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MITRES_21F_003S11_bgd - Learning Chinese A Foundation...

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Learning Chinese: A Foundation Course in Mandarin Julian K. Wheatley, 4/07 Background 1. China Names for China It used to be thought that the name ‘China’ derived from the name of China’s early Qin dynasty (Chin or Ch’in in older transcriptions), whose rulers conquered all rivals and initiated the dynasty in 221 BCE. But, as Wilkinson notes ( Chinese History: A Manual : 753, and fn 7), the original pronunciation of the name Qin was rather different, and would make it an unlikely source for the name China. Instead, China is thought to derive from a Persian root, first used for porcelain and only later applied to the country from which the finest examples of that material came. Another name, Cathay, now rather poetic in English but surviving as the regular name for the country in languages such as Russian (Kitai), is said to derive from the name of the Khitan Tarters, who formed the Li ǎ o dynasty in the north of China in the 10 th century. The Khitan dynasty was the first to make a capital in the region of modern Beijing. The Chinese now call their country Zh ō ngguó , often translated as ‘Middle Kingdom’. Originally, this name meant the central, or royal, state of the many that occupied the region prior to the Qin unification. Other names were used before Zh ō ngguó became current. One of the earliest was Huá (or Huáxià, combining Huá with the name of the earliest dynasty, the Xià ). Huá , combined with the Zh ō ng of Zh ō ngguó , appears in the modern official names of the country (see below). Chinese places a) The People’s Republic of China (PRC) [Zh ō nghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó ] This is the political entity proclaimed by Máo Zéd ō ng when he gave the inaugural speech (‘China has risen again’) at the Gate of Heavenly Peace [Ti ā n’ ā nmén ] in Beijing on October 1, 1949. The PRC claims sovereignty over Taiwan and the regions currently controlled by the government in Taipei. b) Mainland China; the Mainland [Zh ō ngguó Dàlù ] This is a geographic term, used to refer to the continental part of China, without Taiwan, but also implying the land in actual control of the PRC. When the term functions as a proper name, referring to the de facto PRC, then we go against custom and write ‘the Mainland’, with a capital M; otherwise, it is written with the usual small ‘m’. c) The Republic of China (ROC) [Zh ō nghuá Mínguó ] This was the name of the political entity established in 1912, after the fall of the Manchu (or Qing) dynasty, which took place the previous year. The man most responsible for the founding of the Republic was Sun Yat-sen (S ū n Yìxi ā n in Mandarin), and for this, he has earned the name Guófù ‘Father of the Country’. But although he was named provisional president in 1911, fears for the unity of the country led to the appointment of Yuán Shìk ǎ i (Yuan Shih-k’ai), an important military and diplomatic official under the Qing, as the first president of the Republic in 1912. When the later president, Chiang Kai-shek (Mandarin: Ji ǎ ng Jièshí ), fled with his government to Taiwan in 1949, he kept the name 1
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