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Russia isn’t “Sudden Birdnet Thus”? Or, “Suddenland”?
My reasoning was (1) the characters are too obscure and (2) I wanted to have “White Russia” – but your version works too.
“White Russia” is nothing strange, though? That’s simply what Belarus means…
it is multi-siloland …..there has to be control…Mao understood gun control so he named it multi-siloland.
This is slightly misleading, all of the countries have names which are phonetically similar to the names in their native languages. The translation here translates character-by-character the phonetic names assigned to each country…
Yes, that’s about right.
Wait. So, If I understand correctly – in Chinese, each country has a name that sounds a bit like what the country is named in its own native language, but it’s made up of phonetic symbols that have their own meaning, so it’s fun to take them literally.
But there seems to be some inconsistencies?
England = Braveland
Deutshland (Germany) = Moral-land
France (France) = Law-land? But that doesn’t seem to work, phonetically? They don’t end the same at all?
Italia (Italy) = Meaning Big Profit
Osterreich (Austria) = Oh Ground Profit??
Curious to hear how it all works?
The inconsistencies you pointed out are due to the fact that the countries mentioned–England, Germany and France (along with the U.S., by the way)–were the nations that almost split up China during the height of European imperialism in the late 19th century. As a result, when the Chinese were modernizing the Mandarin language wholesale sometime in the early 20th century, they were less concerned with phonetic spelling and more with double-meaning when naming these powerful nations they badly sought to emulate (or so that’s my take on why the names came out as they did).
Hence, England = Yingguo (which sounds a lot like “England” in Mandarin), which literally means “brave land” or “hero land” (and in some contexts, “flower land”). This may stem from the fact that England was the source of all modern inventions back in the 19th century and was the nation that was “brave” enough to open up China to the West, and modernity.
On the other hand, France = Faguo (which sounds a lot like “France” in Mandarin). France was known as “law land” since China opted to go with the civil law system instead of the common law system prevalent in England and the U.S. This is due to Chinese preference for law codes, which were prevalent throughout the historical dynasties, and traditional Chinese distrust of judges and litigation (which tend to play a more influential role in the common law system). The civil law system privileges law codes over judges, so that’s why China chose that system. The origins of the civil system come from France, hence why France became the “land of law” in Chinese eyes.
Germany = Deguo (which echoes “Deutschland” in Mandarin). The character for “de” means “morality” in Mandarin, hence why Germany is “moral land”. This may stem from the fact that the most famous European philosophers of the 19th century were mostly German, and maybe some Chinese scholars were so impressed by the philosophical inquiries emanating from Germany at that time that they decided to name the whole land “moral land”. That’s just a guess on my part.
U.S. = Meiguo (which echoes “America” in Mandarin), which means “beautiful land”. This may stem from the fact that the U.S. was the #1 destination for Chinese emigrants seeking to leave China throughout the mid-19th century. Tall tales trickling back from these Chinese emigrants, that the U.S. was the “land of gold” (mostly because of the California gold rush of 1849, among other events), probably helped cement the U.S.’s reputation as a “land of beauty” in Chinese eyes. Hence why the name stuck. But this is conjecture on my part.
All other European nations, on the other hand, have phonetic names that try as best as possible within the confines of the Chinese language to emulate the native names of these nations.
Now I’m glad I asked the question! Thanks for a very educational answer — I did think those names were a bit too evocative to just be coincidences of phonetics…
Actualllllly, I believe he was reading wayyy too much into the matter. Far from being a nation humbled by European power, China was always rather arrogant in treating foreign matters. Three millennium of cultural, economic, scientific, and military dominance in east Asia has made them very big-headed. Official encyclopedias from the Qianlong Imperial era (around the time of the Macartney Mission, when China was still immensely rich, powerful, and self-sustaining) already called Britain and France by their present names. France = Fa Lan Xi, which sounds like France, and Britain = Bu Lie Dian, or Ying Ge Lan, which obviously sounds like England. The fact that the first characters of these countries’ names correspond with rather nice things (courage, law, etc.) is only a semi-coincidence. I mean, obviously, if you were the scholar in charge of recording these new country names, you wouldn’t want them to sound too bad.
In fact, most Chinese officials at that time called European countries “Yi”, which means savage/barbarian. Hence, in Qianlong era documents, the English were referred to as Ying-yi, or English-barbarians, and the French as Fa-yi, or Franco-barbarians. It was only up till the Second Opium War I believe, that the British strongly demanded the word Yi never be used again in official documents to describe Britain and its subjects, and the word Yang (ocean) started to be used instead to refer to all things western. Indeed, another popular name for foreigners at that time include Yang Gui Zhi, or ghosts from across the ocean. Modern Chinese call foreigners either Wai Guo Ren (Lit. Outside-country people) or Xi Yang Ren (Lit. Western ocean people), sometimes just Yang Ren (Ocean people).
FYI, official name of Germany is De Yi Zhi, which comes from Deutsche. America’s official name is Mei Li Jian, which comes from ‘Merican. Spain’s official name is Xi Ban Ya, which comes from España (no one bothered prettying this one up, resulting in Lit. West-class-tooth).
One last thing you (and everyone else looking at this thread) should know is, the author very obviously could only choose one translation, whereas most Chinese characters have several meanings. For example, Sweden can mean Lit. Auspicious-Ceremony instead of Swiss-Scholar (ALSO the author messed up Sweden and Switzerland).
