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Origin of "China" name


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#16 Yun

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Posted 17 June 2004 - 10:39 PM

Many current Chinese transliterations (as distinct from translations, which reflect meaning rather than sound) of country names are actually convenient short forms. Look at the full form of the name, and you'll see a bigger similarity.

England = Ying Ge Lan -> Ying Guo
France = Fa Lan Xi (Francais) -> Fa Guo
Germany = De Yi Zhi (Deutsch) -> De Guo
America = A Mei Li Jia -> Mei Guo
Indonesia = Yin Du Ni Xi Ya -> Yin Ni

Same goes for continents (zhou):
Asia = Ya Xi Ya -> Ya Zhou
Africa = A Fei Li Jia -> Fei Zhou
Europe = Ou Luo Ba (Europa) -> Ou Zhou
Australia = Ao Da Li Ya -> Ao Zhou
North America = Bei A Mei Li Jia -> Bei Mei Zhou
South America = Nan A Mei Li Jia -> Nan Mei Zhou

As for He Lan, it's a transliteration of Holland. E Luo Si is probably a transliteration of Rosse, the French name for Russia.

Han Guo for South Korea is actually more accurate than 'Korea' itself, since the South Koreans now call their country the Dae Han Min Vietnamese (Great Han Republic - note that this Han is not the Chinese Han). The name 'Korea' is based on Koryo/Koguryo, one of the older Korean states that no longer exists.

As for Chao Xian for North Korea, it's based on Cho Sen (Chosen), the name for Korea under both the last Korean royal dynasty and the occupying Japanese.
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#17 Yihesan

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Posted 21 June 2004 - 04:10 AM

Please keep in mind that when translating foreign words to Chinese, R is changed with L while B is replaced with M.

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Posted 24 June 2004 - 06:55 AM

Its true that R is often replaced with L,but B and M isnt usually inter-changable.

And on the question about Russia.E Luo Si is pronounced Erluos,which is pretty close to the Russian pronounciation "Uruss".

#19 yehzhaofeng

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Posted 24 June 2004 - 02:50 PM

How about Luo Sha Guo? I think I might of wrote the pinyin wrong, but I heard this frequently as a country.

Like Canada for instance, Jia Na Da
Spain, Xi Ban Ya
Brazil, Ba Xi

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#20 Sephodwyrm

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Posted 24 June 2004 - 05:38 PM

Chinese names for countries usually does not go with the English translation.
1. Greece - Hellas in Greek - Xi La in Chinese
2. Spain - Espana in Spanish - Xi Ban Ya in Chinese
3. Great Britain - Da Bu Li Dien in Chinese

There are also some translations on ancient peoples:
1. Germans - Ri Er Man
2. Tazik - Da Shi
3. Francs - Fa Lan Ke
4. Saracen - Sa La Xun
5. Khwarazinam - Hua La Zi Muo
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#21 janz

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Posted 28 June 2004 - 08:19 AM

Luo Sha Guo? 罗刹国? it's russia.
i think luo cha 罗刹 is originally buddhism and it's a good "semi god" kind stuff. but over time, luo cha 's meaning change to deamon.
灭六国者, 六国也, 非秦国也。族秦者,秦也,非天下也。

roughtly translated...

the six states destroyed the six states, not qin.
qin ruled qin, not the whole country.

#22 dwc_spain

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Posted 08 November 2005 - 08:20 AM

From another thread :

Where does the word come from? Investigating this has been a mini project of mine.

Some say it is derived from "Land of silk" and others from Qin. Qin is the rather obvious one but the Qin did not last long and the Chinese were known in the west before Qin. I have read references to Ctesias (400BC) mentioning China but I'm still trying to find the original texts. He wrote a lot about Persia and India so he may have learnt about the Chinese from them. Silk is the likelier derivation because Persians and Indians called it sin/sina. Chinese silk has been found in Egypt dating back to 1070BC.

The earliest references to the word China I have found is in 1558AD by De Barbuda, a portugese envoy who drafted a map of China and gave it to Ortelius who published his famous version of the map which was the standard map of China in Europe for the next 100 years.. It includes an inscription that says the pronounciation of "China" is "sina". Note that at the time, China had been known for 300 years as Chatay pronouced "cathay" from the stories of Marco Polo. Some maps round that time also use Sina. Even as late as the 1700s, maps of the world still used Cathay although most were starting to use China.

