Names of China

Names of China

In China, common names for China include "Zhonghua" (中华/中華) and "Zhongguo" (中国/中國), 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 and Republic of China ("Taiwan") are official names given 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 People's Republic of China 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

Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese

China is called Zhōngguó in Mandarin Chinese. The first character zhōng (中) means "central" or "middle," while guó (國/国) means "state" or "states," and in modern times, "nation." In ancient texts, Zhongguo, which can be either singular or plural, referred to the group of states in the central plain or to a state or city. The official name of the imperial dynasties referred to the Empire of the Great Qing, Empire of the Great Ming, and so forth, not Zhongguo. Although it was a common name often used in both Chinese and Western literature and references,[1] only after 1911 it became the official one.[2] Many Western works, however, use the term "middle kingdom" or "central kingdom."[3]

Zhongguo and the Siyi 四夷 "four barbarian/foreign tribes" on the borders: Dongyi (東夷) in the east, Nanman (南蠻) in the south, Xirong (西戎) in the west, and Beidi (北狄) in the north.

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.[4] The first appearance of (中國) in an artifact was in the Western Zhou vessel He zun.[5]

The general concept of the term "zhōngguó" originates from the belief that the Zhou Dynasty is the "centre of civilization" or "centre of the world", much like the "Middle Earth" concept of Europeans, while the ethnic groups in the four cardinals are called Eastern Yi, Southern Man, Western Rong and Northern Di respectively. However, there are different uses of the name "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 Central China, to distinguish from states in outer regions. It is also used, in later dynasties, by states who see themselves as the "legitimate" successors of previous dynasties, as in the case of the Southern Song Dynasty. Finally, it is used to mean the sovereignty in the traditional area "zhōngyuán (中原)" or "zhōnghuá (中華)", which both have the same origins, such as in the case of the Republic of China ("Zhōnghuá Mínguó (中华民国/中華民國)") and the People's Republic of China ("Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó (中华人民共和国/中華人民共和國)").

The Chinese character "guó" (国/國) originally had a different meaning from the English "state" or the modern Chinese concept "guójiā" (国家/國家), though it is taken to mean "state" today. In its origin, it refers to the area where the Tiānzǐ lives, while the outer areas governed by the same sovereign is called "yě" (野). For example, a riot of nobles living in the capital of Western Zhou is called "the Riot of the guó people".[6] Gradually, the vassal states of the Tiānzǐ began to use the name "guó" as well. The Book of Han talked about an incident where the Gōng of one of the vassal states loved feeding cranes and gave them official posts in the government. "When the Northern Di attacked, the guó people were unwilling to fight, and the guó was destroyed." [7] Thus, there was the need to classify the "guó" of the Tiānzǐ from that of the Gōng. Gradually, the name "zhōngguó" is used to refer to the "guó" of the Tiānzǐ. Mao Heng of the Han Dynasty gave an explanation: "Zhōngguó: the capital." [8]

During the Spring and Autumn Period, it was used only to describe the states politically descended from the Western Zhou Dynasty, in the Yellow River (Huang He) valley, to the exclusion of states such as the Chu along the Yangtze River and the Qin to the west. However, by the time of the Han Dynasty, the states of Chu, Qin and others had linked themselves to the politics of "Zhōngguó" and were already considered integral parts of a newer "Zhōngguó". This usage of "Zhōngguó" has been translated into English as "the Central States."

The area governed by the Qin Dynasty. The Qin Dynasty, surviving for only a short period before being replaced by the Han Dynasty, is credited for the unifying and creation of a Han ethnicity. Thus, one of the usages of "Zhōngguó" is to refer to the areas which Qin occupied, or to the states which are occupying the area.

By the Han Dynasty, three usages of "Zhōngguó" are common. The Book of Poetry explicitly gives this definition that "Zhōngguó" is the capital; the Records of the Grand Historian uses the concept that China is the centre of civilization: "Eight famous mountains are there in Tianxia. Three are in Man and Yi. Five are in Zhōnghuá." The Records of Three Kingdoms uses the concept of the central states in "Zhōnghuá", or the states in "Zhōnghuá" which is the centre, depending on the interpretation. It records the following monologue: "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 period of division after the fall of the Han Dynasty, the term Zhōngguó was subjected to denote political legitimacy apart from the previous usages. It was used in this manner from the tenth century onwards by the competing dynasties of Liao, Jin and Song. The term Zhōngguó came to be related to geographic, cultural and political identity and less to ethnic origin.