The confusion over Switzerland and Sweden is almost universal in China.
As a Swede, I can assure you that the confusion is more or less a global phenomenon. Only our Scandinavian neighbors can keep us apart from those Swiss bastards ;-) I’ve also met people in India who confused Sweden with Swaziland!
which dialect is this for?
it’s based on characters rather than sounds, so no dialect.
Keep in mind that many of the names for European countries were largely borrowed during a period in history when “Chinese” did not sound like the modern Chinese language(s) we know of today. The sound system of Mandarin Chinese has changed dramatically over the last couple centuries, and a good set of European country names come into standard Chinese through non-standard, so-called “dialects” like Cantonese and Hokkien/Min. Speakers of these southern Chinese languages from centuries ago were some of the first Chinese to come in contact with Europeans. So, Standard Chinese country names will not only have absurd/nonsensical meanings, but the relationship between “target” pronunciation and actual pronunciation at the time of borrowing (if we can figure either out) has also been obscured due to phonetic changes in the Chinese languages over time. Additionally, tonal information is completely missing in this map, and linguists understand that tones in Chinese languages are often used to mimic pitch patterns denoting stress and intonation in other (Indo-European) languages. This is perhaps why we see the word for ‘England, the UK’ written with 英, which has a high tone (like how “England” is pronounced in English), rather than similar-sounding syllable with a different tone, e.g. 營 yíng (rising tone), 映 yìng (steep falling tone), or 影 yǐng (low falling-then-rising tone), etc.
Let’s also perhaps respect that the shapes of words in any language can sometimes be semi-arbitrary or idiosyncratic. I just moved to Hong Kong, and a lot of the English colonial-era translations of the names of HK localities are supposed to correspond to their Cantonese pronunciations, but there are quite a few spelling inconsistencies and I wonder if there were multiple English transliteration schema that the British used. Examples like: e.g. Tsim Sha Tsui for 尖沙嘴 (Cantonese pronunciation: zim1 saa1 zeoi1), Kowloon for 九龍 (Cantonese: gau2 lung4), Wan Chai for 灣仔 (Cantonese: waan1 zai2), and Hung Hom 紅磡 (Cantonese: hung4 ham3). The sounds are more or less there.
And this is further reflected in the current translation of Sweden (瑞典) and Switzerland (瑞士) which really do not correspond well phonetically to Mandarin, 瑞 being an R sound versus the S in both countries. But if pronounced in Cantonese then both names start to sound much closer to the original sounds.
And also, the fact that civil law was adoped when China started to modernize probably had no influence on the Chinese name given to France. The early republican codes were taken more from German codes (although Napoleon codes did influence everything, the early law makers were definitely conscious of whose codes they were borrowing from).
Interesting interpretation. But not entirely correct: Ying-guo (UK), Fa-guo (France), De-guo (Germany), Mei-guo (US), etc are technically abbreviations of their full name: the first major syllable of the country (Ying = Eng[land], Fa = F[rance], De = Deu[tch], Mei = [A]Me[rica], proceeded by Guo, meaning country. These nations were possibly the most familiar and having to sound out all the syllables of their names were deemed too inefficient, esp. in the case of USA, which would have taken up 7 words each time.
Your point is valid, however, in the choice of the actual Chinese word used for each sound (Using brave for Ying instead of “dark” or “sound” which are also pronounced Ying, as in Ying-Yang and Pin-Yin.)
You’re mostly corrrect. In fact, these are all short forms of the full names of each of these countries.England for example, is Yinggelan. Guo simply means country/land. So, the short form became Ying-guo. Similar, for France, it’s Falaxi, Germany is Deyizhi. etc
this response is awesome! please make a blog post on it =)
It’s awesome but almost entirely wrong. Pat has the most historically correct answer.
“Hence why” doesn’t make sence and sounds ridiculous. Think of “hence” as “therefore”: “Therefore the name stuck.” What you’re saying now is essentially “Therefore why the name stuck.” Sounds awkward and silly, right?
I recommend you pray to Google Almighty for further guidance in this matter.
I think when you say ‘England’ you mean the UK or Britain not England. England’s just part of Britain along with Wales and Scotland, and Britain is part of the UK along with Northern Ireland.
Official name of United Kingdom was adopted in 1927. However, “the Empire of the Great Qing” (Qing Dynasty – the official name for middle Kingdom at that time) had official diplomatic relations with the English since the 1600s. The name for UK in Chinese official documents therefore stuck and remained “the Kingdom of England” till this day.
No. This is so wrong it hurts.
Actually. The names for the England, Germany, Frances, and United States are shortened version of the Chinese official long phonetic name. In official Chinese documents you will see the names written out in full. The older nations in contact with China may also have their names phonetically translated in Cantonese or Shanghainese or other Chinese dialect, then the names pronounced in Mandarin after 1911, causing shifts in how they sound. Here are full names.
England = Ying-Ge-Lan Wang Guo (En-ge-land Kingdom) => Ying Guo
Frances = Fa-Lan-Si Gon-He-Guo (Fr-ran-ce Republic) => Fa Guo
Germany (from Deuchland) = De-Li-Zi Gong-He-Guo (Deu-ch-land Republic) => De Guo
*United State = Mei-Li-Jen Gon-He-Guo (Ame-ri-can Republic) => Mei Guo
Guo means country or nation. The Chinese lanuage sticks “Guo” behind every full name to denote that it’s a country or sovereign nation.
