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Tianchao Daguo

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Tianchao Daguo

In China, common names for China include Zhongguo (中国/中國) and Zhonghua (中华/中華), while Han (/) and Tang () are common names given for the Chinese ethnicity. Other names include Huaxia, Shenzhou and Jiuzhou. The People's Republic of China (Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó) and Republic of China (Zhōnghuá Mínguó) are the official names for the two contemporary sovereign states currently claiming sovereignty over the traditional area of China. "Mainland China" is used to refer to areas under the jurisdiction by the PRC usually excluding Hong Kong and Macau.

In other parts of the world, many names of China exist, mainly transliterations of the dynasties "Qin" or "Jin" (e.g. China, Sino), and Han or Tang. There are also names for China based on a certain ethnic group other than Han, much like the Western rendering of all Arabs as "Saracens". Examples include "Cathay" based on the Khitan and "Tabgach" based on the Tuoba.

Sinitic names

In mainland China, the term Zhongguo is used to refer to all territories claimed by the PRC, including mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

Zhonghua is a more literary term sometimes used synonymously with Zhongguo; it appears in the official names of both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China. Tang is used among southern Chinese, though some restrict the term further to refer to just the Cantonese or some other south Chinese language group.

Zhongguo and Zhonghua

Zhongguo is the most common name for China. The first character zhōng (中) means "central" or "middle," while guó (國/国) means "state" or "states," and in modern times, "nation." The term in ancient usage referred to the “Central States” of the period before the unification of the empire; the connotation was the primacy of a culturally distinct core area, centered on the Yellow River valley, as distinguished from the tribes of the periphery.[1] In earlier times, however, Zhongguo was not used in this sense; rather, the country was called by the name of the dynasty, such as "The Great Ming," "The Great Qing," as the case might be. The term is often translated as "Middle Kingdom" or "Central Kingdom."

The term "zhōngguó" first appeared in text form in the Classic of History as the name for "the centre of civilization" or "Tianxia", depending on the interpretation.[2] The first appearance of (中國) in an artifact was in the Western Zhou vessel He zun.[3]

The general concept of the term "zhōngguó" originated from the belief that the Zhou Dynasty was the "center of civilization" or "center of the world." However, there are different uses of the term "zhōngguó" in every period. It could refer to the guó (capital) of the Emperor, to distinguish from the guó of his vassals, as in Western Zhou; or it could refer to states in the central plain, to distinguish from states in outer regions. By the Han Dynasty, three usages of "Zhōngguó" are common. The Book of Poetry explicitly defines "Zhōngguó" as the capital; the Records of the Grand Historian uses the concept zhong to indicate the center of civilization: "Eight famous mountains are there in Tianxia. Three are in Man and Yi. Five are in Zhōnghuá." The Records of the Three Kingdoms uses the concept of the central states in "Zhōnghuá", or the states in "Zhōnghuá" which is the center, depending on the interpretation. It records the following exhortation: "If we can lead the host of Wu and Yue to oppose Zhōngguó, then let us break off relations with them soon." In this sense, the term Zhōngguó is synonymous with Zhōnghuá (中华/中華) and HuáXià (华夏/華夏), a name for "China" that comes from the Xia Dynasty.

During the middle period (8th - 15th century) literati began to discuss “Zhong guo” (here best translated as “the central country”) as both an historical place or territory and as a culture, a different sense from the modern use of Zhongguo as "China." Writers of this period used the term to express opposition to the expansionist foreign policies that incorporated outsiders into the empire. In contrast foreign conquerors typically avoided discussions of “Zhong guo” and instead defined membership in their empires to include both Han and non-Han peoples.[5]

Zhongguo appears in a formal government document for the first time in the Qing dynasty Treaty of Nerchinsk, 1689 and the term was used in communications with other states and in treaties. The Manchu rulers incorporated inner Asian polities into their empire, and Wei Yuan, a statecraft scholar, distinguished the new territories from Zhongguo, which he defined as the 17 provinces of “China proper” plus the Manchu homelands in the Northeast. By the 19th century the term had emerged as a common name for the whole country. The empire was sometimes referred to as Great Qing but increasingly as Zhongguo (see the discussion below).[6]

