Before the World War II, China was called "Shina" () in Japanese. But after the War, China came to be
called "Chuugoku" (), which means the central
country (and which happens to be the name of a region in the center of Japan).
This change was due to the pressure by the Chinese government, who was
considered as part of the victorious nations. The Chinese government pressured
the Japanese government into basically self-censoring itself and in ordering
the Japanese media to self-censor themselves so as to halt the use of "Shina"
and spread the name "Chuugoku" as that of China.
The Chinese government wanted the people of Japan
to use "Chuugoku" instead of "Shina" for the following reasons: first,
"Chuugoku" ("Chuu" + "koku") is the abbreviation of their country's new name,
"Chuuka Jinmin Kyouwakoku" (
Japanese pronunciation), which means People's Republic of the
Central Flower; second, "Shina" was to "them" an insulting name. The first
reason hides a somewhat subliminal reason. The name "Central Country" and
"Central Flower" implies something about the relationship between China and
the other countries. This implication makes the name "Chuugoku" and "Chuuka"
() more than a mere name but rather an
ideology. I will explain about this implication and the somewhat ideological
reasoning behind it. Before doing so, I will examine the Chinese government's
accusation against the name "Shina".
Why would calling China "Shina" be insulting? If it
is not insulting, as I think, why not?
The origin of the name Shina is from the name of
the first united Chinese empire, "Ch'in" (
221 – 207BC). "Ch'in" came to be called "Chi-na" and "Tin" in
India where they spoke Sanskrit. This name was transmitted to Europe, where it
turned into "Chine" (French), pronounced "Shin", in France, and "China"
(English) in the UK. The Indian naming "Chi-na" and "Tin" came into China
through Buddhist scriptures.
The Chinese adopted the Indian names, and combined
them to produce the name "Zhina" (,
). To this name, they found two Chinese
characters having the said pronunciation. This name was then brought to Japan
by the Chinese. And as the name as written in Chinese is pronounced "Shina"
() in Japanese, China came to be called "Shina",
and written as the Chinese had written. By the mid Edo-period, it had
established itself as China's name and was then on used until the post-War
As you can see, the name "Shina" and the Chinese
characters attributed to the name was chosen by the Chinese themselves. As the
origin and process by which it came to be shows, there is nothing insulting
about China being called "Shina". If it is insulting, for some unknown reason,
the name "China" and "Chine" would be just as much insulting. Thus the Chinese
government, if they seek to be consistent in theory and action, should
pressure or make complaints or ask any and every country that calls them
"China" or "Chine" or any other name else than "Central Country" or "Central
Flower" or the alphabetized Chinese pronunciation of their country name in
Chinese character, that is "Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo" () or "Zhon-guo" ( respectively meaning, People's Republic of the Central Flower and Central Country).
Maybe the Chinese government wants to make a
distinction between the China before the establishment of the Chinese
Communist regime and after. If so, they should stop calling themselves
People's Republic of "China" and start to get the world to recognize their new
name, People's Republic of Zhonghua (in short, Zhon-guo).
In addition to this inconsistency in their action
and the unfounded reason of their imposition of their new name only upon
Japan, there is another problem. It is the problem of its somewhat ideological
implication, which I will mention at the end. Now, I will further mention
about the history of China's country name, more specifically, about the other
lineage of the country name.
Résumé of the "Ch'in" lineage names:
+>Chine(French) & China(English)
Other than the "Ch'in" lineage names, there is the
"Khitai" () lineage names. "Khitai" was the name
of the country that was established over Manchuria and the Norther Chinese
region, and which reigned there from 907 to 1127 under the "Liao" () Dynasty. It was called "Khitai" because the country was
founded and managed by a Mongolian tribe called the "Khitai". Even though it
was not a Chinese country, but a Mongolian country ruling over a Chinese
region, Europeans and Arabs understood it as being entire China's name.
One of the reason for this spread was Marco Polo's
Divisament dou Monde, (Description of the World). When Marco
Polo allegedly visited China in 1275, the country "Khitai" was obviously no
longer in existence. Instead, Mongolians as a whole lead by Qublai Khan
( 1215 – 1294) was ruling
over the entire China (from 1271 to 1368). This China was called "Yuan"
() but Marco Polo called it "Khatai" in his
"Description". His book which had a wide audience, partly contributed to the
spread of the name "Khatai", originating from the name "Khitai". (Researchers
such as Frances Wood has claimed that Marco Polo very possibly never went to
China, and that his account of his "visit" was, arguably, based on Persian or
Arabic guidebooks on China. This would explain why Marco Polo called China,
"Khatai" instead of "Yuan". He just used what the Persians or Arabs used in
calling China, that is "Khatai".)
