The Chinese name for China translates to "the center of the world." However, do the Chinese people truly feel proud of their country's status among the top nations, or do they experience a sense of marginalization from the world, akin to Russia?





Jonathan Carlson

No, the Chinese name for China is 中国. This literally means “Middle Country”, although it is often referred to as the “Middle Kingdom”. This term is a lot less egocentric than you portray it as. Let’s take a look at Google Earth. To begin with, here’s the “Chinese Heartland”:


It is a very green and verdant area, fed by multiple river systems. This is the traditional “China”, although for the past thousand years or so, China has, off and on, been larger than just this region.

So now, let’s look at the territory surrounding it, shall we?



In the East and South, there is ocean. This is a pretty large barrier that requires a lot of logistics in order to cross, especially when compared to places like the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean is basically an inland sea, and the waters are a lot calmer than the open ocean. This is what led to the cultures in the area being able to travel around.


Next, the Southeast has rugged terrain and dense jungles. This also was a barrier, though a considerably weaker barrier. Again, if we compare to the West (bear in mind, I’m thinking of the Roman Empire as an analogy), the equivalent would be the forests of the region of Germany.


In the North, there’s the steppes of Asia. Flat grasslands that have (comparatively) poor soil and a lack of lumber and other resources that can be used to build permanent settlements. Sure, the Northeast is comparatively open, but bear in mind that all the way back to the Han dynasty, China had expanded in that direction (and partway down into the Korean peninsula). They were later driven out by steppe nomads. Those same steppe nomads, or their descendants actually, ended up becoming sinicized and founded their own Chinese state (this happened a few times, but I’m mostly thinking of the in dynasty).


In the West there is the largest mountain range in the world, as well as massive deserts. Yes, there are a few green areas, and they were, off and on, a part of China (the Tang dynasty, for example stretched all the way to Kashgar - a border city even today), but due to the terrain, it wasn’t easily defended. Often raiders from the mountains would come and break off supply lines or disrupt trade. It only became a part of China when the nomadic tribes from the North first invaded the Mountains and later invaded China (I’m talking about the Mongol Empire. They invaded the Tiban plateau in the 1240s-1250s, conquered China in the 1260s, and established the Yuan dynasty in the 1270s).

中国的西部有世界上最大的山脉,还有大片的沙漠。当然,也有一些绿地,它们在历史上多次融入中国(例如,唐朝的版图一直延伸到喀什——今天喀什仍然是中国的边境城市),但由于地形条件很难防守,来自山区的入侵者时常会破坏补给线或破坏贸易。当北方的游牧部落突破山脉屏障,进而入侵中国(我说的是蒙古帝国)时,它才真正成为中国的一部分。1240 -1250年代,蒙古人入侵青藏高原,1260年代统治中国,1270年代建立了元朝)。

These geographical barriers are why China is called the “Middle Country” or the “Middle Kingdom”. Rome, too, had geographical barriers, but not like this. They had the ocean to the West, forests to the North, Deserts to the South, but in the East, their biggest barrier wasn’t geographical. There were the Parthians and later the Sassanids.





Harry Santiago

Sinocentrism was a thing in the past, just like a flat earth theory. You don't bring about such idea in modern times, would you agree?

This belief was particularly prevalent during the imperial era, where China was seen as a superior civilization compared to its neighbors. However, this mindset has been challenged in the modern era, as China has had to navigate its position in a more interconnected and globalized world.



Today, while some Chinese people may still take pride in China's historical accomplishments and cultural contributions, many also recognize the challenges and complexties of being a major global power.

As for a sense of marginalization, while some individuals in China may feel that the country is not given enough recognition or respect by the Western world, overall, China's leaders are actively pursuing a more assertive foreign policy to advance China's interests and promote its vision for the future. Oh, have you heard of the Belt and Road Initiative, perchance?






Christina Zastrow


Why do the Chinese call the United States the Beautiful Country but only give themselves the modest name of the Middle Country?


As some one else said 中国 or Zhong Guo, literally Middle Country, isn’t humbly declaring China less then anywhere else. It’s seeing China as the middle or center of the world and everyone else coming to China. This is because for much of their history, China was the most powerful in the region.


As for 美国 or Mei Guo/beautiful country/America, chinese has very specific ways to build words. Their phonics include initials, or sounds at the begng of words, and finals, or the rest of the word. In mei for example the initial muah (the sound of m) and the final is ei (like the begng of eight). Very few words in Chinese have a vowel initial (一 or yi is an example and there’s a y places there so the word isn’t just i). So there’s no word in chinese that starts with an a like America, but there are many words that begging with muah, including 美. As the two countries initially had good relations, 美国 was the word that was created for America.