In the late 19th century the reformer Liang Qichao argued in a famous passage that "our greatest shame is that our country has no name. The names that people ordinarily think of, such as Xia, Han, or Tang, are all the titles of bygone dynasties." He argued that the other countries of the world "all boast of their own state names, such as England and France, the only exception being the Central States." [7] The Japanese term "Shina" was proposed as a basically neutral Western-influenced equivalent for "China." Liang and Chinese revolutionaries, such as Sun Yat-sen, who both lived extensive periods in Japan, used Shina extensively, and it was used in literature as well as by ordinary Chinese. But with the overthrow of the Qing in 1911, most Chinese dropped Shina as foreign and demanded that even Japanese replace it with Zhonghua minguo or simply Zhongguo.[8] Liang went on to argue that the concept of tianxia had to be abandoned in favor of guojia, that is, "nation," for which he accepted the term Zhongguo.[9] After the founding of the Chinese Republic in 1912, Zhongguo was also adopted as the abbreviation of Zhonghua minguo.[10]

In the 20th century after the May Fourth Movement, educated students began to spread the concept of Zhōnghuá (中华/中華), which represented the people, including 56 minority ethnic groups and the Han Chinese, with a single culture identifying themselves as "Chinese". The Republic of China and the People's Republic of China both used the title "Zhōnghuá" in their official names. Thus, "Zhōngguó" became the common name for both governments. Overseas Chinese are referred to as huaqiao (华侨/華僑), literally "Chinese overseas", or huayi (华裔/華裔), literally "Chinese descendant" (i.e., Chinese children born overseas).

Some Western writers use the translation "middle kingdom" or "central kingdom" to imply that China has a deeply rooted self-centered psychology as the center of the universe. Endymion Wilkinson denies that the Chinese were unique in thinking of their country as central, although China was the only culture to use the concept for their name.[11] Regarding the accuracy of the translation, Professor Chen Jian writes: "I believe that 'Central Kingdom' is a more accurate translation for 'Zhong Guo' (China) than 'Middle Kingdom'. The term 'Middle Kingdom' does not imply that China is superior to other peoples and nations around it — China just happens to be located in the middle geographically; the term 'Central Kingdom', however, implies that China is superior to any other people and nation 'under the heaven' and that it thus occupies a 'central' position in the known universe." [12]

"Zhōngguó" in different languages
  • Czech: Říše středu (literally: "The Empire of the Center")
  • Dutch: Middenrijk (literally: "Middle Empire")
  • Finnish: Keskustan valtakunta (literally: "The State of the Center")
  • French: Empire du Milieu (literally: "Middle Empire")
  • German: Reich der Mitte(literally: "Middle Empire")
  • Hmong: Suav Teb, Roob Kub, Tuam Choj, 中國. literally: Land of China, The Golden Throne, (Land of the)Stepped Bridge.
  • Indonesian: Tiongkok (from Tiong-kok, the Hokkien name for China)
  • Italian: Impero di Mezzo (literally: "Middle Empire")
  • Japanese: Chūgoku (中国; ちゅうごく)
  • Kazakh: Juñgo (جۇڭگو)
  • Korean: Jungguk, Chungguk (중국; 中國)
  • Li: Dongxgok
  • Polish: Państwo Środka
  • Russian: Срединное Царство (Sredínnoye Tsárstvo) (literary: "Middle Empire"); Поднебесная (Podnebésnaya) - related to 天下 (Tiānxià).
  • Swedish: Mittens rike (literally: State of the Middle)
  • Tibetan: Krung-go ()
  • Uyghur: Junggo ()
  • Vietnamese: Trung Quốc (中國)
  • Zhuang: Cunghgoz (older orthography: Cungƅgoƨ)
"Zhōnghuá" in different languages
  • Indonesian: Tionghoa (from Tiong-hôa, the Hokkien counterpart)
  • Japanese: Chūka (中華; ちゅうか)
  • Korean: Junghwa, Chunghwa (중화; 中華)
  • Kazakh: Juñxwa (حالىق)
  • Li: Dongxhwax
  • Manchu: ᠵᡠᠩᡥᡡᠸᠠ (Junghūwa)
  • Zhuang: Cunghvaz (Old orthography: Cuŋƅvaƨ)
  • Tibetan: (krung hwa)
  • Uyghur: (Jungxua)
  • Vietnamese: Trung Hoa (中華)


The name Han (漢/汉; pinyin: hàn) comes from the Han Dynasty, who presided over China's first "golden age". During the Sixteen Kingdoms and Southern and Northern Dynasties periods, various non-Chinese ethnic groups invaded from the north and conquered areas of North China, which they held for several centuries. It was during this period that people began to use the term "Han" to refer to the natives of North China, who (unlike the invaders) were the descendants of the subjects of the Han Dynasty.

