Names of China
Names of China
The names of China include the many contemporary and historical appellations given in various languages for the East Asian country known as Zhōngguó (中國/中国, "central country") in its national language, Standard Mandarin. China, the name in English for the country, was derived from Portuguese in the 16th century, and became common usage in the West in the subsequent centuries.
It is believed to be a borrowing from Middle Persian, and some have traced it further back to Sanskrit. It is also thought that the ultimate source of the name China is the Chinese word "Qin" (Chinese: 秦), the name of the dynasty that unified China but also existed as a state for many centuries prior. There are, however, other alternative suggestions for the origin of the word.
Chinese names for China, aside from Zhongguo, include Zhōnghuá (中華/中华, "central beauty"), Huáxià (華夏/华夏, "beautiful grandness"), Shénzhōu (神州, "divine state") and Jiǔzhōu (九州, "nine states"). Hàn (漢/汉) and Táng (唐) are common names given for the Chinese ethnicity, despite the Chinese nationality (Zhōnghuá Mínzú) not referencing any singular ethnicity. 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 of the PRC, usually excluding Hong Kong and Macau.
There are also names for China used around the world that are derived from the languages of ethnic groups other than the Han; examples include "Cathay" from the Khitan language and "Tabgach" from Tuoba.
He zun rubbing and transcription; framed is the phrase 宅????????或 zhái zī zhōngguó "inhabit this central state". Same phrase in Traditional Chinese characters is 宅茲中國, and Simplified Chinese characters is 宅茲中国.
The brocade armband with the words "Five stars rising in the east, being a propitious sign for Zhongguo (中國)", made in the Han dynasty.
The Nestorian Stele 大秦景教流行中國碑 entitled "Stele to the propagation in Zhongguo (中國) of the luminous religion of Daqin (Roman Empire)", was erected in China in 781 during Tang dynasty.
The most important Korean document, Hunminjeongeum, dated 1446, where it compares Joseon's speech to that of Zhongguo (中國) (Middle Kingdom; China), which was during the reign of Ming dynasty at the time. Korean and other neighbouring societies have addressed the various regimes and dynasties on the Chinese mainland at differing times as the "Middle Kingdom".
Zhōngguó (中國) is the most common Chinese name for China in modern times. The earliest appearance of this two-character term is on the bronze vessel He zun (dating to 1038–c. 1000 BCE), during the early Western Zhou period. The phrase "zhong guo" came into common usage in the Warring States period (475–221 BCE), when it referred to the "Central States"; the states of the Yellow River Valley of the Zhou era, as distinguished from the tribal periphery.
In later periods, however, Zhongguo was not used in this sense. Dynastic names were used for the state in Imperial China and concepts of the state aside from the ruling dynasty were little understood. Rather, the country was called by the name of the dynasty, such as "Han" (漢), "Tang" (唐), "Great Ming" (Da Ming 大明), "Great Qing" (Da Qing 大清), as the case might be.
Until the 19th century when the international system came to require a common legal language, there was no need for a fixed or unique name.
As early as the Spring and Autumn period, Zhongguo could be understood as either the domain of the capital or used to refer the Chinese civilization (zhuxia 諸夏 "the various Xia" or zhuhua 諸華 "various Hua", and the political and geographical domain that contained it, but Tianxia was the more common word for this idea. This developed into the usage of the Warring States period when, other than the cultural-civilizational community, it could be the geopolitical area of Chinese civilization, equivalent to Jiuzhou. In a more limited sense it could also refer to the Central Plain or the states of Zhao, Wei, and Han, etc., geographically central amongst the Warring States.
Although Zhongguo could be used before the Song dynasty period to mean the transdynastic Chinese culture or civilization to which Chinese people belonged, it was in the Song dynasty when writers used Zhongguo as a term to describe the transdynastic entity with different dynastic names over time but having a set territory and defined by common ancestry, culture, and language.
There were different usages of the term Zhongguo in every period. It could refer to the capital of the emperor to distinguish it from the capitals of his vassals, as in Western Zhou. It could refer to the states of the Central Plain to distinguish them from states in outer regions. The Shi Jing defines Zhongguo as the capital region, setting it in opposition to the capital city.
During the Han dynasty, three usages of Zhongguo were common. The Records of the Grand Historian uses Zhongguo to denote the capital, and also uses the concept zhong ("center, central") and zhongguo to indicate the center of civilization: "There are eight famous mountains in the world: three in Man and Yi (the barbarian wilds), five in Zhōngguó." (天下名山八，而三在蠻夷，五在中國。) In this sense, the term Zhongguo is synonymous with Huáxià (華夏/华夏) and Zhōnghuá (中華/中华), names of China that were first authentically attested since Warring States period and Eastern Jin period, respectively.
"Middle Kingdom's Common Speech" (Medii Regni Communis Loquela, Zhongguo Guanhua, 中國官話), the frontispiece of an early Chinese grammar published by Étienne Fourmont in 1742
From the Qin to Ming dynasty literati discussed Zhongguo as both a historical place and territory and as a culture. Writers of the Ming period in particular used the term as a political tool to express opposition to expansionist policies that incorporated foreigners into the empire.
In contrast foreign conquerors typically avoided discussions of Zhongguo and instead defined membership in their empires to include both Han and non-Han peoples.
Zhongguo appeared in a formal international legal document for the first time during the Qing dynasty in the Treaty of Nerchinsk, 1689. The term was then 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 late 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.
Dulimbai Gurun is the Manchu name for China, with "Dulimbai" meaning "central" or "middle," and "Gurun" meaning "nation" or "state."