Zhōngguó quickly came to include areas farther south, as the cultural and political unit (not yet a "nation" in the modern sense) spread to include the Yangtze River and Pearl River systems. By the Tang Dynasty it sometimes included barbarian regimes such as the Xianbei and Xiongnu, which submitted to the Han people.

In the nineteenth century, the term changed in its significance. The late Qing 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." Another reformer wrote 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." [9] Liang argued that in order to preserve the race (minzu, a term which he adopted from the Japanese usage) that the concept tianxia had to be abandoned in favor of guojia, that is, "nation," for which he accepted the term Zhongguo. [10]

Finally, since the May Fourth Movement, educated students began to spread the concept of Zhōnghuá (中华/中華), which represented the people, including 56 minor 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 official names for both sovereigns. 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).

"Zhōngguó" in different languages
  • French: Empire du Milieu (literally: "Middle Empire")
  • Dutch: Rijk van het Midden (literally: "Middle Empire")
  • Finnish: Keskustan valtakunta (literally: "The State of the Center")
  • German: Reich der Mitte (literally: "Middle Empire")
  • Italian: Impero di Mezzo (literally: "Middle Empire")
  • Japanese: Chūgoku (中国; ちゅうごく)
  • Korean: Jungguk, Chungguk (중국; 中國)
  • Indonesian: Tiongkok (from Tiong-kok, the Hokkien name for China)
  • Kazakh: Juñgo (جۇڭگو)
  • Hmong: Suav Teb, Roob Kub, Tuam Choj, 中國. literally: Land of China, The Golden Throne, (Land of the)Stepped Bridge.
  • Li: Dongxgok
  • Manchu: China in Manchu.svg (Dulimbai gurun)[FN 1]
  • Mongol:China in Mongolian.svg (Dumdadu ulus)[FN 2]
  • Polish: Państwo Środka
  • Russian: Срединное Царство (Sredínnoye Tsárstvo) (literary: "Middle Empire"); Поднебесная (Podnebésnaya) - related to 天下 (Tiānxià).
  • Tibetan: Krung-go (ཀྲུང་གོ་)
  • Uyghur: Junggo (جۇڭگو)
  • Vietnamese: Trung Quốc (中國)
  • Zhuang: Cunghgoz (older orthography: Cungƅgoƨ)
"Zhōnghuá" in different languages
  • Japanese: Chūka (中華; ちゅうか)
  • Korean: Junghwa, Chunghwa (중화; 中華)
  • Kazakh: Juñxwa (حالىق)
  • Li: Dongxhwax
  • Indonesian: Tionghoa (from Tiong-hôa, the Hokkien counterpart)
  • Vietnamese: Trung Hoa (中華)
  • Zhuang: Cunghvaz (Old orthography: Cuŋƅvaƨ)
  • Uyghur: جۇڭخۇا (Jungxua)
  • Tibetan: ཀྲུང་ཧྭ (krung hwa)


Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Japanese name
Kana かん
Korean name
Vietnamese name
Quốc ngữ hán

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 ruler 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. It must be noted that 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.


Chinese name
Japanese name
Kana とう (On), から (Kun)
Korean name
Vietnamese name
Quốc ngữ đường

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 were mostly men, whereas their offspring would be through marriage with Taiwanese aborigine women.


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 prosper.
  • Xia which could mean the Xia dynasty or grandiose.

This word has been widely used to refer to the Huang He river valley, by analogy with Zhonghua, which means "middle prosper", before Han became popular.

Tianxia and Tianchao

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.


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 is still the most used sobriquet for China in contemporary Chinese text.[dubious ] 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 (大陆/大陸; pinyin: dàlù), literally "great land", means "continent" or "mainland". It is used as a short form of Zhōnggúo Dàlù (中国大陆/中國大陸, Mainland China), excluding Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. This term is used in official context in both the mainland and Taiwan, when referring to the mainland as opposed to Taiwan. Often also called 内地; pinyin: nèidì) by Hong Kongers.

Official names

People's Republic of China

People's Republic of China
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Japanese name
Kanji 中華人民共和国
Kana ちゅうかじんみんきょうわこく
Korean name
Hangul 중화인민공화국
Hanja 中華人民共和國
Vietnamese name
Quốc ngữ Trung Hoa Nhân dân Cộng hòa quốc (Sino-Viet.)
Cộng hòa Nhân dân Trung Hoa (native)
Hán-Nôm 中華人民共和國 (Sino-Viet.)
共和人民中華 (native)

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[citation needed], particularly when reporting politics. The official name of the People's Republic of China in various official languages and scripts.

