Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Ancient, China developed all of the hallmarks of advanced civilization, including written language, advanced cities, specialized labor and bronze technology, as much as 2000 years before Japan. As a result, China and its culture had an enormously large influence on the younger culture, sharing its philosophies, political structures, architecture, Buddhism, clothing styles and even its written language. In fact, the earliest known written account of Japan was found in a Chinese book. With such a powerful influence, it is perhaps not surprising that when Japan was described early in its development (both by themselves and from the Chinese), it was from a Chinese perspective. And when the Chinese looked east to Japan, they looked in the direction of the dawn. By the time the first Japanese ambassador was sent to the Chinese Han eastern capital in 57 AD, the Japanese were called Wa (Wo), a name of uncertain origin, but appears to be referencing squatting or kneeling, so essentially the people were being called submissive and eventually the country itself was known as wakoku or the “country of the wa”. According to contemporary Chinese accounts, these early Japanese had countless violent succession struggles. However, in the first century AD, one clan, the Yamato, began to dominate its neighbors, and by the 5th century AD, Yamato became a synonym for Japan. As a single, central government emerged, Japan increasingly followed Chinese culture, including its methods of administration. Specifically, by about 600 AD, the Prince Regent of Japan, Shotoku (574-622 AD), who was a big fan of Chinese culture, introduced a wide array of Chinese influences to Japan. This included models of etiquette and rank after Confucianism, using the Chinese calendar, building Buddhist temples, and even sending students to China to study Confucianism and Buddhism. In addition to all this, Shotoku is widely credited in Japan with coining the name Nippon ("Sun Origin") for Japan. This supposedly occurred around 607 when Shotoku sent a letter to emperor Yangdi “from the Son of Heaven in the land where the sun rises to the Son of Heaven in the land where the sun sets.” Moving on to more popular usage, in 645 AD, according to Japanese history, a palace coup led to the introduction of the Taika (meaning "great change") Reform. Intended to further centralize the government, the reform eliminated private ownership of lands and put them under the control of the centralized government – with the "people direct subjects of the throne." As part of this reform, Nippon, Nihon (both meaning "origin of the sun") and Dai Nippon (Great Japan) were used "in diplomatic documents and chronicles" in place of Wa (Wo). On the other side, the Chinese claim in the Old Book of Tang that it was a Japanese envoy who didn't like the Wonguo name and changed it to “Origin of the Sun” (Nippon). In yet another Chinese account from the 8th century, it is claimed that it was the Chinese Empress Wu Zetian who was the one who told the envoy to change the name to Nippon. Finally, in yet another Chinese account of the transformation, found in the official history of the Tang dynasty, the Xin Tang Shu, reported: “In . . . 670, an embassy came to the Court [from Japan] to offer congratulations on the conquest of Koguryo. Around this time, the Japanese who had studied Chinese came to dislike the name Wa and changed it to Nippon. According to the words of the Japanese envoy himself, that name was chosen because the country was so close to where the sun rises.” Whatever the exact version of the story, it would seem around the late 7th century the name change occurred officially and stuck. And so it is that for the last 1400 years or so, pretty much just because Japan is east of China, the world has referred to Japan as Nippon, the land of the rising sun.