Mandarin (Pin yin)
Cantonese, Taishanese, Fujianese, Hakka
Hokkien, Teochew (Chiu Chow)
Oei, Oi, Ooi, Uy, Wee
Wong (Huang) is the 7th most common surname in China, and in particular, in South China. A population of more than 29 million (2000 estimate) it is also the name of more than 2 million overseas Chinese, many Vietnamese (Huynh) and an estimated 1 million Koreans (Hwang). As different regions of China and Asia pronounce characters (words) in their own dialects, we find different English transliterations of the Wong family name. As a result, we have the following dialect variants of the surname Wong:
As we review the many different spellings of the same phonetic version (eg. Wee = Ooi = Uy), we see another interesting aspect: the role of European colonization. The late Professor Emeritus, Dr. Edgar Wickberg, in his personal correspondence to me states:
“To me, the varying pronunciations of the surname are of particular interest. (for example) “Uy”… is pronounced “Wee”. But not spelled that way. When you see “Wee”, the person is probably from Singapore or Malaysia. If it’s “Uy”, then they’re from the Philippines. If you think Uy is not common, just look in the Vancouver phonebook.
The point is, although there is only one official romanization – Pin Yin – (for Chinese to English), there are all kinds of romanization practices used to fit local Chinese pronunciations into the pronunciations of local languages. Uy exists because it fits Spanish rules of pronunciation. “Oei” exists because it fits Dutch rules of pronunciation (from the time when the Dutch ruled Indonesia).
So colonialism gets into it, too!”
The family name Wong means “Yellow” in the Chinese language.
The colour yellow, in the Chinese mind, this colour relates to mother Earth. In fact, the Chinese character for Wong is based on parts that relate to this colour – in reviewing the derivative characters that form Wong , we see “Bright” (from the ancient form for the number twenty over the character for burning fires) + the character “farm fields” (square grid at center) inset between the characters “twenty” (the ‘crown’) and “fire” (two strokes at ‘base’).