Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Let me tell you guys a story. Once upon a time, there was a … let’s call it a state.

  • It was a area, about here, all ruled by a group of people referred to as theZhou,”

  • and as such the name of this state was alsoZhou.” Now, this might seem pretty strange

  • to us, kind of like calling the United StatesObamabecause that’s the last name

  • of the guy in charge, but keep in mind this area might not have originally had any common

  • identity besides that they were all ruled by the Zhou dynasty. They probably spoke different

  • languages and had different cultures, but we can’t really know that for sure because

  • they didn’t write anything down. The only people who wrote stuff down were the rich,

  • educated elites, which is to say the Zhou themselves, who definitely did share a common

  • language and culture. Somewhat annoyingly, they didn’t have a real name for their language

  • besides justthe proper way to speak.” Now, there was a geographical term I should

  • probably mention, “zhongguo.” This term was sometimes used to describe this country,

  • region, place, but all it ment wascentral state.” Or possiblycentral states,”

  • because this language doesn’t require you to specify whether things are singular or

  • plural, but the point is, “zhongguowas never a precise word, it was always just a

  • kind of vague geographical description. It was a common assumption at the time that the

  • center of the world was maximally civilized and that the further away you got from it

  • the less civilized the people were, sozhongguoliterally mentthe middle realm,” but

  • impliedthe most civilized realm.” It’s kind of like how in the US we sometimes call

  • the president theleader of the free world”. Do any of us actually have any idea what is

  • and isn’t part of thefree world”? Definitely the US, probably the rest of NATO,

  • and maybeallies of the USin general? Is Mexico part of the free world? Turkey?

  • India? No one knows, and no one really cares, it’s not supposed to mean anything, it’s

  • just a way of sayingour leader is super important and powerful, and also were better

  • than you.” Same goes forZhongguo.” Anyway, eventually the Zhou lost power to

  • a new dynasty called the Qin, which itself was quickly replaced by the Han dynasty, and

  • so people started calling the political territory itselfHanjust like with the Zhou.

  • The Han dynasty adopted the culture of the Zhou, and over time this culture of the elite

  • trickled down to everyone else, and eventually everyone was speaking this language that didn’t

  • have a name in this country that didn’t have a name. The Han dynasty also expanded

  • the country to the south, spreading the language and culture there too. But after that, when

  • the Han dynasty fell and the region broke up into a bunch of smaller states, something

  • interesting happened. Even though they were politically divided they all still shared

  • that common culture of the elites from the Zhou and Han periods. They looked back on

  • the time when the Han dynasty ruled as a sort of golden age, and they saw themselves as

  • the rightful descendants of that cultural legacy, so it seemed natural to call themselves

  • the people of Han,” even long after the Han state ceased to exist. They still call

  • themselvesHanto this day, although who exactly counts as Han has always been

  • kind of vague. Like, originally it seems like the term just referred to the people of the

  • original territory of the Zhou to the north, but eventually the term was expanded to include

  • the people of the more mountainous south, sense they had also adopted Han culture after

  • being conquered by the Han dynasty. So yeah, as the centuries went by the people

  • of this region continued to refer to political entities by the families of their rulers or

  • whatever region the rules came from, and they continued to refer themselves Han. However,

  • the language slowly diverged into a whole bunch of different languages.

  • Now, as you might have noticed, I’ve been talking about what in the west we generally

  • callChina,” and yet, I’ve managed to do so without ever once actually using

  • the wordChinaorChinese.” That’s because no one in this region actually uses

  • those words. The wordChinaprobably comes from a Persian word which probably comes

  • from a Sanskrit word which might have come from the wordQin,” the name of that

  • super-short dynasty that came between the Zhou and Han dynasties. But not only isn’t

  • China” a word Chinese people use, but the entire idea ofChinamight not have

  • really existed in it’s modern form until Europeans introduced it. Like, in the US and

  • the western world more generally we like to think in terms of nation states. Like, this

  • country is France. French people live here, and they speak French. We have this instinct

  • that political regimes, cultural identity and language should all line up with each

  • other geographically to create what we might call a “nation.” But that way of thinking

  • used to be pretty foreign to China until contact with Europeans really got serious in the 1800s,

  • at which point the Han people started thinking much more in terms of this nation-state model.

  • Well, at least, I think? Ok look, talking about a single person’s sense of identity

  • and group membership can be really complicated. Talking about that but generalized for a large

  • population is extremely tricky. Talking about that but over the course of two thousand years

  • is simply beyond the scope of this video. But from where I’m sitting it looks a awful

  • lot like the European nation-state concept at the very least substantially influence

  • the way Chinese people think about themselves. Before they were Han people who lived in the

  • Qing state which happened to include Zhonguo and who spoke a whole bunch of different languages

  • descended from Middle Chinese, but with more and more contact with Europeans they started

  • thinking in terms ofChina” (Zhonguo) “Chinese people” (the Han) and theChinese

  • Language,” for which they coined a whole new term: Han-yu, literally justHan Language,”

  • which doesn’t really make any sense, because the Han people haven’t spoken a single mutually-intelligible

  • language in hundreds of years. As far as I can tell the phraseHan-yubasically

  • refers to any of the languages the Han people speak, which is less of a language and more

  • of a language family. Only one of these modern languages is officially used by the government

  • of China, and that’s the one that evolved in the capital, Beijing. A century ago this

  • language was calledguanhuaorthe language of officials,” but, somewhat hilariously,

  • today the official name for it isputonghuaorcommon language.” Like, in the 1950s

  • after the Communist party took over there were calls to use a different official language

  • because guanhua was too bourgeois or whatever, but they couldn’t agree on what exactly

  • to replace it with so they just slapped a new proletariat-y label on it and hoped no

  • one would notice. In English we call itMandarinbecause the Malay word forgovernment official

  • wasmantriand the Chinese were calling itthe language of government officials

  • so we just started using thatby translating it into Malay first, I guess… I’m honestly

  • not really sure what happened here. But yeah, it’s not like the idea of the

  • nation state was perfect to begin with, but it’s an especially awkward fit on China.

  • A big thing I didn’t mention was how there are currently two different countries claiming

  • the title ofZhonguo,” and there’s also some city states which are kind-of-sort-of

  • part of the country but not really, but plenty of other people have made videos about that

  • so I’m gonna stop here.

Let me tell you guys a story. Once upon a time, there was a … let’s call it a state.

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

A2 han zhou language dynasty china chinese

"China" doesn't exist. | Etymosemanticology

  • 818 54
    gotony5614.me97 posted on 2016/07/15
Video vocabulary