"Sina" is the Latin reference for silk cloth but silk was also known as Seres and Seres/Serica were the "Land of Slik". It's possible that the Romans used sinae and seres interchangeably. Latin texts used sina/cina for the silk garment and seres for the raw silk thread.

Posidonius (150BC) puts both Seres and Sinae next to each other on his map of the world. Ptolemy (120AD) does the same although Ptolemy puts them further apart which seems to imply that Seres was north China and Sinae was south China. It's also possible that Seres is a Parthian term and Sina is an Indian term and that the Greeks did not know it was the same place.

#23 dwc_spain

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Posted 08 November 2005 - 08:36 AM

Perhaps from Jin, 晋. I found this in Yun's comment (but the newer posts in the thread were rather off-topic. :P)

What makes 秦 less likely is that it would lead to some kind of "Jina" or "Zina".

What I think about the meaning of "silk" in "Sina" is probably because Europeans sometimes call the products from the country the same as the country. (e.g. in English, china: a kind of pot/porcelain)


Jin came later in history. I realize the Greeks/Romans did not make up the name and got it from someone else. But which came first, the product or the country? In the case of silk, it looks like the product came first.

#24 fcharton

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Posted 08 November 2005 - 10:21 AM

Some say it is derived from "Land of silk" and others from Qin. Qin is the rather obvious one but the Qin did not last long and the Chinese were known in the west before Qin. I have read references to Ctesias (400BC) mentioning China but I'm still trying to find the original texts. He wrote a lot about Persia and India so he may have learnt about the Chinese from them. Silk is the likelier derivation because Persians and Indians called it sin/sina. Chinese silk has been found in Egypt dating back to 1070BC.


As for Qin, note that Qin existed as the name of the westernmost state long before the imperial dynasty. Its dynastic history (chapter 5 of the Shi Ji) begins in the early western Zhou, but as usual it is difficult to know when "real history" (as opposed to legendary founders) begins. However, there are rather precise references of events (which might originate from a lost set of annals) beginning with the seventh century BC. If one admits that trade with China was mostly done overland (which seems likely given the fact that China did not extend south), then the state of Qin would have been the main contact of indian or persian merchants.

It might then be that silk got its name from the place where it originated...

Now, Ctesias wrote in greek, do you know which word he used?

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#25 naruwan

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Posted 08 November 2005 - 01:52 PM

The word China simply derived from the Indian term Sina which existed during the time of Buddha which is before the time of Confucious.

I fail to see how it at all relates to later states such as 秦 Qin, 晉 Jin.

Back in the thread Is "zhina" an insult word to China?, Historic origin of "zhi-na" these points have already been discussed.

Some points to Sina was an ancient Hindu term meaning East. I have yet to found anything to support this claim.

The most obvious reason for India to use the term Sina, would probably be Silk. After all, every single Indo-European languages derived their word for Silk from Indian.

As they all have adapted the word Sina as well.

China, or 支那 are all alone this line, just different way of writting it.
mudanin kata mudanin kata. kata siki-a kata siki-a. muhaiv ludun muhaiv ludun. kanta sipal tas-tas kanta sipal tas-tas. kanta sipal tunuh kanta sipal tunuh. sikavilun vini daingaz sikavilun vini daingaz.

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#26 fcharton

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Posted 08 November 2005 - 07:05 PM

The word China simply derived from the Indian term Sina which existed during the time of Buddha which is before the time of Confucious.

I fail to see how it at all relates to later states such as 秦 Qin, 晉 Jin.


I don't see the problem with Qin. Buddha is 6th century BC. Now the first mention of Qin in the Chunqiu is in the fourth year of Duke Huan (707 BC), and as the Chunqiu is the chronicle of a state far way from Qin, it is likely that Qin already existed for a while. So it could come from the Sanskrit word, but still be derived from Qin.

Besides, the existence of an old Indian word does not necessarily mean that the latin word derives from it. Both could have been taken from a common third source. In his original post, dwc_spain mentioned a greek reference from 400 BC, it would be interesting to see which word the greek used...

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#27 Ed Ziomek

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Posted 08 November 2005 - 08:03 PM

From an amateur historian, some call me Pseudo historian, I assume "China" is an ancient name, not a modern western descriptive name, and I certainly may be wrong... but,

Does the word "na" or "Nah" mean "rising" or "flying" in any Chinese dialect?

