From what I see, a dynasty would be considered foreign if it conquered part of or all of what is today China, claims the Mandate of Heaven, but upon establishing their rule have not yet Sinicized. So by having and keeping a different ethnic identity from the majority Huaxia population upon the initial establishment of the dynasty makes the dynasty foreign.
However Chinese peoples are not of just one singular identity despite the existence of the Han identity serving to unite them. Ethnic perceptions penetrate deeply into the Chinese experience by virtue of territorial distinctions complicating the issues of sinicization.
So if a ruler who has a non Han/Huaxia cultural and ethnic identity establishes a dynasty over a Huaxia/Han population, then he has established a foreign dynasty. However if a ruler with ancestry from a different cultural/ethic group has already been assimilated to the local Huaxia culture and identity, and then establishes a dynasty, then the dynasty is not foreign despite the ruler's ancestry.
But only because the range of territory from which the dynasty had arisen was already firmly rooted within Chinese historical context which basically translates into assimilation and
sinicization of some kind. It would be weird to automatically presume that a family coming from Japan though having significant cultural ties with China could immediately render itself into a Chinese dynasty.
So even if the Sui and Tang dynasties began with emperors with Xianbei blood, the founding emperors were born in what is now China, claimed descent from Han dynasty nobles, and rose up to power from within China. So their dynasties are not foreign.
The beginning of any new dynasty could be foreign due to prevailing territorial distinctions between one state owned by the newcomers and that of the native Chinese. When these distinctions are extremely limited in value then the incoming dynasty will be perceived as fully sinicized at least to the point of becoming native along with the rest of the Chinese state.
Zhou wouldn't be foreign because it created the whole concept of a "Huaxia" identity after uniting the Zhou and Shang peoples. And the Huaxia identity is the basis of what eventually became the Chinese identity.
It would be foreign because the Zhou were newly coming from a separate corner of the current territory of China which had not been included into the state defined by the Shang.
Either Qin was originally a barbarian state that had Sinicized, swore allegience to the Zhou ruler, and created the concept of a unified Huaxia state, or they were already a Huaxia people that been conservative to the customs of the earlier Zhou periods while states to the east had progressed in a different trajectory, viewing the Qin as less civilized and "barbarians". In both scenarios Qin would not be foreign since by the time it unified the seven states, it subscribed to a Huaxia identity.
The reason why they were also considered foreign was because everyone gradually became foreign to each other over many years of the warring states period. The event created a reversal to the trend of becoming more unified under a single identity. To the Chinese this means quite a bit because although the Qin state and the others had possessed few things which could be considered unique for themselves they were still trying to grow political power for their own sake. Had the period continued Qin would have ended up like Chu borrowing more and more from regions elsewhere which may fall under its control. Qin had unified everyone so obviously as a formality China is named after Qin but during this time anyone could have taken power which by the way occured when the Qins experienced their fateful demise. It is not a complete fantasy to say China could have been named after the state of Chu or the state of Han during the Chu Han contention making the historically collected territories known as
Chubet or Haneria.
So the only foreign dynasties would be most of those in the 16 kingdoms and Northern Wei (since they had different cultural identities from the local Huaxia population, some rising from rebellions from inside or invading from outside), Liao, Western Xia, Jin, Yuan, and Qing. All because the founding rulers of these dynasties held different ethnic identities from the local populace in China.
They would be foreign to southern dynasties. They cannot be willingly foreign to themselves.
Edited by mohistManiac, 20 May 2012 - 05:47 AM.