* I have seen both “Ah-Mei-Li-Jen” and “Mei-Li-Jen” on pre-WWII Chinese world maps. But mostly the “United States of” part has been left out. The Chinese refers to the US as “America or the American Republic” as do most Asian countries.
I thought so about England and France!! Since Chinese as other ancient languages, is all symbolic
Not quite, a lot of countries in Chinese end in “國” (in traditional) which refers to country/state and is translated to “land” in this map. So France is 法國 (pronounced Fàguó) and England is 英國 (Yīngguó). Independently or in a different context, the 法 and 英 characters can be directly translated into brave or law, which is concatenated with “land” here. Not sure if the characters will show up here but you can always use Google Translate to look at them.
England is Ying Guo and France is Fa Guo, America is Mei Guo (beautiful land) When you want to say someone from one of those places you put Ren (people) after, so American becomes Mei Guo Ren (say it a couple of times out loud and you should be able to hear it.)
haah,it’s definitely a Chinese dialect thing.If you are not local chinese,you don’t know about it.for instance France=法国 where 法=law and 国=land…it’s about that
It’s not always true I assume
For example Hungary in Hungarian is Magyarország, but I see on this map it begins with Huns.
Have a map of the most popular adopted non-Chinese names for each province? I reckon Creamy is on the list…
Also, I still don’t know how Belgium got its Chinese name 比利时.
My guess is 比利時 bǐlìshí comes from the French (or Walloon) word for Belgium which is Belgique.
NB. The i-sound in lì obviously is not heard in the original French word, but seeing that Mandarin (as well as the other Sinitic languages) have a very limited number of consonants that can be placed at the end of a syllable – for Mandarin these are: -n, -ng and -r – to still be able to put an l-sound in the word, they had to insert an extra syllable.
I would suggest to change Belgiums name from Billytime into Compare profit time.
Maybe thats one of the dialects in China fits the Belgi sounds. Afterall, too many of them in China.
Could you please explain Swedens name, like you did with England, France and Germany. :)
I’m going to venture to say that it’s because Swedens history as it relates to war and battle in general. Prior to the 17th century, Sweden was actually really poor and kinda shitty but they had a sudden rise around that time, gaining lots of territory during the 30 years war. The Swedish vikings were also well known for their crazy battle antics and winning outnumbered fights and things like that frequently. There was also a battle I remember reading about, but it might have been with the Finnish rather than Swedish, in which something like 1000 soldiers held off over 5000.
Is there maybe a similar reason for Greece’s name “Hope December”? I would like to know, too :)
Greece’s official name is the Hellenic Republic, its Greek name is Ελλάδα, which sounds a little like the Chinese version Xi La, aka Hope December… which can also be translated to something like Rare Pickled-meat. Each character have many meanings my friend :)
When the Chinese heard the word ”Hellas” (Ελλάς), tried to perform in their language. To write it, used two ideograms they chose, based on pronunciation. They took a radical pronounced “shi”, another pronounced “la”, joined them to make the word “Si-La” which determine the country, Greece.
The first ideogram meaning “Hope” and the second corresponds to the month of ”December” of the traditional Chinese calendar. Both together, however, when combined, means: ”the other great civilization”. ;) China is a great civilization, but accept the existence of another — the ancient Greek civilization.
Approximately one fifth of the world’s population speaks Chinese call the Greece ‘Si-la’
Symbol of ”Χi-La” (Hellas / Greece), in Chinese: http://chineseculture.about.com/library/symbol/blcc_greece.htm
Sorry, this is wrong. China had no record whatsoever of Ancient Greece before the modern period. Before that, they have not heard of the culture, the civilization, the country, or the people. What they do have records of is its spiritual successor, Rome, due to the Silk Road. The Han Dynasty once sent an emissary to try to track down the source of all the glassware and other rare goods (exports of the Roman Empire), though they never reached Europe or even Asia Minor – the powerful nations in between these two great civilizations, who had grown rich from being the middle-man, knew that allowing direct trade would be a disaster, so they discouraged the emissary and eventually persuaded them that the journey was way too difficult.
For the love of god please tell me you are joking…..
Alexander the Great and his troops expanded into Asia Minor. Their expansion created the Silk Road and ultimately land based trade from Europe to the Orient.
So, you are completely incorrect and should review some history, especially since you neglect a source. (I don’t need one because it is COMMON KNOWLEDGE that Greence [Macedonia] created the Silk Road….)
Try any history book. Or an encyclopedia. Or Google and Wikipedia for that matter. You should find that you’re the one who’s wrong. In fact, your whole comment was so ignorant it’s funny.
1. Macedonia went into Asia proper; they didn’t just conquer Asia Minor. If you thought India was Asia Minor then you’re more ignorant than I thought.
2. The Silk Road was due to many civilizations, not one. Perhaps Alexander laid part of its foundations, but his conquest stopped far short of China and had less influence the farther east he went. As well, his empire quickly dissolved after his death.
3. It started around the Han dynasty, without doubt. Please see both Chinese and Roman sources for confirmation; historical texts and artifacts all support this.
4. It’s not “Greence”.
5. This might indeed be common knowledge for people who don’t know a thing about world history. Plus, it used to be “common knowledge” that the sun orbits the earth; what does that tell you?