During the Yuan Dynasty Mongolian rulers divided people into four classes: Mongolians, "Color-eyeds", Hans, and "Southerns". Northern Chinese were called Han, which was considered to be the highest class of Chinese. This class "Han" includes all ethnic groups in northern China including Khitan and Jurchen who have in most part sinicized during the last two hundreds years. The name "Han" became popularly accepted.

During the Qing Dynasty, the Manchu rulers also used the name Han to distinguish the local Chinese from the Manchus. After the fall of the Qing government, the Han became the name of a nationality within China.

Today the term "Han Persons", often rendered in English as Han Chinese, is used by the People's Republic of China to refer to the most populous of the 56 officially recognized ethnic groups of China. The "Han Chinese" are simply referred to as "Chinese" by some.


The name Tang (; pinyin: táng; Jyutping: tong4) comes from the Tang Dynasty (唐朝), who presided over China's second golden age. It was during the Tang Dynasty that South China was finally and fully Sinicized; hence it is usually South Chinese who refer to themselves as "Tang". For example, Chinatowns worldwide are usually referred to generally as Tong-yan-gaai/Tng-lang-kay (唐人街; pinyin: tángrénjiē), or "Street of Tang People", while China is called Tong-saan/Tng-sua (唐山), or "Tang Mountain".

Among Taiwanese, Tangshan has been used, for example, in the saying, "has Tangshan father, no Tangshan mother" (有唐山公、無唐山媽). This refers how the Han people crossing the Taiwan Strait in the 17th and 18th centuries were mostly men, and that many of their offspring would be through marriage with Taiwanese aborigine women.

  • Ryukyuan: 唐ぬ国 tō-nu-kuku, the Ryukyuan name for China


Main article: Huaxia

The name Huaxia (华夏/華夏; pinyin: huáxià), generally used as a sobriquet in Chinese text, is the combination of two words:

  • Hua which means "the beautiful " (有服饰之美曰之华).
  • Xia which means "the civilized" or “grandiose”(有礼仪之大谓之夏).

These two terms originally referred to the elegance of the traditional customs of the Han Chinese (汉服 Han Fu) and the confucian concept of rituals (礼)

Tianxia and Tianchao

Main article: All under heaven

Tianxia (天下; pinyin: Tiānxià) literally means "under heaven"; and Tianchao (天朝) means "Heavenly Dynasty". These terms were usually used in the context of civil wars or periods of division, in which whoever ends up reunifying China is said to have ruled Tianxia, or everything under heaven. This fits with the traditional Chinese theory of rulership in which the emperor was nominally the political leader of the entire world and not merely the leader of a nation-state within the world.


Jiangshan (江山; pinyin: Jiāngshān) literally means "Rivers and mountains". This term is quite similar in usage to Tianxia, and simply refers to the entire world, and here the most prominent features of which being rivers and mountains. Use of this term is also common as part of the phrase "designing rivers and mountains" meaning maintaining and improving government and policy in the world.


Main article: Jiuzhou

The name Jiuzhou (九州; pinyin: jiǔ zhōu) means "nine domains". Widely used in pre-modern Chinese text, the word originated during the middle of Warring States period of China. During that time, the Huang He river region was divided into nine geographical regions; thus this name was coined. (Consult Zhou for more information.)


This name means Divine Land (神州; pinyin: Shénzhōu) and comes from the same period as Jiuzhou. It was thought that the world was divided into nine major states, one of which is Shenzhou, which is in turn divided into nine smaller states, one of which is Jiuzhou mentioned above.


This name, Four Seas (四海; pinyin: sìhǎi), is sometimes used to refer to the world, or simply China, which is perceived as the civilized world. It came from the ancient notion that the world is flat and surrounded by sea.

