In Reply to: Why did we call ourselves Hans? posted by Danny Lu on October 23, 2003 at 12:13:14:
The term "Han" was used to describe the Chinese nationality by the ancient Chinese from the Han
Dynasty (206BC - 220AD) onwards. The reason why the name of this dynasty is choosen rather than
the other dynasties is because the Han Dynasty was among the most powerful and influential in ancient
China. It was also the dynasty during which the peoples of China, who were previously divided into
various states, were unified politically, legally and culturally. (Even though the unification process
began in the previous Qin Dynasty (221-206BC) that dynasty was too short-lived to have as large a
lasting impression on the people as the Han did) As a result, the Han Dynasty was really the first time
during which all peoples from every part of China's vast territories shared the same national identity.
Prior to this they had the same cultural identity but belonged to different states.
"Tang" is also a term often used to describe the Chinese nationality as the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907
AD) was arguably the most powerful and influential dynasty in Chinese history. (Or at least as
powerful as the Han) Some scholars believe that the first part of the Tang Dynasty, from the reign of
the second Emperor Tang Taizong (beginning from 627AD) to the Battle of Talas River with the
Islamic empire in 751AD marked not only the Golden Age of Chinese Civilisation but was also the
period of time in which China was the leading civilisation of the world in almost every aspect, between
the fall of Rome and the rise of Islam.
Another point of interest is that the English term "China" is not actually a Chinese word but is based
on what almost every nation and civilisation to the west of China calls it. The term "China" is believed
to have been derived from the Qin Dynasty, sometimes pronounced in English as "Chin Dynasty" (see
the similarity between "Chin" and "China"), which united China politically for the first time in 221BC.
But the use of a term based on "Qin" to refer to China predates the unification of China by at least a
few centuries. This is because the state of Qin is actually very ancient and existed for several
centuries before it became powerful enought to unify all of China. As the state of Qin is the westmost
state in ancient China before the unification, it is this state that western traders from Persia, India
or Greece encounter when they reach China. Therefore they call China by the name of the Qin state.
Evidence of this can be seen in many ancient western documents which contain terms referring to
China. The ancient Hebrew word for China is "Sinim". This is actually a phonetic (sound-based)
translation of the term "Qin", but as there is no equal sound in Hebrew to how "Qin" is actually
pronounced so the closest matching sound of "Qin" is "Sin" which then became "Sinim". The word "
Sinim" is also referred to in the Bible. The term used to refer to China by the other ancient western
peoples are based on the term "Sinim". The ancient Romans called China "Serre" while the ancient
Greeks referred to China as "Sinnai". The modern English word "China" came from the French "Chine",
which has a pronounciation similar to "Sinim" so is also derived from the same source.
In fact, Chinese people's most ancient name for our nation is the term "Xia". This name is no longer
used frequently now, but it was the term used to describe the Chinese nationality almost exclusively
during the 2000 years of Chinese history before the Han Dynasty. Evidence of this can be found in the
Analects of Confucius (China's great sage and philosopher, Analects is a book of dialogues compiled by
Confucius' students after his death). The term "Xia" is so ancient that the name for China's first
dynasty, the Xia Dynasty (created around 2200BC), is named after the term "Xia" used to describe
the Chinese nationality rather than the other way around. The word "Xia" is sometimes combined with
the word "Hua" ("Huaren", meaning "Hua people", of course is the word used by many overseas Chinese
people to describe themselves) into "Huaxia", which is a term still used quite often in China when
referring to the Chinese nation. I personally believe due to the antiquity of the term "Xia" and the
popularity of the term "Hua" (The Chinese name for the People's Republic of China, for example, is "
Zhong Hua Re Min Gong He Guo", which contain the word "Hua", but does not contain "Han"), the term
"Huaxia" is the most accurate and authetic way to call the Chinese nation, more authetic than even the
"Han". Another reason for this is that "Huaxia" is more "politically correct" than "Han", as "Han" is
only one of the 56 nationalities in China (albeit the largest, with 93% of China's population), so using
"Han" to describe China will alienate the other 55 nationalities in China, whereas historically the Xia
peoples were the ancestors of many minority nationalities in modern China as well as the Han
nationality the term "Huaxia" is more inclusive of all the diverse peoples of China compared with the
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