Chinese in India

Jan Nattier nattier at HAWAII.EDU
Sat Aug 17 20:33:08 UTC 2002

Hello Patrick,

A superb source for quick references on such things is Endymion
Wilkinson's _Chinese History: A Manual_, first published in 1998
and now available in an even more comprehensive revised paperback
edition (2000; Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series, no. 52,
1181 pages, $26.50).  In his discussion of Chinese self-appellations
(pp. 95-96 in the revised edition) he reports that during the Warring
States period (403-222 BCE) people referred to themselves and to each
other by the names of their kingdoms, e.g., Songren ["Song (kingdom)
people"], Weiren, and so forth. After the Qin (= Ch'in in Wade-Giles)
unification in 221 BCE, and for most of the rest of Chinese history,
the Chinese "continued to refer to themselves collectively as the Xia
(or Hua, Huaxia, or Zhongxia)" (p. 95).  Wilkinson adds that they
also used the name of a dynasty to refer to its people (and, I would
add, its language: in Buddhist sources from the 2nd-4th c. CE,
Chinese glosses on foreign terms are labeled "in the Han language"
in the late 2nd c., "in the Jin language" in the late 3rd/early 4th c.,
etc.).  The name "Han" enjoyed a trans-dynastic life, continuing
to be used in some cases as a generic name for "China" and "the

Nowhere in the Buddhist materials I have worked with, or in the
secular materials discussed by Wilkinson, does the character Qin
appear, outside the Qin period itself, as a general name for "China."
In fact, by the mid-2nd c. CE it is being used in the Han dynasty
histories (in the form Da Qin "Great Qin") as a name for the
Roman empire! (briefly discussed in my _Once Upon a Future
Time_, p. 158 and n. 29)

In sum:  the name "Qin" appears to have been used within China as a
general name for "Chinese" only during the Qin dynasty (221-207 BCE).
It would therefore seem to follow that the Sanskrit term ciina could only
have been coined during this period, unless we assume that the Sanskrit
was based on an intermediary language in which the name "Qin" had
already been borrowed during that time, which is of course a real

Jan Nattier
Dept. of Religious Studies
Indiana University

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list