Dalu and Neidi

Dalu (大陆/大陸; pinyin: dàlù), literally "mainland" in this context. It is used as a short form of Zhōnggúo Dàlù (中国大陆/中國大陸, Mainland China), excluding (depending on the context) Hong Kong and Macau, and/or Taiwan. This term is used in official context in both the mainland and Taiwan, when referring to the mainland as opposed to Taiwan. In certain contexts, it is equivalent to the term Neidi (内地; pinyin: nèidì, literally "the interior"). While Neidi generally refers to the interior as opposed to a particular coastal or border location, or the coastal or border regions generally, it is used in Hong Kong specifically to mean mainland China excluding Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Increasingly, it is also being used in an official context within mainland China, for example in reference to the separate judicial and customs jurisdictions of mainland China on the one hand and Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan on the other.

Official names

People's Republic of China

The name New China has been frequently applied to China by the Communist Party of China as a positive political and social term contrasting pre-1949 China (the establishment of the PRC) and the new socialist state. This term is also sometimes used by writers outside mainland China. The PRC was known to many in the West during the Cold War as "Communist China" or "Red China" to distinguish it from the Republic of China which is commonly called "Taiwan", "Nationalist China" or "Free China". In some contexts, particularly in economics, trade, and sports, "China" is often used to refer to mainland China to the exclusion of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. In reporting by western news services, "China" typically refers to the People's Republic of China including Hong Kong and Macau, particularly when reporting politics. The official name of the People's Republic of China in various official languages and scripts:

Other languages:

  • Arabic: جمهورية الصين الشعبية (Jumhūriyyah al-Sīn al-Sha'bīyah)
  • Bengali: গণপ্রজাতন্ত্রী চীন Gônoprojatontrī Chīn (People's Republic of China) or গণচীন GônoChīn (People's China)
  • Bishnupriya Manipuri: গণচীনর জাতীয় ফিরালহান
  • Burmese: တရုတ်ပြည်သူ့သမ္မတနိုင်ငံ
  • Catalan: República Popular de la Xina
  • Czech: Čínská lidová republika
  • Danish: Folkerepublikken Kina
  • Dutch: Volksrepubliek China
  • Esperanto: Popolrespubliko de Ĉinio
  • Estonian: Hiina Rahvavabariik
  • Filipino: Republikang Popular ng Tsina
  • Finnish: Kiinan kansantasavalta
  • French: République populaire de Chine
  • Gaelic: Daon-Phoblacht na Síne
  • German: Volksrepublik China
  • Greek: Λαϊκή Δημοκρατία της Κίνας (Laïki Dimokratía tis Kínas)
  • Hebrew: הרפובליקה העממית של סין (HaRepublikah Ha'ammit shel Sin)
  • Hindi: चीनी जनवादी गणराज्य Chīnī Janvādī Gaņarājya
  • Hungarian: Kínai Népköztársaság
  • Indonesian language: Republik Rakyat Tiongkok (also for commonly use Republik Rakyat Cina, the latter also used in Malaysia)
  • Icelandic: Alþýðu-Lýðveldið Kína
  • Italian: Repubblica popolare cinese
  • Japanese: 中華人民共和国 (Kana: ちゅうかじんみんきょうわこく; Romaji: Chūka Jinmin Kyōwakoku)
  • Khmer: សាធារណរដ្ឋប្រជាមានិតចិន (Sathearanakroth Prorcheaminet Chen)
  • Kirghiz: Kıtay El Respublikası
  • Latvian Ķīnas Tautas Republika
  • Lithuanian Kinijos liaudies respublika
  • Macedonian: Народна Република Кина (Narodna Republika Kina)
  • Novial: Populen Republike de China
  • Persian: جمهوری خلق چین (Jomhuri-ye khalq-e Chin)
  • Polish: Chińska Republika Ludowa (abbreviation: ChRL)
  • Romanian: Republica Populară Chineză
  • Russian: Китайская народная республика (abbreviation: КНР, Kitaiskaya Narodnaya Respublika)
  • Serbian: Народна Република Кина (Narodna Republika Kina)
  • Slovak: Čínska ľudová republika
  • Slovenian: Ljudska republika Kitajska
  • Spanish: República Popular de China
  • Swahili: Jamhuri ya Watu wa China ( Uchina )
  • Swedish: Folkrepubliken Kina
  • Tajik: Ҷумҳурии Халқии Чин (Jumhurii Khalqii Chin)
  • Tatar: Kıtay Xalık Cömhüriyaten
  • Thai: สาธารณรัฐประชาชนจีน (RTGS: Satharanarat Pracha Chon Chin; "People's Republic of China")
  • Turkish: Çin Halk Cumhuriyeti
  • Ukrainian: Китайська народна республіка (abbreviation: КНР, Kitais"ka Narodna Respublika)
  • Urdu: عوامی جمہوریہ چین
  • Uzbek: Xitoy Xalq Respublikasi
  • Vietnamese: Cộng Hòa Nhân Dân Trung Hoa
  • Welsh: Tsieina
  • Yiddish: מענטשנ'ס רעפובליק פון כינע

