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The Yellow River Breaches its Course by Ma Yuan, Song dynasty
Traditional Chinese華夏
Simplified Chinese华夏
Literal meaningbeautiful grandeur

Huaxia (Chinese: 華夏; pinyin: huáxià) is a historical concept representing the Chinese nation, and came from the self-awareness of a common cultural ancestry by the various confederations of pre-Qin ethnic ancestors of Han people.


The earliest extant authentic[b] attestation of the concept Huáxià 華夏 is in the historical narrative and commentary Zuo zhuan (finished around 300 BCE).[4][5] In Zuo zhuan, Huaxia refers to the central states (中國 Zhōngguó)[c][d] in the Yellow River valley, dwelt by the Huaxia people, ethnically equivalent to Han Chinese in pre-imperial discourses.[11][12]

According to Confucianist Kong Yingda's "True Meaning of Chunqiu Zuo zhuan", xià () "grand" signified the "greatness" () in the ceremonial etiquettes of the central states, while huá () "flower" or "blossom" was used in reference to the "beauty" () in the clothing that those states' denizens wore.[e][14][15][16]



Han historian Sima Qian asserts that Xia was the name of the state enfeoffed to legendary king Yu the Great, and Yu used its name as his surname.[17] In modern historiography, Huaxia refers to a confederation of tribes—living along the Yellow River—who were the ancestors of what later became the Han ethnic group in China.[18][19] During the Warring States (475–221 BCE), the self-awareness of the Huaxia identity developed and took hold in ancient China.[19] Initially, Huaxia defined mainly a civilized society that was distinct and stood in contrast to what was perceived as the barbaric peoples around them.[20] The Huaxia identity arose in the Eastern Zhou period as a reaction to the increased conflict with the Rong and Di peoples who migrated into the Zhou lands and extinguished some Zhou states.[21]

Modern usage[edit]

Although still used in conjunction, the Chinese characters for hua and xia are also used separately as autonyms.

The official Chinese names of both the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) use the term Huaxia in combination with the term Zhongguo (中國, 中国, translated as "Middle Kingdom"), that is, as Zhonghua (中華, 中华).[22] The PRC's official Chinese name is Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo (中华人民共和国), while that of the ROC is Zhonghua Minguo (中華民國). The term Zhongguo is confined by its association to a state, whereas Zhonghua mainly concerns culture.[23] The latter is being used as part of the nationalist term Zhōnghuá Mínzú which is an all Chinese nationality in the sense of a multi-ethnic national identity.

The term Huaren (華人) for a Chinese person is an abbreviation of Huaxia with ren (, person).[24] Huaren in general is used for people of Chinese ethnicity, in contrast to Zhongguoren (中國人) which usually (but not always) refers to citizens of China.[23] Although some may use Zhongguoren to refer to the Chinese ethnicity, such usage is not common in Taiwan.[23] In overseas Chinese communities in countries such as Singapore and Malaysia, Huaren or Huaqiao (overseas Chinese) is used as they are also not citizens of China.[25][26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tentative; ; ; huá; 'to flower' is derived from ; ~ ; huā; 'flower', for which Laurent Sagart proposed a revised OC pronunciation *Cə-pʰˤra (2021) from *qʷʰˤra (2014).[1]
  2. ^ Huáxià 華夏 is also found in 武成 Wu Cheng "Successful Completion of the War",[2] one of the likely forged "old texts" once included in the Shujing.[3]
  3. ^ For instance, Du Yu explains zhuxia 諸夏 "the various grand states" and zhuhua 諸華 "various flourishing states" as zhongguo "the central states"[6][7][8][9]
  4. ^ The ritual bronze vessel He zun (何尊) is the oldest known actifact containing zhōngguó, written as 𠁩或; there zhōngguó apparently refers only to the Shang's immediate domain conquered by the Zhou[10]
  5. ^ Kong Yingda annotates this Zuozhuan's passage 裔不謀,夷不亂 "the borderers may not plot against the grand domains; the aliens may not sow chaos among the flourishing countries."[13]