  • Simplified Chinese: 中华人民共和国 (pinyin: Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó) - Official language and script, used in Mainland China, Singapore and Malaysia
  • Traditional Chinese: 中華人民共和國 (pinyin: Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó, Jyutping: zung1 waa4 jan4 man4 gung6 wo4 gwok3) - Official in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau
  • English: People's Republic of China - Official in Hong Kong.
  • Kazakh: As used within Republic of Kazakhstan, Қытай Халық Республикасы (in Cyrillic script), Qıtay Xalıq Respwblïkası (in Latin script), قىتاي حالىق رەسپۋبلىيكاسى (in Arabic script); as used within People's Republic of China, Жұңxуа Халық Республикасы (in Cyrillic script), Juñxwa Xalıq Respwblïkası (in Latin script), جۇڭحۋا حالىق رەسپۋبليكاسى (in Arabic script). The Cyrillic script is the predominant script in the Republic of Kazakhstan, while the Arabic script is normally used for the Kazakh language in People's Republic of China.
  • Korean: 중화 인민 공화국 (Junghwa Inmin Gonghwaguk) - Used in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture
  • Mongolian: Mongolian-PRC2.svg[FN 3] (Bügüde nayiramdaqu dumdadu arad ulus) - Official in Inner Mongolia; Бүгд Найрамдах Хятад Ард Улс (Bügd Nairamdakh Khyatad Ard Uls) - used in Mongolia
  • Portuguese: República Popular da China - Official in Macau
  • Tibetan: ཀྲུང་ཧྭ་མི་དམངས་སྤྱི་མཐུན་རྒྱལ་ཁབWylie: krung hwa mi dmangs spyi mthun rgyal khab, ZYPY: Zhunghua Mimang Jitun Gyalkab - Official in PRC's Tibet
    • Tibetan: རྒྱ་ནག་མི་དམངས་སྤྱི་མཐུན་རྒྱལ་ཁབWylie: rgya nag mi dmangs spyi mthun rgyal khab - Official in Tibet Government-in-Exile
  • Uyghur: جۇڭخۇا خەلق جۇمھۇرىيىت‎, ULY: Jungxua Xelq Jumhuriyiti - Official in Xinjiang
  • Zaiwa: Zhunghua Mingbyu Muhum Mingdan - Official in Dehong
  • Zhuang: Cunghvaz Yinzminz Gunghozgoz (Old orthography: Cuŋƅvaƨ Yinƨminƨ Guŋƅoƨ) - Official in Guangxi

Other languages:

  • Arabic: علم جمهورية الصين الشعبية
  • Bengali: গণপ্রজাতন্ত্রী চীন Gônoprojantontri Chin (People's Republic of China) or গণচীন Gônochin (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 language: 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
  • Hebrew: הרפובליקה העממית של סין
  • 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)
  • 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
  • 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
  • Tajik: Çumhurii Xalqii Cin
  • Tatar: Kıtay Xalık Cömhüriyaten
  • Thai: สาธารณรัฐประชาชนจีน (Satharanarat Prachachon Cheen : People's Republic of China)
  • Turkish: Çin Halk Cumhuriyeti
  • Urdu: جۇڭخۇا خەلق جۇمھۇرىيىتى
  • Uzbek: Xitoy Xalq Respublikasi
  • Vietnamese: Cộng Hòa Nhân Dân Trung Hoa (Hán-Nôm: 共和人民中華)
  • Yiddish: רעפובליקע פון כינע

Republic of China

Republic of China
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Japanese name
Kanji 中華民国
Kana ちゅうかみんこく
Korean name
Hangul 중화민국
Hanja 中華民國
Vietnamese name
Quốc ngữ Trung Hoa Dân Quốc

Since its founding in 1912, the Republic of China has sometimes been referred to as "Republican China", in contrast to the empire it replaced, or as "Nationalist China", after the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang). It has also been referred to as the "Chinese Republic". Since the separation from mainland China since 1949 due to the Chinese Civil War, the territory of the Republic of China has largely been confined to the island of Taiwan (acquired in 1945 by the result of World War II) and a few 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 sometimes referred to itself as "Free China", in contrast to communist People's Republic of China. Democratized in 1996.