至于美国或美丽国/美利坚,中国人有非常具体的造词方式。中文的拼读包括首字母,或单词开头的声母,也有韵母,或词语发音的其余部分。例如,在mei中,前面的muah (m的发音)和最后的ei (就像eight的开头)。中文中很少有元音字母为首的词 (例如一或yi,包含一个“y”,所以这个单词不是只有“i”),所以中文中没有单词像America一样以“a”开头,但有很多单词以“muah”开头,包括“美”。两国之间的关系一开始还不错,“美国”一词就是当时中国为美国创造的。

So to sum up 中国 is actually pride of place as the center of the world and 美国 is actually mostly phonics.

Please note that although I live in China and have had this explained by Chinese, I’m an American with tart poor Chinese so I apologize if I have forgotten anything. 我的中文很不好。






David Soler


How do Chinese translations of the countries' names come about?

A name is eventually chosen based on 3 criteria: sound, as adapted to Chinese phonology. That last is important, as Chinese has relatively few phonemes. The “closest they can get” may be far removed from the native pronunciation, and native speakers of the country probably won’t recognize it. Oh, Chinese generally work with the preferred choice of the native speakers. The translation for Germany, 德國, is based on “Deutschland” rather than “Germany” or “Alemania.” Also, the characters chosen for the translation may be “keyed” to a different dialect, as in 夏威夷, pronounced Ha-wai-yi in Cantonese and ia-wei-yi in Mandarin.


名字的选择最后往往基于三个标准:发音,即符合汉语音位学。最后一点很重要,因为汉语的音素相对较少。“他们所能挑选的最接近的发音”可能和母语发音相去甚远,导致母语人士都可能认不出来。Germany的翻译是德国,这个译法基于“Deutschland”而非“Germany”或“Alemania”。此外,为译名选择的汉字可能会因为不同的方言而有不同的发音,比如夏威夷,在粤语中发音为“Ha-wai-yi”,但在普通话中发音为“X ia-wei-yi”。

Second step is abbreviation, with one syllable being chosen for combination with guo, country. So, yes, Chinese are actually saying “X-country.” That’s a feature of the language, because few phonemes means lots of homonyms. For Americans, think of how the Southern dialect has lost the vocalic distinction between “pen” and “pin.” To compensate, a Southerner will say “inkpin” and “safety pin.” Generally, it’s the first syllable. 美國 (Meiguo) would be an exception, derived from “A-mei-li-ga(jia?)” If you go back far enough, you’ll find Japan written as 日本國 (Ribenguo), “Land of the Rising Sun.”

第二个方法是缩写,选择某个音节和“国”、country相组合。所以,没错,中国人其实是采用了“x国”的组合方式。这也正是中文的一个特点,因为中文会用很少的音素代表大量的同音异义字。对美国人来说,可以回顾一下南方方言是如何逐渐把“pen”和“p in”的发音趋同的。为了避免误会,南方人会说“inkpin”和“safety pin”。通常,中文会摘取第一个音节。美国(Meiguo)倒是一个例外,美国是由“A-mei-li-ga(jia?)”衍生而来,如果你追溯历史,会发现日本也曾被写成日本国(Ribenguo),即“日出之地”。

Finally, the translators worry about the meaning. There are many homonyms, and some of them have better meanings than others. Diplomacy probably demands choosing a word with a pleasant meaning. France becomes “Land of Law.” Germany is transformed into “Land of Virtue” and “the United States” is portrayed as “Land of Beauty.” (I’m sure that comedians can easily find alternative characters for punning effect.)


The translations for the country names have to be understood as an attempt to incorporate them into the Chinese language, for the convenience of Chinese native speakers. All languages do this, it’s just that a shared alphabet allows for (the appearance) of greater fidelity by obscuring phonetic adaptations.





Qingfeng Huang

Both. China feels its the top dog Alpha nation at the center of the world. But because of this attitude feels the need to separate itself from the rest of the world . As it result marginalized itself from the so-called barbarians





Brillet Hu

Originally Answered: Why do the Chinese call the United States 'beautiful country' (美国) given that the Chinese name does not sound like the English equivalent?


When Chinese made the equivalent name for other countries, there are many characters to be used, but they tend to choose good words as the standard.


Some examles:

Short name-meaning-full name-original

美国-beautiful country-美利坚-America

德国-country of virtue-德意志-Deutsch

英国-hero's country-英格兰-England

法国-law's country-法兰西-France







Attention. The meanings belongs to the first characters, the first characters come from equivalent translation eventually.


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