From many cultures, I am now suspecting the prefix or suffix "nah" might mean "rising" or "flying" or "new"....

Neppon, Nee han, rising sun?

Likewise... the prefix "Shee" or "chee" shows up in Egyptian and Babylonian and Chinese as "spirit"...

Chee Gon.

Shee nah. or Chee Nah. Spirit rising? Spirit Flying?

I realize that of the 5 primary languages within China, and the 50?? odd dialects, similar sounding names and words may have multiple meanings...

But let me ask the question anyways... Does "nah" mean "rising" or "flying" in anyones knowledge?

Among Aztec names of the Valley of Mexico, before the conquest, a name was used that sounds like...

Aca chee na inca My best quess is ... Corn Spirit Rising God "God of the rising corn spirit"

#28 dwc_spain

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Posted 08 November 2005 - 08:12 PM

I'm learning some Greek to help with my research. I'm actually living in a Greek speaking country for the next 6 months.

As for Qin or Jin, I can't find any evidence of it's use in the West or in Central Asia for 1700 years after Qin. If it was based on that, I would find references to Chin or Qin or Jin dotted throughout literature but I haven't found one single occurence.

Right now, I have Sinae dated 150BC and then China as a portugese derivative of that occuring after 1558. The first reference I have says "China enim cm scribant Hispani, Lusitanique, Sina tamen pronunciant" and the French "Espaignols & les Portugalois escriuent China , ils prononcent toutefois Sina" which both mean "Spanish and Portugese write China, they pronounce always Sina". Around that time, Spanish/Portugese were the main source for maps because they discovered most of the sea routes and coasts. Sina (and Seres) are used constantly between 150BC and late 1200s. Then Chatay/Cathay dominates until late 1500s.

Why did the Portugese change back to Sina? Politics between Spain/Portugal and Venice/Genoa. Cathay is a Venetian term. Since the Spanish/Portugese discovered most of the American coast, which they thought was China, they wanted to stake their claim to that territory being different from Venetian Cathay. I also came across some really amusing texts by Christopher Columbus written in Cuba in 1503 where he says he is sure he will find Marco Polo's Xandu/Xanadu in a few days.

Edited by dwc_spain, 08 November 2005 - 09:37 PM.


#29 fcharton

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Posted 08 November 2005 - 08:16 PM

From many cultures, I am now suspecting the prefix or suffix "nah" might mean "rising" or "flying" or "new"....

Neppon, Nee han, rising sun?


In Nippon, the Ni means sun (ri in chinese), pon is chinese ben, which means root, origin, hence rising sun

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#30 naruwan

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Posted 08 November 2005 - 08:28 PM

From an amateur historian, some call me Pseudo historian, I assume "China" is an ancient name, not a modern western descriptive name, and I certainly may be wrong... but,

Does the word "na" or "Nah" mean "rising" or "flying" in any Chinese dialect?

From many cultures, I am now suspecting the prefix or suffix "nah" might mean "rising" or "flying" or "new"....

Neppon, Nee han, rising sun?

Likewise... the prefix "Shee" or "chee" shows up in Egyptian and Babylonian and Chinese as "spirit"...

Chee Gon.

Shee nah. or Chee Nah. Spirit rising? Spirit Flying?

I realize that of the 5 primary languages within China, and the 50?? odd dialects, similar sounding names and words may have multiple meanings...

But let me ask the question anyways... Does "nah" mean "rising" or "flying" in anyones knowledge?

Among Aztec names of the Valley of Mexico, before the conquest, a name was used that sounds like...

Aca chee na inca My best quess is ... Corn Spirit Rising God "God of the rising corn spirit"


I am amazed by this article... because you seem to think the word China is derived from Han language.

The word China is a Indo-European word, not of Han language origin. The Chinese later adapted phonic translation of the word Zhina (Jina) from Indian Buddhist texts.

Trying to assign meanings to the word China with Han language is as pointless as assigning Han language meanings to the translation of America to be beautiful or England to be heroic.

Nippon means origin of sun, where Nip is Sun, and Pon is Origin.
mudanin kata mudanin kata. kata siki-a kata siki-a. muhaiv ludun muhaiv ludun. kanta sipal tas-tas kanta sipal tas-tas. kanta sipal tunuh kanta sipal tunuh. sikavilun vini daingaz sikavilun vini daingaz.

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