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|History of China|
|Neolithic c. 8500 – c. 2070 BCE|
|Xia dynasty c. 2070 – c. 1600 BCE|
|Shang dynasty c. 1600 – c. 1046 BCE|
|Zhou dynasty c. 1046 – 256 BCE|
|Spring and Autumn|
|Qin dynasty 221–206 BCE|
|Han dynasty 206 BCE – 220 CE|
|Three Kingdoms 220–280|
|Wei, Shu and Wu|
|Jin dynasty 265–420|
|Eastern Jin||Sixteen Kingdoms|
|Southern and Northern Dynasties
|Sui dynasty 581–618|
|Tang dynasty 618–907|
|(Wu Zhou interregnum 690–705)|
|Five Dynasties and
|Northern Song||W. Xia|
|Yuan dynasty 1271–1368|
|Ming dynasty 1368–1644|
|Qing dynasty 1644–1911|
|Republic of China 1912–1949|
China on Taiwan
In English language "Zhongguo ren" (中國人) is frequently confused and conflated with Han Ren (漢人).
Han dynasties only used Zhongguo (中國) to explicitly refer to Han areas of their empire. The Ming dynasty only used Zhongguo (中國) to refer to explicitly only refer to Han areas of China, even excluding ethnic minority areas under Ming rule from being defined as Zhongguo.
The Manchu referred to all subjects of the Qing empire regardless of ethnicity as "Chinese" (中國之人), and used the term (中國) as a synonym for the entire Qing empire while using "Han ren" (漢人) to refer only to the core area of the empire, with the entire empire viewed as multiethnic.
While the Qing Emperors governed frontier non-Han areas in a different, separate system under the Lifan Yuan and kept them separate from Han areas and administration, it was the Manchu Qing Emperors who expanded the definition of Zhongguo (中國) and made it "flexible" by using that term to refer to the entire Empire and using that term to other countries in diplomatic correspondence, while some Han Chinese subjects criticized their usage of the term and used Zhongguo only to refer to the seventeen provinces of China and three provinces of the east (Manchuria), excluding other frontier areas. Ming loyalist Han literati held to defining the old Ming borders as China and using "foreigner" to describe minorities under Qing rule such as the Mongols, as part of their anti-Qing ideology. Due to Qing using treaties clarifying the international borders of the Qing state, it was able to inoculate in the Chinese people a sense that China included areas such as Mongolia and Tibet due to education reforms in which geographic made it clear where the borders of the Qing state were even if they didn't understand how the Chinese identity included Tibetans and Mongolians or understand what the connotations of being Chinese were. 
In order to show that these diverse groups were all part of one family and part of the state, the Qing used the phrase "Zhongwai yijia" 中外一家 ("interior and exterior as one family"), to convey this idea of "unification" of the different ethnic groups. After conquering "China proper", the Manchus identified their state as "China" (中國, Zhōngguó; "Middle Kingdom"), and referred to it as Dulimbai Gurun in Manchu (Dulimbai means "central" or "middle," gurun means "nation" or "state"). The emperors labelled the lands of the Qing state (including present-day Northeast China, Xinjiang, Mongolia, Tibet and other areas) as "China" in both the Chinese and Manchu languages. This defined China as a multi-ethnic state, thereby rejecting the idea that "China" only meant Han areas. The Qing emperors proclaimed that both Han and non-Han ethnic groups were part of "China." They also used both "China" and "Qing" to refer to their state in official documents, international treaties (as the Qing was known internationally as "China" or the "Chinese Empire") and foreign affairs. The "Chinese language" (Dulimbai gurun i bithe) included Chinese, Manchu, and Mongol languages while the "Chinese people" (中國人 Zhōngguó rén; Manchu: Dulimbai gurun i niyalma) were referred to as being subjects of the empire.
In the Treaty of Nerchinsk the name "China" (Dulimbai Gurun, Zhongguo), was used to refer to the Qing territory in Manchuria in both the Manchu and Chinese language versions of the treaty. Additionally, the term "the wise Emperor of China" was also used within the text of the treaty in Manchu.
The Qianlong Emperor rejected the earlier idea that only the Han people could be subjects of China and only Han land could be considered as part of China. Instead, he redefined China as being multi-ethnic, saying in 1755 that "there exists a view of China (zhongxia), according to which non-Han people cannot become China's subjects and their land cannot be integrated into the territory of China. This does not represent our dynasty's understanding of China, but is instead a view of the earlier Han, Tang, Song, and Ming dynasties." The Manchu Qianlong Emperor rejected the views of Han officials who said Xinjiang was not part of China and that he should not conquer it, putting forth the view that China was multi-ethnic and did not just refer to Han.
