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Han, another name for Chinese
By Dong Jirong ( )
Updated: 2011-03-04

Han, another name for Chinese

Just like we often use Gaulish to describe people of French ethnicity, there’s also another word for the Chinese: Han.

Originally, Han referred to the Han River in central China, after which the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) itself was named.

The Han Dynasty, lasting 400 years, was one of the most glorious periods in China’s history. It consisted of two periods: the Western Han (206 BC-24 AD), with its capital in Chang’an, now known as Xi’an, and the Eastern Han (25-220 AD).

The Western Han conquered many surrounding ethnic groups and expanded its territory. The unified people began calling themselves “Han Ren,” and the nationality “Han Zu,” presently accounts for more than 90 percent of the total population in China.

It was then the word Han rose in popularity and gradually secured the connotation of “Chinese.”

There’s more to “Han” than a people. Its meaning was further extended to mean Chinese culture because the Han Dynasty thoroughly established the social culture which has been passed down to this day, over the course of 2,000 years. Thus came Han Yu and Han Zi, which mean Chinese language and Chinese characters respectively.

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