So, for the love of god, please do your research before you embarrass yourself on the internet. I welcome you to bring evidence that can prove me wrong, but in the mean time, thank you for the laugh :)
I liked your points, very cut and dry- however you made some key mistakes.
1.) Anybody who has taken a single course in post-secondary would know that you lose all credibility once you even mention wikipedia.
2.) I am assuming you mean India at the current time of Alexander the Great, if not I will just shake my head at the fact that it is modern day Pakistan and would like to advise you that it is as offensive to a Pakistani to call Pakistan, India as it is to a Palestinian to call Palestine, Israel.
3.) The Silk Road was an official amalgamation of a series of trade routes, its “said date of creation” is arbitrary. I did not intend for you to interpret me stating that Alexander the Great CREATED the Silk Road, I merely wanted to state that the Silk Road is a direct result of Alexander’s conquests.
4.) I didn’t realize I offended you this greatly to jump into the grammar fistie-cups already.
5.) I am not even going to go there because you clearly see a timeline as a definitive answer for all your history related questions. You seem like the kind of individual who would give me an answer for questions like “who was the first to invent religion?”
Also I would like to add that I intended to point out the fact that the Silk Road existed for years and years, pre-dating the Hellenistic period… they were just never connected…. similar to that of the Great Wall of China….. and many other various historical spots. However with Macedonian imperialism came the need for a trade route to connect the empire’s outskirts with its capital. JUST LIKE THAT OF EVERY EMPIRE! WHAT A COINCIDENCE!
Anyways, what im getting at here is that it was ignorant of you to state that the Chinese had ZERO communication with the Hellenistic peoples and that communication with the West only began with Rome. Rome may be the most notable of trade partners of the West using the Silk Road because that was when it blossomed the most but hey…. Im no expert right?
The Scythians and the Chinese never traded lapis and jade which was then traded to the Greeks before the Romans existed….
So on an end note, please take your own advice, read a history book or two, or maybe in your case five- and get back to me with your findings because I am always interested in how ignorant people interpret information.
I’m glad you took the time to respond and consequently ignore all points of information I have put forth.
1. I know people disdain from Wiki, which is why it’s not a prime source for me. But pray tell how exactly “common sense” is more credible? I invited you to offer evidence, which you did not. Once again, Chinese artifacts such as imperial gifts, historical records and other primary sources, as well as many scholarly books and articles on the Silk Road or Imperial trade in general would support the idea that the Chinese had no contact with Greece. They didn’t even have contact with anything beyond the Middle-East, because the warring city states were too busy fighting amongst themselves. Trade may have happened, but via a thousand middle-men, and in tiny, tiny trickles.
2. Not precisely. I meant the Indian subcontinent. It’s stupid to use a name in history but mean a modern nation after all, and I’m surprised you didn’t catch up on the simple distinction. That said, I do have friends from both countries, so believe me, I know.
3. I realize that, and if you had bothered to read my posts, you’d see that I have acknowledged that Alexander may have been responsible for part of the Silk Road’s creation. But given the state of China during his reign, it is preposterous to assume a reciprocal effort could have been extended from the Orient side of things at that time. Did you think a trade route could be made one-sidedly? Alexander expanded (not made, since it existed in Persian times) the routes from Europe to Middle-East, but until the Han dynasty, nothing substantial linked Middle-East to China. This required a high level of Chinese unity, stability, and military might, so she could expand her territories and establish her foreign relations farther into the west, beyond the threats and obstacles of nomadic nations and harsh environments on her outskirts.
4. Firstly, it’s spelling, not grammar; learn the difference. Secondly, it didn’t offend me, it amused me. Such a juvenile thing to not have spell-checked such an obvious mistake.
5. I do not. The very name of the Han Dynasty implies a stretch of time over four centuries long. You, on the other hand, seem to not appreciate this fact, and probably DO think of dynasties as dots on a timeline.
In response to your other points, I would like to say that the foundations of the Silk Road certainly predate the Han, and even Alexander. It has existed for as long as the nations of pan-Eurasia had contact and traded with each other, and I never denied this fact. But the Silk Road itself, if we assume the definition to mean a chain of trade routes from Europe to China, did not exist until the Han made efforts to link up China to the Middle-east. This is like saying the Great Wall existed prior to the Qin dynasty; if we take the Great Wall to mean a series of continuous fortifications to defend China’s northern borders, then it did not, because there wasn’t yet a unified “China”, and the walls were not yet conjoined.
Also, jade and nephrite are found world-wide, and does not necessarily come from China – not to mention the Greeks did not particularly use jade for much of anything. Under your train of logic, Mesoamerican civilizations must have had contact with China because they used jade extensively in art. As for lapis lazuli, it is usually mined in the Middle-East (thus not even a Greek export), first made its appearance in China during the Han dynasty, and is likewise not an indication of indirect Greco-Sino trade or contact.
I end by saying that, like you, I’m no expert. But I’m willing to read and learn, and accept evidence IF some are actually presented (instead of vague citations of common sense). I stand (or sit, as it were) ready to learn and amend my argument, so please, for the love of God, don’t make such a pathetic attempt again. Respond once you’ve done your research.
People are getting so fraught over what appear to be semantics…
Do you mean that Greek successor states (the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom for one) founded on the remnants of Alexander the Great’s expansion eastward provided the vital staging posts and hence laid the foundation for the large scale trading which we call the Silk Road?