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 Chin Projatôntro
  • Catalan: República de la Xina
  • French: République de Chine
  • German: Republik China
  • Hebrew: הרפובליקה הסינית
  • 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
  • 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 a pronunciation 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


Popularized in the West by Marco Polo's early 14th-century Il Milione, which used "Chin" as a transcription of Middle Persian Ṣīn (چین), from Sanskrit Cina (चीन, IPA: /c͡çiːnə/). The traditional etymology, proposed in the 17th century by Martin Martini and supported by many later scholars including Paul Pelliot is that the word is derived from the Qin state or dynasty (, Old Chinese: *dzin) which ruled China from 221 – 206 BC.[11] This is still the most widely accepted theory.[12] However, the Sanskrit name appears in both the Laws of Manu and the Mahabhārata[13] in reference to a state located in the Tibetan-Burman borderlands. Another theory proposed by Geoff Wade is that this word is derived from Yelang, an ancient kingdom in present-day Guizhou whose inhabitants referred to themselves as Zina.[14]

Barbosa (1516) and Garcia de Orta (1563) mentioned China.

  • Albanian: Kinë (IPA [kinə])
  • Amharic: Chayna (from English)
  • Armenian: Չինաստան (pronounced [t͡ʃinasˈtan])
  • Azeri: Çin (IPA [tʃin])
  • Basque: Txina (IPA: [ˈtʃinə])
  • Bangla/Bengali: Chin (চীন IPA: [t͡ʃin])
  • Bosnian: Kina
  • Catalan: Xina (IPA [ˈʃinə] or [ˈtʃina])
  • Chinese: 支那 Zhīnà (obsolete and considered offensive due to historical Japanese usage; originated from early Chinese translations of Buddhist texts in Sanskrit)
  • Croatian: Kina
  • Czech: Čína (pronounced [ˈt͡ʃiːna])
  • Danish: Kina
  • Dutch: China
  • English: China (pronounced /ˈtʃaɪnə/)
  • Esperanto: Ĉinujo or Ĉinio, or Ĥinujo (archaic)
  • Estonian: Hiina
  • Filipino (Tagalog): Tsina
  • Finnish: Kiina (Finnish pronunciation: [kiːnɑ])
  • French: Chine ([ʃin])
  • Georgian: ჩინეთი (Georgian pronunciation: [t͡ʃiːnɛtiː])
  • German: China ([ˈçiːna], in some southern dialects also [ˈkiːna])
  • Greek: Κίνα (Kína)
  • Hindi: Chīn चीन (IPA [ˈt͡ʃiːn])
  • Hungarian: Kína ([kiːnɒ])
  • Icelandic: Kína
  • Indonesian: Cina ([t͡ʃina])
  • Interlingua: China
  • Irish: An tSín ([ən ˈtʲiːnʲ])
  • Italian: Cina ([ˈt͡ʃiːna])
  • Japanese: Shina (支那) — considered offensive in China, now largely obsolete in Japan and avoided out of deference to China (the name Chūgoku is used instead); See Shina (word) and kotobagari.
  • Khmer: ចិន (IPA: [cən])
  • Korean: Jina (지나)
  • Lithuanian: Kinija
  • Macedonian: Кина (Kina)
  • Malay: China ([t͡ʃina])
  • Malayalam: Cheenan/Cheenathi
  • Norwegian: Kina ([çiːnɑ] or [ʃiːnɑ])
  • Pahlavi: Čīnī
  • Persian: Chin چين ([t͡ʃin])
  • Polish: Chiny ([ˈxinɨ])
  • Portuguese: China ([ˈʃinɐ])
  • Romanian: China ([ˈkiːna])
  • Serbian: Kina or Кина ([kiːna])
  • Slovak: Čína ([t͡ʃiːna])
  • Spanish: China ([ˈtʃina])
  • Swedish: Kina ([ˈɕiːna])
  • Tamil: Cheenaa (சீனா)
  • Thai: Jiin (จีน)
  • Tibetan: Gya-nak (རྒྱ་ནག་)
  • Turkish: Çin ([t͡ʃin])
  • Urdu: Čīn چين ([t͡ʃiːn])
  • Welsh: Tsieina

Seres (Σηρες)

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).
  • Latin: Sinæ

This name is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in Genesis 10:17, where it is said that the Sinites are descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham.

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,[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]


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-.[citation needed]

First appeared in the Common Era


China (referring to today's Guangdong), Mangi (inland of Xanton (Shandong)), and Cataio (located inland of China and Chequan (Zhejiang), and including the capital Cambalu, Xandu, and a marble bridge) are all shown as separate regions on this 1570 map by Abraham Ortelius

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).[15] 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:

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.


This 1584 map, also published by Ortelius, already applies the name China to the entire country. However, for another century many European maps continued to show Cathay as well, usually somewhere north of the Great Wall

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.