  1. ^ Sagart, Laurent (14 February 2021) "Specks of dust, brooms and comets", in Sino-Tibetan-Austronesian
  2. ^ Shujing, "Wu Cheng" quote: "華夏蠻貊,罔不率俾。" Legge's translation: "Our flowery, and great land, and the tribes of the south and north, equally follow and consent with me."
  3. ^ Zhi, Chen (2004)."From Exclusive Xia to Inclusive Zhu-Xia: The Conceptualisation of Chinese Identity in Early China" in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 14(03) p. 190 of 185 - 205
  4. ^ Zuo zhuan, "Duke Xiang, year 26, zhuan". text: "楚失華夏." translation: "Chu lost [the political allegiance of / the political influence over] the flourishing and grand [states]."
  5. ^ Shi, Jie (2020). Modeling Peace: Royal Tombs and Political Ideology in Early China, chapter 3 "Integration of Ethnic Han and non-Han". New York: Columbia University Press. note 8 to chapter 3. page 341 of 466
  6. ^ Zuozhuan "Duke Min - 1st year - zhuan" quote: "諸夏親暱不可棄也" translation: "The various grand states are close intimates and can not be abandoned"
  7. ^ Du Yu, Chunqiu Zuozhuan - Collected Explanations, "Vol. 4" p. 136 of 186. quote: "諸夏中國也"
  8. ^ Zuozhuan "Duke Xiang - 4th year - zhuan" quote: "諸華必叛" translation: "The various flourishing states would surely revolt"
  9. ^ Chunqiu Zuozhuan - Collected Explanations, "Vol. 15". p. 102 of 162 quote: "諸華中國"
  10. ^ Zhi (2004). p. 198
  11. ^ Esherick, Joseph (2006). "How the Qing Became China". Empire to Nation: Historical Perspectives on the Making of the Modern World. Rowman & Littlefield.
  12. ^ Shi (2020) p. 140, 142 of 466
  13. ^ Zuozhuan, "Duke Ding - 10th year - zhuan"
  14. ^ Chunqiu Zuozhuan Zhengyi, "vol. 56" quote: "夏,大也。中國有禮儀之大,故稱夏;有服章之美,謂之華。華、夏一也。" p. 70 of 118
  15. ^ Liu, Xuediao [劉學銚] (2005). 中國文化史講稿 (in Chinese). Taipei: 知書房出版集團. p. 9. ISBN 978-986-7640-65-9. 古時炎黃之胄常自稱,「華夏」有時又作「諸夏」《左傳》定公十年(西元前 500 年)有:裔不謀夏,夷不亂華。對於此句其疏曰:中國有禮儀之大,故稱夏;有服章之美,謂之華。
  16. ^ Zhu, Ruixi; Zhang, Bangwei; Liu, Fusheng; Cai, Chongbang; Wang, Zengyu (2016). A Social History of Medieval China. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-16786-5. To quote an ancient text, "there is grand ceremonial etiquette so it is called xia (), and there is the beauty of apparel which is called hua ()."[1] (And that's how China is also called huaxia [华夏].) [...] [1] 'The Tenth Year of Duke Ding of Lu' (定公十年), Zuo Qiuming's Commentary on Spring and Autumn Annals (左傳), explained by Yan Shigu (顏師古, 581–645).
  17. ^ Sima Qian's discussion on "Annals of Xia" in Records of the Grand Historian: "禹爲姒姓,其後分封,用國爲姓,…"
  18. ^ Cioffi-Revilla, Claudio; Lai, David (1995). "War and Politics in Ancient China, 2700 BC to 722 BC". The Journal of Conflict Resolution. 39 (3): 471–72. doi:10.1177/0022002795039003004. S2CID 156043981.
  19. ^ a b Guo, Shirong; Feng, Lisheng (1997). "Chinese Minorities". In Selin, Helaine (ed.). Encyclopaedia of the history of science, technology and medicine in non-western cultures. Dordrecht: Kluwer. p. 197. ISBN 978-0-79234066-9. During the Warring States (475–221 BC), feudalism was developed and the Huaxia nationality grew out of the Xia, Shang, and Zhou nationalities in the middle and upper reaches of the Yellow River. The Han evolved from the Huaxia.
  20. ^ Holcombe, Charles (2010). A history of East Asia: From the origins of civilization to the twenty-first century. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-521-73164-5. Initially, Huaxia seems to have been a somewhat elastic cultural marker, referring neither to race nor ethnicity nor any particular country but rather to "civilized," settled, literate, agricultural populations adhering to common ritual standards, in contrast to "barbarians."
  21. ^ Xiaolong Wu (2017). Material Culture, Power, and Identity in Ancient China. Cambridge University Press. pp. 13–14. ISBN 978-1-10713402-7.
  22. ^ Holcombe, Charles (2011). A history of East Asia: From the origins of civilization to the twenty-first century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-521-73164-5. Zhongguo — […] Today, Zhongguo is probably the closest Chinese-language equivalent to the English word China. Even so, both the modern People's Republic of China, on the mainland, and the Republic of China (confined to the island of Taiwan since 1949) are still officially known, instead, by a hybrid combination of the two ancient terms Zhongguo and Huaxia: Zhonghua 中華.
  23. ^ a b c Hui-Ching Chang; Richard Holt (2014-11-20). Language, Politics and Identity in Taiwan: Naming China. Routledge. pp. 162–64. ISBN 978-1-13504635-4.
  24. ^ Solé-Farràs, Jesús (2013). New Confucianism in twenty-first century China: The construction of a discourse. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-13473908-0. Huaren 華人 equivalent to a 'Chinese person'—hua is the abbreviation of Huaxia, a synonym of Zhongguo 中國 (China), and ren is 'person'.
  25. ^ Sheng Lijun (30 June 2002). China and Taiwan: Cross-strait Relations Under Chen Shui-bian. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. p. 53. ISBN 978-981-230-110-9.
  26. ^ Karl Hack, Kevin Blackburn (30 May 2012). War Memory and the Making of Modern Malaysia and Singapore. NUS Press. p. 96. ISBN 978-9971-69-599-6.