Your explanation sounds professional…but it’s just simple chinese dialect thing
Just to point out what many others on the web have noticed:
The modern Chinese name from Greece may be derived from a phonetic transliteration of “Hellas” into Cantonese rather than Mandarin.
Thus the Chinese characters for Greece 希臘 are pronounced “Xi La” in Mandarin but “He Laap” in Cantonese. The final consonant “p” is a voiceless stop so the similarities to “He-lla” is even more pronounced.
There are no final “s” consonants. So this is as similar as you are going to Hellas in two Chinese characters. Otherwise you would need to have three Chinese characters giving something like “He-la-shi”, which may not be much of an improvement.
In the Fujian dialect 闽南语 (Southern Min), spoken also in Taiwan, the pronunciation is “HeLa”, which seems even more promising. However, I think it is more likely that the Chinese transliteration of “Hellas” is derived from the large Cantonese speaking educated diaspora / international community in the late 19th / early 20th century.
It is unfortunately difficult to trace the earliest usages of the modern name for the Greece in Chinese. On various Ming dynasty maps, that part of the Ottoman empire was marked out using transliterations of the Latin “Graecia” rather than “Hellas” so I wonder how late the switch was made…
What one couldn’t do with “OED” type citations for Chinese usage…
Thanks, I’ve since realized the same after other comments. I don’t speak Cantonese, so there’s only so much guesswork I could do. :P
I ‘m a native Chinese speaker and I find this post really interesting.
In Chinese, Greece is 希臘, which actually doesn’t sound like the English name phonetically. While as you may aware, each Chinese character can stand alone to have its own meaning, which 希 generally means “hope”.
And the interesting part comes. 臘 in traditional Chinese mean 臘月, which is December. This name has been sued since the Zhou Dynasty (周朝), 1,100 BC – 256BC.
希臘 comes from Hellas, ancient name of Greece.
You might be interested to know that the author has confused Sweden with Switzerland. However, in either country’s case, the names are still purely phonetic.
Well, Sweden is, as usual, mixed with Switzerland in the map. It is the Chinese word for Switzerland which can be translated as Fortunate Soldier. Sweden (Ruidian) is Fortunate Classic.
To me the most logical explanation is because the names of Sweden and Switzerland were first translanted by a Cantonese speaker. The current translation of Sweden (瑞典) and Switzerland (瑞士) do not really correspond well phonetically to Mandarin, 瑞 being an R sound versus the S in both countries. But if pronounced in Cantonese then both names start to sound much closer to the original sounds (Sui-din for Sweden and Sui-si for Switzerland).
Or it could be that these countries were first encountered by the Chinese during the imperial era (I do not know when that was though), Chinese phonetics at that time (could be hundreds of years ago during Ming or Qing times) pronouced 瑞 with an S sound. This phonetic transformation can be seen in a lot of legacy sounds in sounthern dialects such as Fukien and Cantonese. But this is just my speculation. But I notice this a lot because I am a Mandarin speaker but also speak fluent Cantonese and Min-nan.
The most logical explanation to me is actually the current translation of the both Sweden and Switzerland was first made by a Cantonese speaker. This may sound funny but the current translation of Sweden (瑞典 or Rei-dien) and Switzerland (瑞士 or Rei-shih) do not really correspond well phonetically to Mandarin, 瑞 being an R sound versus the S in both countries. But if pronounced in Cantonese then both names start to sound much closer to the original sounds. Sui-din for Sweden and Sui-si for Switzerland (possibly corresponding to Swiss instead).
One possible alternative could be that these countries were originally introduced to the Chinese in an earlier era, possibly during the Ming or Qing times. And it’s possible when they were first introduced, the character 瑞 was pronounced with an S sound. The phonetics then gradually morphed to the Mandarin of later times, which is really rooted more in a northern dialect. This may be far fetched but you do see a lot of examples of legacy sounds in today’s sounthern dialects such as Fukien and Cantonese that resemble what the characters would have sounded many centuries ago such as during Tang or even earlier dynasties. I also notice these as I am a Mandarin speaker that also speak fluent Cantonese and Min-nan.
That would be the Finnish, I think, agains the Russians.
I thought that France (Faguo ) was named as such because of yummy foie gras!
This is fucking retarded
Interesting. I can’t be the only one curious how Bulgaria came to be Insurance + Profit-ya. Is Bulgaria notorious for insurance scams in China?
As a Bulgarian, I would love to know that too
It’s simply the most common characters that correspond to the sounds in the word – the meaning is purely accidental.
It is typcially a sound to sound translation from Cantonese-speaker IMO.
In Cantonese We pronounce Bulgaria(保加利亞) as Bou-Gah-Lei-Ah, it is obviously replicating the original one.
Sweden and Switzerland are reversed. Sweden means “lucky literary quotation”. Switzerland means “lucky soldier”
Sweden and Switzerland are reversed. Sweden means “lucky literary” and Switzerland means “lucky soldier”.
QUESTION FOR PAT: You write: “another popular name for foreigners at that time include Yang Gui Zhi, or ghosts from across the ocean.” I’m a guy who’s very interested in China, but have not yet been. So I’ve read the usual books on Chinese history (eg, John K. Fairbank, etc) and have been left with the impression that (a) This term was **the** most common term for foreigners during the 19th century; and (b) that the spirit of the term is translated as “devil from a foreign land” or something like that. Are these impressions mistaken, overgenralized, or just plain wrong? Many thanks!
