The ancient roots of the term the “Middle State’: Remarks on the evolution of the Chinese identity
The author outlines first the contemporary essential terms related to the “Chineseness”; 1) the ‘Middle’ or ‘Central State’ (Zhongguo); with its derivates – a ‘Chinese’ (Zhongguoren) and the ‘Chinese nation’ (zhongguo minzu); 2) ‘the Middle Country of Splendid Culture’ (Zhonghua), and its derivates – ‘the Republic of China’ (Zhonghua Min’guo) and the ‘People’s Republic of China’ (Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo), the ‘All-Chinese nation’ (zhonghua minzu); ‘rejuvenation of China’ (Zhonghua fuxing); 3) ‘Chinese’ as ethnicity or cultural characteristics (Han). The southern term (tang) and its use is indicated. Their content is briefly presented: as political, cultural and ethnic. Then the author analyses the evolution of the term ‘Middle/Central State’ starting with the concept of the ‘Central Shang [capital]’ (Zhong Shang) and the ‘capital region’. The ‘five parts of the world’ (wu fang) appears essential in its genesis. Various ancient mystical meanings and semi-religious notions are considered. The author indicates when and in what sense the term had been used.
The author also analyses various ancient notions of ‘the Middle State’; its belt structure, its division into ‘9 provinces’, the concept of the ‘continent’ (in between the Four Seas), a 1/9 part of one continent among 9, the ‘holy land’; the Buddhist concept that the true Middle State is in India, etc. The ancient sources are extensively quoted and analyzed.
Hence it becomes obvious that this contemporary political term has various nuances and potential meanings, since traditional culture is still vivid.