Republic of China

Since its founding in 1912, the Republic of China, or ROC, has sometimes been referred to as "Republican China" or "Republican Era"(民國時代), in contrast to the empire it replaced, or as "Nationalist China"(guomin zengfu), after the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang). 中華 (Zhonghua) is "China," or "Chinese"; "民国" (mínguó), "republic" literally is "people's country" . The modern term "Zhongguo" is an abbreviation of "Zhonghua Minguo." [13] With the separation from mainland China in 1949 as a result of the Chinese Civil War, the territory of the Republic of China has largely been confined to the island of Taiwan and other small islands. Thus, the country is often commonly referred to as simply "Taiwan", although this may not be perceived as politically neutral. (See Taiwan Independence.) Amid the hostile rhetoric of the Cold War, the government and its supporters sometimes referred to itself as "Free China" or "Liberal China", in contrast to People's Republic of China.

The official name of the Republic of China in various languages

  • Traditional Chinese 中華民國 (pinyin: Zhōnghuá Mínguó; zhuyin: ㄓㄨㄥ ㄏㄨㄚˊ ㄇㄧㄣˊ ㄍㄨㄛˊ) - Official language and script
  • Simplified Chinese: 中华民国 (pinyin: Zhōnghuá Mínguó)
  • Japanese: Chūka Minkoku (中華民国?)
  • Korean: 中華民國 중화민국 Junghwa Minguk
  • Bengali: চীন প্রজাতন্ত্র Chīn Projatôntro
  • Catalan: República de la Xina
  • Estonian: Hiina Vabariik
  • French: République de Chine
  • German: Republik China
  • Hebrew: הרפובליקה הסינית
  • Lithuanian: Kinijos Respublika (also: Taivanis, Formoza)
  • Mongolian: Бүгд Найрамдах Хятад Улс (Official in the State of Mongolia), ᠪᠦᠭᠦᠳᠡ ᠨᠠᠶᠢᠷᠠᠮᠳᠠᠬᠤ ᠳᠤᠮᠳᠠᠳᠤ ᠤᠯᠤᠰ (Official in Inner Mongolia)
  • Macedonian: Република Кина (Republika Kina)
  • Polish: Republika Chińska
  • Serbian: Република Кина (Republika Kina)
  • Spanish: República China
  • Swedish: Republiken Kina
  • Vietnamese: Trung Hoa Dân Quốc (中華民國)

Names in non-Chinese records

Names used in the rest of Asia, especially East and Southeast Asia, are usually derived directly from words in a language of China learned through the land-route. Those languages belonging to a former dependency (tributary) or Chinese-influenced country have an especially similar pronunciation to that of Chinese. Those used in Indo-European languages, however, have indirect names that came via the sea-route and bear little resemblance to what is used in China.

First appeared before the Common Era


This is the word for China used in Middle Persian (Chīnī چین), derived form Sanskrit Cīnāh (चीन).[14] The modern word "China" originated with Portuguese explorers of the 16th century and is derived from this usage.[15]

Seres (Σηρες)

Main article: Seres

Seres (Σῆρες) was the ancient Greek and Roman name for the northwestern part of China and its inhabitants. It meant "of silk," or "land where silk comes from." The name is thought to derive from the Chinese word for silk, "si" (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: ). It is itself at the origin of the Latin for silk, "serica". See the main article Seres for more details.


An earlier usage than Sin, possibly related.

This may be a back formation from serikos (σηρικος), "made of silk", from sêr (σηρ), "silkworm," in which case Seres is "the land where silk comes from."


A name possibly of origin separate from Chin.