They are accurate :)
China has been woefully ignorant of the whole western business until the dynastic empire fell. I read somewhere that when the Qing was faring badly against western troops their generals resorted to superstition, flinging cow dung and other spells and trinkets over their city gates to exorcise the westerners and their magical equipment (e.g. cannons, rifles, etc.)
The Chinese invented gunpowder.
Gunpowder, yes – but not guns.
Guns were a western invention, and of all the nations in the world only the Japanese had good enough metallurgy to copy them.
Not sure. When the Mongol general Kitbuqa under Möngke Khan destroyed the Hashshashins (Assassins) at Alamut in 1256, they brought Chinese engineers and cannon to storm the ramparts. The huge stone cannon balls from the Chinese artillery fired are still visible. That is a bit before “Japanese had good enough metallurgy to copy” Western guns.
In any case, until the American civil war at least, archery was much more accurate and devastating (though more expensive) than musketry. What Wellington could have done with borrowing some of Henry V’s troops…
Remember too that the Manchurians (last Chinese dynasty) were martial enough to conquer most of Tibet, Mongolia and modern Western China (incorporating the Dzungar Khanate into XinJiang), fighting off Russians and Kazahks etc. They nearly conquered Vietnam and Burma as well.
Do not confuse dynastic decline in the 19th century with a general malaise.
Agreed. Chinese metallurgy has been, from 500 BC till maybe the Ming dynasty, among the best in the world (first to utilize chrome-coated weaponry by almost 2000 years!) However, an introverted and arrogant mindset concerning foreign affairs has made China very vulnerable to any sort of technological advances in foreign nations. They are generally unwilling to copy, and scoff at these new technologies as trinkets and small matters, nothing to threaten the wealth and vastness of the empire. And when they do want to change, it is already too late. Most people blame this on the infamous Empress Dowager, but I think the entire culture is at fault, too.
Definitely. China like many other countries went through periods of isolationism and open-mindedness. China was, for much of the Han and especially Tang dynasties, a western-orientated, Central Asian-minded country.
It is easy to forget how alien the past is and project our immediate impressions from the 19th or 20th century onto the whole history of China.
To be far to the Manchus as well, they were in many ways more open minded that their Ming dynasty predecessors, and did not do that badly for a small non-Han Chinese nomadic minority ruling over a very large and complicated country. The court was, until the end, very aware of the mistakes which had caused the demise of the Ming dynasty. If one enumerated the five or ten best Chinese emperors, how many of them would be Manchurian rather than Han Chinese?
It depends on what you define a gun as.
I think we can all agree that it is comprised of a barrel, a projectile, and the key factor that separates it from a crossbow: ignition and a trigger system.
That being said the Chinese were the first top invent such an object. The Chinese Fire Lances were invented in the 10th century. They were very primitive in comparison to what we have today.
It was hollowed bamboo, sometimes lined with metal, a trigger, and it would project fire and metal shrapnel at its targets.
In East Asia there is only Beige and brown people like Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Mongolian. In ancient times, the people thought that Human should be in beige or Brown coloured skin and Black hair. When they saw Caucasian, which is blonde hair and pale skin, they can’t accept it and think that they are beyond humanity, such as ghost or zombie, demon, sth like that. And the word still existing as a slang(mostly NO offense in us), refer to western people.
What is mexico’s meaning? 墨西哥
Lit. Ink West Elder-brother, but it’s pronounced Muo Xi Ge, aka Mexico.
The Chinese translation for Russia is “hungry country.”
Almost but not quite. You have the wrong chinese character. 俄 means rapid or abrupt, while it is 餓 which means hungry.
I am not sure the Chinese would have wanted “Famished-land” on their borders! :-)
HAHA “Moral-land” or “Love your Orchidee” :D :D :D
Hi :) I’m from Belgium and I am really curious to know how the Chinese characters fool our country, and I am unable to read the text (Yes, belgium is such a small country ;) )
So, what name is it? and what about the nederlands? :) Thanks
Well…Belgium in Chinese is purely phonetic~ 比(Bi，most commonly used as the meaning of compare)利(Li, most commonly used as the meaning of profit/interest/money)時(shi, most commonly used as the meaning of time)
As you can see from the previous comments, these words are s\just trying to mimic the pronunciation of Belgique
So the first character 比bi>>>>Be
the second character 利li>>>> l (Chinese Lang. doesn’t allow a consonant exist without vowel )
the third character 時shi>>>gi (que) (Mandarin does not have “/k/” in the last of a character, so they simply ignore it)
So simply, it become 比利時(BiLiShi)….Billy, a common English name, is just happened to have the same translation as the first two characters (比利, BiLi)
So the author translated it as Billy time
the Netherlands is also phonetically translated, but the Chinese choose “Holland” as the source…so 荷(He, most commonly used for the meaning of Lotus ) 蘭(lan, most commonly used as the meaning of Orchid) is the Chinese name for the Netherlands(荷蘭)
Oh no Great Britain and NI is part of England. We’ll not hear the end of this :)
Recognition towards EACH nations part in the colonial empire would be sufficient. The BRITISH empire wouldn’t have been half as strong without any of the four combined countries.
And I come from the Scottish part of England…
Yingguo = Britain
I can’t make out Slovenia. Can anyone help?
Click on the picture for an enlarged version
Still can’t read it.