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" (*takbat), 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]).[16] 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" reached the Western world as "Mangi" (Machin). The Chinese, themselves, saw "Mangi" as a derogation and never used it as self appellation.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Dulimbai gurun, rendered in Unicode as ᡩ᠋ᡠᠯᡳᠮᠪᠠ᠊ᡳ ᡬᡠᡵᡠᠨ, is the official name for "China" in Manchu language.
  2. ^ a b Dumdadu ulus, rendered in Unicode as ᠳᠤᠮᠳᠠᠳᠤ ᠤᠯᠤᠰ, is the official name for "China" used in Inner Mongolia, whilst Хятад Улс (Khyatad uls) is the name for China within the State of Mongolia. The former is a derivative of Middle Kingdom, whilst the latter is a derivative of Cathay.
  3. ^ Rendered in Unicode as ᠪᠦᠭᠦᠳᠡ ᠨᠠᠶᠢᠷᠠᠮᠳᠠᠬᠤ ᠳᠤᠮᠳᠠᠳᠤ ᠠᠷᠠᠳ ᠤᠯᠤᠰ


  1. ^ FOURMONT, Etienne. "Linguae Sinarum Mandarinicae hieroglyphicae grammatica duplex, latinè, & cum characteribus Sinensium. Item Sinicorum Regiae Bibliothecae librorum catalogus… (A Chinese grammar published in 1742 in Paris)". Archived from the original on 2011-10-12. 
  2. ^ Endymion Wilkinson, Chinese History: A Manual (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Rev. and enl., 2000 ISBN 0674002474 ), 132.
  3. ^
    • Sources using the term "Middle Kingdom" include:
    • Rossabi, Morris, ed. China among Equals: The Middle Kingdom and Its Neighbors, 10th-14th Centuries. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.
    • Williams, S. Wells. The Middle Kingdom: A Survey of the Geography, Government, Literature, Social Life, Arts, and History of the Chinese Empire and Its Inhabitants. Rev. ed. New York: Scribner, 1883.
    • Wilson, James Harrison. China: travels and investigations in the "Middle Kingdom." A study of its civilization and possibilities; with a glance at Japan. New York, Appleton, 1887.
    • Zhang, Yongjin. China in the international system, 1918-20 : the middle kingdom at the periphery. New York : St. Martin’s, 1991.
    • Sources using the alternative term "Central Kingdom" include:
    • William Edgar Geil, A Yankee on the Yangtze: Being a Narrative of a Journey from Shanghai Through the Central Kingdom. Hodder and Stoughton, 1904.
    • Aihe Wang, Cosmology and Political Culture in Early China. Cambridge University Press, 2000.
    • 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." (Mao's China and the Cold War. UNC Press. ISBN 0-8078-4932-4)
  4. ^ 《尚書•梓材》:「皇天既付中國民越厥疆土于先王」
  5. ^ "China's 7 wonders (中國七大奇蹟)." 何尊. Retrieved on 2010-05-01.
  6. ^ 何谓“国人暴动”?它有什么历史意义?
  7. ^ 《左传•闵公二年》“冬十二月,狄人伐卫。卫懿公好鹤,鹤有乘轩者。将战,国人受甲者皆曰:‘使鹤,鹤实有禄位。余焉能战?’及狄人战于荥泽,卫师败绩,遂灭卫。立戴公,以庐于曹。”
  8. ^ 《毛亨·傳》:「中國,京師也」
  9. ^ Liang quoted in Joseph Esherick, "How the Qing Became China," in Empire to Nation: Historical Perspectives on the Making of the Modern World (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), p. 235, from Liang Qichao, "Zhongguo shi xulun" Yinbinshi heji 6:3 and Lydia He Liu, The Clash of Empires: The Invention of China in Modern World Making (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004), p. 77-78.
  10. ^ Henrietta Harrison. China (London: Arnold; New York: Oxford University Press; Inventing the Nation Series, 2001. ISBN 0340741333), p 103-104.
  11. ^ Wade, Geoff. "The Polity of Yelang and the Origin of the Name 'China'", Sino-Platonic Papers, No. 188, May 2009. pp. 8-11
  12. ^ Wade, p. 20.
  13. ^ Liu, Lydia He, The clash of empires, p. 77.
  14. ^ Wade, pp. 6ff.
  15. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed (AHD4). Boston and New York, Houghton-Mifflin, 2000, entries china, Qin, Sino-.
  16. ^ Samuel E. Martin, Dagur Mongolian Grammar, Texts, and Lexicon, Indiana University Publications Uralic and Altaic Series, Vol. 4, 1961

See also

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