  • Arabic: Ṣin صين
  • French/English (prefix of adjectives): Sino- (i.e. Sino-American), Sinitic (the Chinese language family).
  • Hebrew: סין
  • Latin: Sinæ

Whether the name mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in Genesis 10:17, where it is said that the Sinites are descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham, is the same word for Chinese is debatable.

It's thought that this term may have come to Europe through the Arabs, who made the China of the farther east into Sin, and perhaps sometimes into Thin. Hence the Thin of the author of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, who appears to be the first extant writer to employ the name in this form; hence also the Sinæ and Thinae of Ptolemy.

Some denied that Ptolemy's Sinæ really represented the Chinese. But if we compare the statement of Marcianus of Heraclea (a condenser of Ptolemy), when he tells us that the "nations of the Sinae lie at the extremity of the habitable world, and adjoin the eastern Terra incognita," with that of Cosmas Indicopleustes, who says, in speaking of Tzinista, a name understood as referring to China, that "beyond this there is neither habitation nor navigation", it seems probable that the same region is meant by both. Ptolemy's misrendering of the Indian Sea as a closed basin—i.e., placing the Chinese coast along its eastern boundary—should not necessarily be seen as a counterargument, as also he described what is unmistakably India with similarly erroneous geography. Most scholars still believe Sinæ is China.


Sinae was an ancient Greek and Roman name for some people who dwelt south of the Seres in the eastern extremity of the inhabitable world. References to the Sinae include mention of a city that the Romans called Sera Metropolis, which is modern Chang'an. Although the name Sinae appears to be derived from the same etymological source as the Latin prefixes Sino- and Sin-, which are traditionally used to refer to China and the Chinese, there is some controversy as to the ultimate origin of these terms, as their use in historical texts of classical antiquity in the West appears to antedate the emergence of the Qin Dynasty and its empire, the name of which has often been cited as the source of Latin Sino- and Sin-.

First appeared in the Common Era


Further information: Chinas

The name "China" is derived from Middle Persian Chīnī چین and Sanskrit Cīnāh (चीन).[14] The traditional etymology, proposed in the 17th century by Martin Martini and supported by later scholars such as Paul Pelliot is that the word is derived from the Qin state or dynasty (, Old Chinese: *dzin) which ruled China from 221–206 BC.[16] This is still the most commonly known theory.[17] However, the word appears in Hindu scripture prior to the establishment of this dynasty.[18] Patrick Olivelle suggests that the existence of China became known to Indians in the 1st century BC, so the word must have referred to something else prior to that time.[19] According to Geoff Wade, in the Mahabharata, Cīnāh likely refers to an ancient kingdom centered in present-day Guizhou, called Yelang, in the south Tibeto-Burman highlands.[20] The inhabitants referred to themselves as Zina according to Wade.[20] The word "China" is first recorded in 1516 in the journal of Portuguese explorer Duarte Barbosa.[15] The word is first recorded in English in a translation published in 1555.[21]

English, most Indo-European languages, and many others use various forms of the name "China" and the prefix "Sino-" or "Sin-". These forms are thought to be probably derived from the name of the Qin Dynasty that first unified the country (221–206 BCE).[22] The Qin Dynasty unified the written language in China and gave the supreme ruler of China the title of "Emperor" instead of "King," thus the subsequent Silk Road traders may have identified themselves by that name.

The term "China" can also be used to refer to:

  • the modern states known as the People's Republic of China (PRC) and (before the 1970s) the Republic of China (ROC)
  • "Mainland China" (中国大陆/中國大陸, Zhōngguó Dàlù in Mandarin), which is the territory of the PRC minus the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau;
  • "China proper", a term used to refer to the historical heartlands of China without peripheral areas like Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, and Xinjiang

In economic contexts, "Greater China" (大中华地区/大中華地區, dà Zhōnghhuá dìqū) is intended to be a neutral and non-political way to refer to Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

Sinologists usually use "Chinese" in a more restricted sense, akin to the classical usage of Zhongguo 中国, to the Han ethnic group, which makes up the bulk of the population in China and of the overseas Chinese.


Kina is used to refer to China in North Europe now and the pronunciation is [ʃina]. This name still comes from the Qin Dynasty. In Swedish, Kinesiska means Chinese, the language used in Kina.


