wong, Minister of Business, Minister of Seniors of Canada.
  • Lim Boon Heng (林文興), Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Minister without portfolio.
  • Lim Swee Say (林瑞生), Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Minister for Manpower, Minister for the Environment of Singapore.
  • Teo Chee Hean (張志賢), Senior Minister of Singapore, Coordinating Minister for National Security, Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, Minister for Education, Minister for Defence.
  • Tan Soo Khoon (陳樹群), Speaker of the Parliament of Singapore.
  • Varawut Silpa-archa, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Thailand.
  • Koh Poh Koon (许宝琨), Senior Minister for Environment, Manpower, Trade and Industry of Singapore.


Business and Entrepreneur

  • Chin Sophonpanich (陳弼臣), founded Bangkok Bank and Bangkok Insurance.[14]
  • Vincent Lo (羅康瑞), founder and chairman of Shui On Group.
  • Lim Por-yen (林百欣), founded the Lai Sun Group.
  • Goh Cheng Liang, Billionaire businessman, founded Wuthelam Holdings, which manufactures paint and coatings.[15]
  • Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi (蘇旭明), Billionaire, founder of Thai Beverage, and the chairman of conglomerates TCC Group and Fraser and Neave.
  • Krit Ratanarak (李智正), chairman of Bangkok Broadcasting & Television Company.
  • Joseph Lau (劉鑾雄), founder, chairman and CEO of Chinese Estates Group.
  • Thomas Lau (劉鑾鴻), CEO of Lifestyle International Holdings which operates Hong Kong's largest department, Sogo Hong Kong.
  • Peter Lam (林建岳), Billionaire and Chairman of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.
  • Chartsiri Sophonpanich (陳智深), President of Bangkok Bank.
  • Ma Huateng (馬化騰), one of the top ten richest man in the world, with estimated net worth of US$55.3 billion. He is the founder, chairman and CEO of Tencent.
  • Thapana Sirivadhanabhakdi, CEO and president of ThaiBev.

Actors and singers

See also


  1. 10 Things You Must Know As A Teochew. The Teochew Store.
  2. "Map of China showing location of Chaoshan region" via ResearchGate.
  3. Genetic background associated with related populations at high risk for esophageal cancer between Chaoshan and Taihang Mountain areas in China (PDF), ScienceDirect, 2007, pp. 474–480
  4. 蔡, 金河 (2007), "由民俗活动看潮汕文化对中华传统文化的传承", 广东史志·视窗年 第6期 (6): 71–73.
  5. 广东潮州人的祖先来自福建?
  6. Kingsley Bolton, Christopher Hutton, Triad societies: western accounts of the history, sociology and linguistics of Chinese secret societies, p. 93.
  7. Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan (2010). 潮州八邑会馆与義安公司的历史渊源. Archived 12 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 18 January 2010
  8. Conceicao, Jeanne, Teochew Community, Singapore Government
  9. Conceicao, Jeanne, Teochew Community, Singapore Government
  10. "「消失」的族群?南臺灣屏東地區廣東福佬人的身分與認同". 中央研究院臺灣史研究所臺灣史研究集刊 (in Chinese). 20 (1). 2013.
  11. Taiwan Sotoku Kanbo Chosaka (1928). 台灣在籍漢民族鄉貫別調查 [Investigation of the regions of origin of Han people in Taiwan]. Taihoku-shi (Taipei): Taiwan Sotoku Kanbo Chosaka.
  12. Close bond with China inherited from ancestors
  13. "泰国民主党副党首龙宛虹来溆寻根_溆浦党建网".
  14. Chew, Melanie (29 July 2015). Leaders of Singapore. ISBN 9789814719452.
  15. "Singapore's newest billionaire made his wealth from nothing". 23 September 2013.
  16. "Actor Chen Shucheng Opens Teochew Restaurant Serving "Hard-To-Find Traditional Dishes"".
  17. "Tan Kheng Hua talks parenting and being parented in Singapore". 21 September 2018.

References and further reading

  • Gia Lim Tan, "Origins," An Introduction to the Culture and History of the Teochews in Singapore," ISBN 9813239352 World Scientific, 2018. doi:10.1142/10967
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