What Is the Origins Of The Name China?

In Chinese, the name for China is “Zhongguo,” or the middle kingdom. China is the term that most of the world knows or recognizes, not “Zhongguo” or Middle Kingdom.

China’s name comes from the Sanskrit name of “Cina.” The name refers to the Qin Dynasty, the first dynasty to rule China. The name “Cina” or “China” is not seen in western writings until the early 16th Century.

The Chinese Name Of China

The name China comes from the Sanskrit name “Cina,” which was taken from the name of the Qing Dynasty that is pronounced in Chinese as “Chin.” The name Cin was translated by the Persians and then later popularized along the Chinese silk road trade routes.

The west did not record or use the word China until about 1516 when it appeared in trade journals of Barbosa, where he spoke about his travels along the old silk road. In fact, in the 13th Century, the famous explorer Marco Polo referred to China as “Cathay” and not China.

In Mandarin Chinese, the Chinese will call China “Zhongguo,” which means the Middle Kingdom. The Chinese only use China when speaking English.

”Cina” And Sanskrit

Most scholars believe that the name “Cina” came from the Sanskirt and was later transcribed to be China in English. It is thought it came from the Qin Dynasty, but many feel that the usage of the word China may have come later.

For example, during the Han Dynasty (202 BC to 220 AD), the Han referred to the Roman Empire as Da- Qin or the literal meaning “Big West.” Qin was a metaphor for actually being in the west. Many look at this and say that the Chinese did not refer to themselves as Qin, or they would never have called the Romans Da -Qin meaning great western nation.

Romans and Greeks knew China as “Seres,” which meant “the land where the silk came from.” China was the first significant silk producer and inventor of silk yarn and fabrics. So even during this time, the Romans and Greeks did not refer to China as Cina or Cin but instead used the name “Seres.”

That is why most people see that the name Cina came much later. After all, we know that even Marco Polo referred to China as “Cathay” and not Cina or China.

Qin Dynasty And China

I believe the name Cina came from the First Dynasty of China. The Qin dynasty did not rule very long, but it is an essential dynasty in China’s history.

Over the centuries, China has had many dynasties. The Qin dynasty was from 221 to 206 BC. This Qin Dynasty started what was then known as the imperial era in China, which lasted from 221 BCE to 1912.

The Imperial Era of China was when different dynasties would rule the land way until 1912 or the 20th Century. Even though the dynasties in China would change, China consistently had dynasties ruling its land since 221 BC.

The Qin Dynasty was named after Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. Even though the Qin Dynasty only ruled China for 15 years. It was the shortest-lived Dynasties of China.

But despite how short the dynasty was for Chinese rule, its influences and mark were left upon China.

Here are some things that the Qin Dynasty is known for:

Great Wall
  • Great Wall – The Qin Dynasty started to build what we know today as the Great Wall of China.
  • Road Building And Infrastructure – Under the Qin Dynasty, road building and infrastructure projects were started all over China. These roads helped ease the travel between different parts of China.
The Grand Canal 
  • Built The Grand Canal – Under the Qin Dynasty, the Grand Canal of China was built.
  • Expanded China’s Boundaries – The Qin expanded China’s boundaries and unified China.
Terracotta Army 
  • Terracotta Army – The Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of China, built the Terracotta army, which was commissioned as a palace or tomb for him to live in the afterlife.
  • Introduced Currency – The Qin introduced a standardized currency system for China.
  • Uniforms System For Weights And Measurements – The Qin also standardized the system for weights and measurements.
Chinese Writing System
  • Uniformed Writing System – The Qin also worked to make a uniform system for writing.
Chinese Army
  • Central Political Power – The Qin had a vision of a state not ruled by warring factions but by a centralized political power. They believed in a large military supported by a stable condition and economy.

Even though the Qin stayed in power for just a short time, the dynasty had issues. Later in the dynasty, they became unpopular because the people saw their freedoms and fundamental rights being taken away.

The dynasty was seen by many as a heavy-handed bureaucracy where the military had a lot of control and power. The Qin was an absolute monarchy with a legalist totalitarian system of government.

Despite all its faults, the Qin left their mark on China for thousands of years. They set the tone for many other dynasties that would later rule China.

In their short time of ruling China, the Qin Dynasty forever changed China’s face with projects like the Great Wall of China and the Grand Canal. So I believe it is only fitting that China’s name comes from the Qin or the first Dynasty to rule China.

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By clicking here, you can discover Is Hong Kong A Separate Country Or A Part Of China?

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By clicking here, you can discover How Much Does The Great Wall Of China Weigh?

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By clicking here, you can discover How Did The Manchu Conquer China?

Anita L Hummel

Hi, I live in Hanoi, Vietnam but spend time traveling the region. I love to share with you things I see and learn through my travels.

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What Is the Origins Of The Name China?