Main article: Cathay

This group of names derives from Khitan, an ethnic group that originated in Manchuria and conquered parts of Northern China. Due to long domination of Northern China by these non-Chinese conquerors, it was considered by northwestern people as the land of the Khitan. In English and in several other European languages, the name "Cathay" became widely used for all of China largely as a result of translations of the adventures of Marco Polo, which used this word for northern China.

There is no evidence that either in the 13th or 14th century, Cathayans, i.e. Chinese, travelled officially to Europe, but it is possible that some did, in unofficial capacity, at least in the 13th century. For, during the campaigns of Hulagu (the grandson of Genghis Khan) in Persia (1256–65), and the reigns of his successors, Chinese engineers were employed on the banks of the Tigris, and Chinese astrologers and physicians could be consulted. Many diplomatic communications passed between the Hulaguid Ilkhans and the Christian princes. The former, as the great khan's liegemen, still received from him their seals of state; and two of their letters which survive in the archives of France exhibit the vermilion impressions of those seals in Chinese characters—perhaps affording the earliest specimen of those characters which reached western Europe.


"Tabgach" came from the metatheses of "Tuoba" (*t'akbat), a dominant tribe of the Xianbei, and the surname of the Northern Wei Dynasty in the 5th century before sinicisation. It referred to Northern China, which was dominated by half-Xianbei, half-Chinese people.


Manchu: Nikan was a Manchu ethnonym of unknown origin that referred specifically to the ethnic group known in English as the Han Chinese; the stem of this word was also conjugated as a verb, nikara(-mbi), and used to mean "to speak the Chinese language." Since Nikan was essentially an ethnonym and referred to a group of people (i.e., a nation) rather than to a political body (i.e., a state), the correct translation of "China" into the Manchu language is Nikan gurun, literally the "Nikan state" or "country of the Nikans" (i.e., country of the Hans).

This exonym for the Han Chinese is also used in the Daur language, in which it appears as Niaken ([njakən] or [ɲakən]).[23] As in the case of the Manchu language, the Daur word Niaken is essentially an ethnonym, and the proper way to refer to the country of the Han Chinese (i.e., "China" in a cultural sense) is Niaken gurun, while niakendaaci- is a verb meaning "to talk in Chinese."


Japanese: Kara (から; variously written in kanji as 唐 or 漢). An identical name was used by the ancient and medieval Japanese to refer to the country that is now known as Korea, and many Japanese historians and linguists believe that the word "Kara" referring to China and/or Korea may have derived from a metonymic extension of the appellation of the ancient city-states of Gaya.

The Japanese word karate (空手, lit. "empty hand"), referring to a form of martial arts, was earlier also written as 唐手 (lit. "Chinese hand") in respect of its Chinese origin.


Japanese: Morokoshi (もろこし; variously written in kanji as 唐 or 唐土). This obsolete Japanese name for China is believed to have derived from a kun reading of the Chinese compound 諸越 Zhūyuè or 百越 Bǎiyuè as "all the Yue" or "the hundred (i.e., myriad, various, or numerous) Yue," which was an ancient Chinese name for the societies of the regions that are now southern China.

The Japanese common noun tōmorokoshi (トウモロコシ, 玉蜀黍), which refers to maize, appears to contain an element cognate with the proper noun formerly used in reference to China. Although tōmorokoshi is traditionally written with Chinese characters that literally mean "jade Shu millet," the etymology of the Japanese word appears to go back to "Tang morokoshi," in which "morokoshi" was the obsolete Japanese name for China as well as the Japanese word for sorghum, which seems to have been introduced into Japan from China.


From Chinese Manzi (southern barbarians). The division of North China and South China under the Jin Dynasty and Song Dynasty weakened the dogma that China should be unified, and it was common for a time to call the politically disparate North and South by different names. While Northern China was called Cathay, Southern China was referred to as Mangi. Manzi often appears in documents of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty. The Mongols also called Southern Chinese "Nangkiyas" or "Nangkiyad", and considered them ethnically distinct from North Chinese. As Marco Polo used it, the word "Manzi" also reached the Western world as "Mangi" (Machin). The Chinese, themselves, saw "Mangi" as a derogation and never used it as self appellation. The name is also commonly used on medieval maps.

  • Chinese: Manzi (蠻子)
  • Latin: Mangi



See also

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