That’s the best answer of all time! JMHO
Can you explain the name of the Czech Republic please..?
捷克 = phonetic ‘jie ke’ – a rough approximation of ‘czech’
捷 = victory, 克 = gram. Republic is just republic.
克 also means conquer, which makes more sense.
Or 捷 = speed, 克 = conquest.
It is supposed to be the UNITED KINGDOM not England Scotland is not part of England
Yingguo = Britain / UK
Clearly Yingguo = England. Now you claim Yingguo = Britain / UK. (“Yingguo” doesn’t sound anything like those two places.)
Look… “England”, “Britain”, and “the United Kingdom” are *not* the same – they are three *different* places.
“United Kingdom” comprises England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
“Britain” is the island comprising the countries England, Scotland, and Wales only.
“England” is… just “England” i.e. Yingguo … not what you have drawn on the map.
In Chinese these are practically the same, for all intents and purposes. I’m sorry we wounded your fragile pride, but whenever anyone goes to the UK we say they are going to “Yingguo”, and only when specifying do we say Ireland, Scotland, etc. The map is not wrong; the way we say it might be, but the map is not, and since you can’t change how Chinese people call the UK… deal with it ;)
It has nothing at all to do with “fragile pride” you dipshit – I am not even from that part of the world. It is to do with accuracy. The map is wrong: only ignorant Chinese cannot tell the difference between England and the UK. Just the same as some ignorant Americans or ignorant Australians may not know the difference.
If you went to England, then you went to the UK. If you went to Scotland, then you also went to the UK, but you did *not* go to England. Deal with it.
This is at the fundamental level of national awareness. You can’t change it. You can argue all you want about us not getting things right, about technicalities, but at the end of the day, nobody really cares; Chinese people will continue to call the UK “England”, and even English people learning Chinese will also have to accept that that is what their nation is called in the Chinese language. So, again, deal with it ;)
(You might want to know that the official name is already a direct translation of the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland. Except nobody ever, ever uses it, and plus, 英國 sounds so much cooler than some ridiculous name like 聯合王國. That is not changing, unless the British government files a really strong complaint to have their country called the United Kingdom in all documents, which would be pretty pointless and childish anyway. Colloquially, it will always be known as England. It’s rather comical to see you so riled up and throwing out insults on behalf of this issue :P )
England began trading with China in the 1600’s.
Scotland did not form a union with England until 1707
Therefore, for a hundred years, the Chinese were dealing with the English and not the UK.
We have similar examples of legacy/misunderstood names in English. We sometimes say Holland but this is a region on the Netherlands (populated by Dutch (which I believe is derived from Deutsch).
There are plenty more examples: Native Americans are called Indians, Germany (Deutschland) is from what the Romans called tribes east of the Rhine. The list is endless. Look at what we call countries and how they are named themselves.
After all, If we are to expect the Chinese to correct what they know the UK as then shouldn’t we stop refering to China and start using Zhōngguó? (Even then we should be referring to the People’s Republic of China (Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó) to distinguish it from Taiwan (officially known as Republic of China))
When you say Americans you mean people from USA or you include all the nations in the continent named America?
Take it easy dude.
Already answered above… you should read before you post.
It is known as England because within historical Chinese documents the area that we know TODAY as the United Kingdom was noted as the Kingdom of England.
Also…. YOU are the ignorant one to believe that only the Chinese language, and not every other language built their HISTORIC VOCABULARY around the fact that it was THE KINGDOM OF ENGLAND when they began to create modern, uniform languages.
“In [Insert any other language than English] these are practically the same, for all intents and purposes. I’m sorry we wounded your fragile pride, but whenever anyone goes to the UK we say they are going to [England in native tongue]”
Hi David B. Yingguo means Britain, Ying’erlan means England. That’s the way these words are used in China, like it or not, and the derivation of the terms is not relevant to a silly map like this one.
Tough. Scotland = 蘇格蘭 or “The resuscitated patterned orchid”
Ok, so why Ukraine is “Dark Gram Orchid” O_o?
Because Ukraine is 烏克蘭 in Chinese which is pronounced “woo-ke-lan” which kinda sounds like Ukraine. Dark orchard is just a very literal translation. It’s as if one was to translate Washington into “washing a ton of stuff”. No one actually does it and no one really thinks about it
It’s not supposed to be any sort of amazing revelation, Anonymous commenter, just a bit of fun.
And Kosovo… Kosovo was like Ringo
What a joke call my Bosnia “Persia”. To Chinese is better to stop eat little dogs and start learn geography :D
Fool is you. Persia in Chinese sounds like Bo-si. So Bosnia went Bo-si-ni-ya is totally made a fuckin sense.
Hat dies auf Cantica & Synopsis rebloggt und kommentierte:
Sehr interessant. Chinesisch Ländernamen ins Englische übersetzt. Glaub ich.
I’m an American, 41 years old and have been on the internet since 1988 or so. This is the first time I’ve felt like it was a truly world wide community. Thanks for this, it’s wonderful!!!
Many of these names were invented by imperial transltors of the Ta-Tsing (Manchu) empire, before China (Chunghwa) even existed.
So you’re saying China doesn’t have 3000 years history! Controversial!
No, he is right. He is referring to the Tsing Dynasty (清朝).
I’m aware that China is a modern construct (well, it sort of is and sort of isn’t) but was resorting to sarcastic facetiousness in response to a pedantic, irrelevant comment. Hope that clears things up.