The historian Zhao Gang writes that "not long after the collapse of the Ming, China [Zhongguo] became the equivalent of Great Qing (Da Qing)—another official title of the Qing state", and "Qing and China became interchangeable official titles, and the latter often appeared as a substitute for the former in official documents."
The Qing dynasty referred to their realm as "Dulimbai Gurun" in Manchu. The Qing equated the lands of the Qing realm (including present day Manchuria, Xinjiang, Mongolia, Tibet and other areas) as "China" in both the Chinese and Manchu languages, defining China as a multi-ethnic state, rejecting the idea that China only meant Han areas; both Han and non-Han peoples were part of "China".
Officials used "China" (though not exclusively) in official documents, international treaties, and foreign affairs, and the "Chinese language" (Manchu: Dulimbai gurun i bithe) referred to Chinese, Manchu, and Mongol languages, and the term "Chinese people" (中國人; Zhōngguórén; Manchu: Dulimbai gurun i niyalma) referred to all Han, Manchus, and Mongol subjects of the Qing.
Ming loyalist Han literati held to defining the old Ming borders as China and using "foreigner" to describe minorities under Qing rule such as the Mongols, as part of their anti-Qing ideology.
Chapter China (中國) of "The Manchurian, Mongolian and Han Chinese Trilingual Textbook" (滿蒙漢三語合璧教科書) published in Qing dynasty: "Our country China is located in East Asia... For 5000 years, culture flourished (in the land of China)... Since we are Chinese, how can we not love China."
When the Qing conquered Dzungaria in 1759, they proclaimed that the new land was absorbed into Dulimbai Gurun in a Manchu language memorial.
The Qing expounded on their ideology that they were bringing together the "outer" non-Han Chinese like the Inner Mongols, Eastern Mongols, Oirat Mongols, and Tibetans together with the "inner" Han Chinese, into "one family" united in the Qing state, showing that the diverse subjects of the Qing were all part of one family, the Qing used the phrase "Zhōngwài yījiā" (中外一家; 'China and other [countries] as one family') or "Nèiwài yījiā" (內外一家; 'Interior and exterior as one family'), to convey this idea of "unification" of the different peoples. A Manchu language version of a treaty with the Russian Empire concerning criminal jurisdiction over bandits called people from the Qing as "people of the Central Kingdom (Dulimbai Gurun)".
In the Manchu official Tulisen's Manchu language account of his meeting with the Torghut Mongol leader Ayuki Khan, it was mentioned that while the Torghuts were unlike the Russians, the "people of the Central Kingdom" (dulimba-i gurun/中國; Zhōngguó) were like the Torghut Mongols, and the "people of the Central Kingdom" referred to the Manchus.
Mark Elliott noted that it was under the Qing that "China" transformed into a definition of referring to lands where the "state claimed sovereignty" rather than only the Central Plains area and its people by the end of the 18th century.
Elena Barabantseva also noted that the Manchu referred to all subjects of the Qing empire regardless of ethnicity as "Chinese" (中國之人; Zhōngguó zhī rén; 'China's person'), and used the term (中國; Zhōngguó) as a synonym for the entire Qing empire while using "Hàn rén" (漢人) to refer only to the core area of the empire, with the entire empire viewed as multiethnic.
Joseph W. Esherick noted that while the Qing Emperors governed frontier non-Han areas in a different, separate system under the Lifanyuan and kept them separate from Han areas and administration, it was the Manchu Qing Emperors who expanded the definition of Zhongguo (中國) and made it "flexible" by using that term to refer to the entire Empire and using that term to other countries in diplomatic correspondence, while some Han Chinese subjects criticized their usage of the term and the Han literati Wei Yuan used Zhongguo only to refer to the seventeen provinces of China and three provinces of the east (Manchuria), excluding other frontier areas.
Due to Qing using treaties clarifying the international borders of the Qing state, it was able to inculcate in the Chinese people a sense that China included areas such as Mongolia and Tibet due to education reforms in geography which made it clear where the borders of the Qing state were even if they didn't understand how the Chinese identity included Tibetans and Mongolians or understand what the connotations of being Chinese were.
The Treaty of Nanking (1842) English version refers to "His Majesty the Emperor of China" while the Chinese refers both to "The Great Qing Emperor" (Da Qing Huangdi) and to Zhongguo as well. The Treaty of Tientsin (1858) has similar language.
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."
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.
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.
After the founding of the Chinese Republic in 1912, Zhongguo was also adopted as the abbreviation of Zhonghua minguo.
Qing official Zhang Deyi objected to the western European name "China" and said that China referred to itself as Zhonghua in response to a European who asked why Chinese used the term guizi to refer to all Europeans.
In the 20th century after the May Fourth Movement, educated students began to spread the concept of Zhōnghuá (中華/中华), 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, and "Zhōngguó rén" for their citizens, though Taiwanese people may reject being called as such. Overseas Chinese are referred to as huáqiáo (華僑/华侨), "Chinese overseas", or huáyì (華裔/华裔), "Chinese descendants" (i.e., Chinese children born overseas).
The English translation of Zhongguo as the "Middle Kingdom" entered European languages through the Portuguese in the 16th century and became popular in the mid-19th century. By the mid-20th century the term was thoroughly entrenched in the English language to reflect the Western view of China as the inwards-looking Middle Kingdom, or more accurately the Central Kingdom. Endymion Wilkinson points out that the Chinese were not unique in thinking of their country as central, although China was the only culture to use the concept for their name.
The term Zhongguo was also not commonly used as a name for China until quite recently, nor did it mean the "Middle Kingdom" to the Chinese, or even have the same meaning throughout the course of history.