According to Russian scholars Dmitriev S.V., Kuzmin S.L. despite usage of the term "China", these empires had their official names by the names of their dynasties. Non-Han people considered themselves as subjects of the Yuan and Qing states not equating them to China. This resulted from different ways of the Yuan and Qing legitimization for different peoples in these empires. 
Parts of 'Northern China'
Wu Hu Era
- Former Qin (351-394) founded by the Di
- Northern Wei (386-535), and Northern Zhou (557-581) founded by the Xianbei
- Liao (907-1125) founded by the Khitans
- Later Tang (923-936) founded by the Shatuo Turks
- Later Jin (936-947) founded by the Shatuo Turks. Later Jin founder Shi Jingtang claimed patrilineal Han Chinese ancestry.
- Later Han (947-951) founded by the Shatuo Turks. Sources conflict as to the origin of the Later Han and Northern Han Emperors, some indicate Shatuo ancestry while another claims that the Emperors claimed patrilineal Han Chinese ancestry.
- Northern Han in China (951–979) (founded by Shato) See above note on the Later Han's origins, Northern Han was founded by the same family as Later Han.
- Jin (1115-1234) founded by the Jurchen
- Western Xia (1038-1227) founded by the Tanguts
- Western Liao (1124-1218) founded by the Khitans
All of China
- Liu 2004, p. 266.
- Zhao 2006, p. 4.
- Jiang 2011, p. 103.
- Barabantseva 2010, p. 20.
- Esherick 2006, p. 232.
- Mosca 2011, p. 94.
- Esherick 2006, p. 251.
- Elliott & Chia (2004), pp. 76–77.
- Treaty of Nanking. 1842.
- McKinley, William. "Second State of the Union Address". 5 Dec. 1898.
- Zhao (2006), pp. n4, 7–10, and 12–14.
- Zhao (2006), pp. 8 and 12.
- Zhao 2006, p. 4.
- Zhao 2006, pp. 11-12.
- Dunnell 2004, p. 77.
- Dunnell 2004, p. 83.
- Elliott 2001, p. 503.
- Dmitriev, S.V. and Kuzmin, S.L. 2012. What is China? The Middle State in historical myth and real policy, Oriens (Moscow), no 3, pp. 5-19
- Dmitriev, S.V. and Kuzmin, S.L. 2014. Qing Empire as China: anatomy of a historical myth, Oriens (Moscow), no 1, pp. 5-17
- Wudai Shi, ch. 75. Considering the father was originally called Nieliji without a surname, the fact that his patrilineal ancestors all had Chinese names here indicates that these names were probably all created posthumously after Shi Jingtang became a "Chinese" emperor. Shi Jingtang actually claimed to be a descendant of Chinese historical figures Shi Que and Shi Fen, and insisted that his ancestors went westwards towards non-Han Chinese area during the political chaos at the end of the Han Dynasty in early 3rd century.
- According to Old History of the Five Dynasties, vol. 99, and New History of the Five Dynasties, vol. 10. Liu Zhiyuan was of Shatuo origin. According to Wudai Huiyao, vol. 1 Liu Zhiyuan's great-great-grandfather Liu Tuan (劉湍) (titled as Emperor Mingyuan posthumously, granted the temple name of Wenzu) descended from Liu Bing (劉昞), Prince of Huaiyang, a son of Emperor Ming of Han
- Dunnell, Ruth W.; Elliott, Mark C.; Foret, Philippe; Millward, James A (2004). New Qing Imperial History: The Making of Inner Asian Empire at Qing Chengde. Routledge. ISBN 1134362226. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
- Elliott, Mark C. (2001). The Manchu Way: The Eight Banners and Ethnic Identity in Late Imperial China (illustrated, reprint ed.). Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804746842. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
- Zhao, Gang (January 2006). "Reinventing China: Imperial Qing Ideology and the Rise of Modern Chinese National Identity in the Early Twentieth Century". Volume 32 (Number 1). Sage Publications. doi:10.1177/0097700405282349. JSTOR 20062627. Archived (PDF) from the original on 25 March 2014. Retrieved 23 May 2014.