I’M NOT A SWISS OR SWEDE YOU IGNORANTS I AM A GEAT!
( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geats )
[Nation states are all silly modern constructs]
Why is Ireland known as “Love your orchid”?
Ireland -> “ai er lan” -> 爱尔兰.
爱 = love, 尔 = (literary) you(r), 兰 = orchid.
Ireland = 愛爾蘭, originally it is purely a transliteration from English to Chinese, so you cannot see the “land” when you reverse it back, haha.
Very nice map.
Could you explain “Lotus Orchid” (the Netherlands) and “Move Prestige” (Norway)?
Holland -> ‘he lan’ -> 荷兰
荷 = lotus 兰 = orchid
Norway -> ‘nuo wei’ -> 挪威
挪 = move, 威 = prestige
Orchid should be 蘭 but not 兰
In simplified chinese they are the same
Why is Russia not literally translated like the rest?
Read my first comment above.
Can you explain Italy? is it a coincidence or the name is somehow related to medieval trade…I’m trying to guess
Thanks, it’s fun
Totally a coincidence. Yi – translates to “meaning” for the “I” in Italy. Da – big (Ta in Italy). Li – profit (ly in Italy)
Reblogged this on צופר ערפל and commented:
נתקלתי עכשיו בפוסט הזה, שמסביר את שמותיהן של ארצות אירופה כפי שהן נקראות בסינית.
האירוניה הגדולה היא גרמניה: “ארץ המוסר”.
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Excellent post and follow up in the comments – representing a lot of work obviously dear to the hearts of many (some more brilliant than others but all good). Thank you for this. I have been to China 10 X since 2000 (worked in Dalian as a Wedding Photographer) and love it very much. Just scraping the surface for sure though, Mandarin is so simple yet so diametrically opposed to how we use English that I find it extremely difficult to master…but I’ll keep on trying :-)
I love this thread’s comments – thanks for the insights, Chinese-speakers! Fascinating to learn from you :) Cheers from Europe
I just love the name for Italia. It really seem to show how Chinese people perceived the Italian bankers from the Renaissance on.
Please don’t refer to the entire United Kingdom as ‘England’. It is just one of the four nations that make up the country.
This map is completely pointless and misleading, and I am appalled that haohao concocted SUCH NONSENSE. As people have pointed out, the Chinese translations are mostly phonetic, and since we still use characters, there had to be a way to record the sounds. Therefore, the corresponding characters are phonetic correlations, nothing more, just an attempt to bridge alphabetic and logographic writing systems. The translation for Spain in pinyin is ‘Xi ban ya’ because these are the three Chinese phonemes that most closely sounded like the name of the country ‘españa’. The characters representing these Chinese phonemes happen to generally mean ‘west class tooth’ but to impose their meaning in this case is absurd and uneducated. Are you uneducated haohao? Thanks for confusing the world more about Chinese culture.
Hi LoF, sorry you don’t like my map. The point was not to confuse the world about Chinese culture, merely to show how odd the names would sound if you translated them literally – and as you can see from the comments above it has spurred interest in and discussion about the the Chinese language. Absurdity is not always a bad thing.
About time Chinese change some of the OFFENSIVE names to better ones for countries and people.
HA! I hope you’re joking. If not, please find some better things to get annoyed about.
I showed this map to some of my Chinese students (mix of Cantonese and Mandarin) and they had precisely no idea why the map claimed these were direct translations. Are the pronunciations you’re referring to falling out of use (in favour of names that are closer to the named country’s own pronunciations — as my students believe)?
The phonetics of the Chinese characters are equivalent the the native pronunciations of the countries.
It’s the original meaning of the characters itself that are confusing.
“Very Lucky Soldiers” is an apt name for a country that August 14 this year celebrated 200 years with uninterrupted peace.
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The comments spark from your map are almost more fascinating than the map itself. Thank you all contributors, I have no knowledge of Chinese and I have learnt a lot.
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It should be noted that the Chinese transliteration of Western countries was first done in Cantonese, not the standard Mandarin that most Chinese speak today. This is because, for some time in the 18th to 19th centuries, the only area of China open to Westerners for trade was Canton (aka “Guangzhou”) in southern China, whose people spoke Cantonese far more readily than the officials up north.
This explains, for example:
– Why the Chinese name for “America” is “mei li jian”. The characters 美利堅, if pronounced in Cantonese, is “mei lay geen (hard “g”)”, which is closer to “America” than its Mandarin counterpart.
– Why the Chinese names for “Switzerland” and “Sweden” starts with 瑞 – and pronounced “rei shi” and “rei dian” respectively in Mandarin. In Cantonese 瑞 is pronounced “sui”, hence “sui see” for “Switz-” and “sui deen” for “Sweden”
Mandarin is just an interloper!!!
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Reblogged this on Lukeskyrunner.
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Mais si tu coupes des repas ou que tu diminues
trop et trop rapidement tes calories, ton corps entrera en situation de stress et stockera encore plus le
peu de calories que tu lui donneras au prochain repas.
La nourriture vendue dans les restaurants est généralement plus riche en graisses, en sodium et en produits qui font grossir.
Blue Nights and The Year of Magical Thinking are both memoirs
of grief and regret, written after the deaths of her husband and her daughter the early 2000s.
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Chinese Translation – It’s Not as Easy as It Looks!
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