In the languages such as French and English, the
"Ch'in" lineage name eventually fully established itself, but in those such as
Turkish, Russian and Persian, the "Khatai" lineage name established itself.
And so even now, these languages call China, "Khatai".
By the way, the name "Cathay" in the company name
of a Hong-Kongese Airline Company, Cathay Pacific, originates from the name
"Khatai". It now means mainly the northern region of China, but in poems and
ancient language, it is still used as a name including the entire Chinese
Résumé of the "Khitai" lineage names:
Khitai -> Khatai -> Cathay
Finally, about the somewhat ideological implication
of the name "Zhong-guo" (Central Country) or People's Republic of "Zhonghua"
(Central Flower). The origin of the Chinese character pronounced in Chinese
"hua" ( meaning flower and various good
qualities) as a part of the country name, is in one of the name of the
Chinese "Xia" dynasty ( 2173?BC – 1772?BC),
"Xiahua" ( meaning the Flower or
Splendor of Summer, or the Splendorous Xia dynasty). The origin of the Chinese
character pronounced in Chinese "Zhong" (
meaning Middle or Center) is in the other way the "Xia" dynasty was
called, "Zhongxia" ( meaning the
Central Summer or the Central "Xia" dynasty). By "Zhong", the Chinese implied
that their country was the most civilized or wise leader/lord nation, and
that all the other nations were uncivilized and barbaric, and subject to their
lordship. This "Zhonghua" () view, where one's
country and people are not just the center of the world, but the leading
lordly county best and most civilized of all nations and people, is extremely
chauvinistic and malicious.
The Chinese had attributed names to each people
living in the four regions of the world, with them as the center. The Eastern
people were called "Toui" ("Dong-yi"
:meaning the Eastern Savages or Barbarians), the Western people was called
"Seijuu" ("Xi-rong" :meaning the
Western Savages or Barbarians), the Southern people was called "Namban"
("Nan-man" :meaning the Southern
Savages or Barbarians), and the Northern people was called "Hokuteki" ("Bei-di"
:meaning the Northern Savages or Barbarians)
(all four names are according to Japanese pronunciation).
To call China, "Zhong-guo" or "Zhonghua Renmin
Gongheguo" or "People's Republic of Zhonghua" or "Chuugoku" or "Chuuka Jinmin
Kyouwakoku" is to accept the chauvinistic implication that the name has.
Therefore, unless one believes they are as a person, as a people or as a
nation inferior to China, one should not call China by the chauvinistic name.
The "Ch'in" lineage name is the finest name choice for China there is for the
moment. The "Ch'in" lineage name that came to Japan is "Shina". The Japanese
language could adopt "China" or "Chine" or of the sort as their "Ch'in"
lineage name but there is no necessity to exchange "Shin" for another "Ch'in"
lineage name. Therefore I conclude and state, "Shin" should remain as the
name for China in the Japanese language.
I strongly emphasize the aspect of this case, in
which China replaced a relatively historically legitimate and inter-nationally
(China<–>Japan) acceptable "Ch'in" lineage name, "Shin", into a
chauvinistic and inter-nationally unacceptable name, "Chuugoku", with an
unfounded accusation of "Shin" being an insulting name, and political
>Fromthis case one can learn that international politics is a matter
reasoning, whether correct or wrong, backed up by force. Rightness of a
matter may be mighty, on the other hand, mightiness of matter may turn
wrong into right. But hopefully, this unjust maneuver will eventually be
overcome, thus braking away the cloud of falsehood and opening the way for
truth to shine the way for mutual-happiness.
(In this essay, I did not mention about the deeper historical
significance of the name "Zhonghua" and "Zhong-guo". The modern usage of
these two names by Chinese governments (first by the Chinese Revolutionary
Nationalists led by Sun Yi-xian (), and
then by the Chinese Communists and Nationalists) is based on a fairly shallow
understanding of the historical significance of the two names. Based on a deep
(or slightly deeper) understanding of the historical significance of the two,
one could conclude that the usage of the two as they are used now is absurd
even for China itself. This aspect may be expanded further in another upcoming
(The usage of the Chinese characters pronounced in Chinese "Zhonghua"
and "Zhong-guo" maybe acceptable between governments, for political reasons.
But this does not justify the censorship and/or unreasonable criticism
against the usage of "Shina", as meaning China, by the Japanese people in