Chinese cultural sphere
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|This article relies on references to primary sources. (April 2011)|
|Chinese cultural sphere|
|Vietnamese alphabet||Lĩnh vực văn hóa Trung Quốc|
Chinese cultural sphere refers to a grouping of countries and regions that are currently inhabited with a majority of Chinese population or were historically under Chinese cultural influence: it is a neologism, particularly associated with areal linguistics.
The terms Chinese cultural sphere and Chinese character cultural sphere are used interchangeably with "Sinosphere" but have different denotations. Chinese cultural sphere denotes a grouping of countries, regions, and people which have participated in or been heavily influenced by the Culture of China, such as South East Asia, Xiongnu, Khitan people, Mongolia, Siberia, or Western Liao. It differs from Sinophone includes countries such as Japan, Korea and Vietnam which have historically made some use of the Chinese writing system or currently make use of it.
The etymology of Sinosphere is from Sino- "China; Chinese" (cf. Sinophone) and -sphere in the sense of "sphere of influence", "area influenced by a country". The "CJKV" Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese languages translate English -sphere as Chinese quan 圈 "circle; ring; corral; pen", Japanese ken "sphere; circle; range; radius", Korean gwon and Vietnamese quyển.
Victor H. Mair discussed the origins of these "culture sphere" terms. Chinese wenhua quan 文化圈 dates back to a 1941 translation for German Kulturkreis "culture circle/field", which the Austrian ethnologists Fritz Graebner and Wilhelm Schmidt proposed. The Japanese historian Nishijima Sadao (西嶋定生, 1919-1998), professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, coined the expressions Kanji bunka ken (漢字文化圏, "Chinese-character culture sphere") and Chuka bunka ken (中華文化圏, "Chinese culture sphere"), which Chinese later borrowed as loanwords. Nishijima devised these Sinitic "cultural spheres" within his "Theory of an East Asian World" (東アジア世界論 Higashi Ajia sekai-ron ).
Chinese-English dictionaries give similar translations of this keyword wenhua quan 文化圈: "the intellectual or literary circles" (Liang Shiqiu 1975), "literary, educational circle(s)" (Lin Yutang 1972), and "intellectual/literary circles" (John DeFrancis 1996).
This cultural region closely corresponds to the ancient "Sinic civilization" and its descendants, the "Far Eastern civilizations" (the Mainland and the Japanese ones), which Arnold J. Toynbee presented in the 1930s in A Study of History, along with the Western, Islamic, Eastern Orthodox, Indic, etc. civilizations, among the major "units of study" of the world's history.
Defining characteristics 
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The Sinosphere is generally unified by first written language ability in Chinese. This defines the unifying factor as the influence of traditional Chinese cultural beliefs, marked by Confucianist social and moral ethics, Taoist or Mahayana Buddhist religious beliefs, as embodied in text using Chinese characters (Hanzi in Chinese, Hán tự in Vietnamese, hanja in Korean and kanji in Japanese) whether within China proper or in a peripheral culture before it emerged from the dominance of the center.
Others indicators are Calligraphy (writing brush, writing ink, Rice paper and Inkstone), painting, sculpture, architecture (Ornament), clothing, music (musical instruments), cuisine (eating utensils, ingredients and cooking methods), logic (Confucianism), political system, appliance (furniture, art crafts) and so on, which generally believed to be originated in ancient China.
See also 
- Greater China
- Adoption of Chinese literary culture
- Pax Sinica
- Sinophone world
- Ankerl, Guy (2000). Coexisting contemporary civilizations : Arabo-Muslim, Bharati, Chinese, and Western. Global communication without universal civilization 1. Geneva: INU Press. ISBN 2-88155-004-5.
- Joshua A. Fogel, Articulating the Sinosphere: Sino-Japanese Relations in Space and Time (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009. Edwin O. Reischauer Lectures; 2007). ISBN 0-674-03259-4
- Chinese Cultural Sphere and the Use of Chinese Characters, Zhe Shiya, Lianhe Zaobao, 24 June 2004, Singapore (in Chinese)
- Export of Chinese Culture and Balance of Power in the World, Shinfeng, People's Daily, 28 March 2006, Beijing (in Chinese)
- DeFrancis, John, ed. (2003), ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary, University of Hawaii Press, p. 750.
- T. Watanabe, E. R. Skrzypczak, and P. Snowden (2003), Kenkyūsha's New Japanese-English Dictionary, Kenkyusha, p. 873). Compare Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
- Victor Mair, Sinophone and Sinosphere, Language Log, November 8, 2012.
- See the "family tree" of Toynbee's "civilizations" in any edition of Toynbee's own work, or e.g. as Fig.1 on p.16 of: The Rhythms of History: A Universal Theory of Civilizations, By Stephen Blaha. Pingree-Hill Publishing, 2002. ISBN 0-9720795-7-2.
- Asia for Educators. Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University.