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2015 Major Projects of the National Social Science Fund of China

‘China’ Identification in Ancient China and the Formation of the Chinese Nation


Zhao Yongchun

Project Number


What is the definition of China? Despite several rounds of discussions among the academic circle, some people persist that the minorities are not Chinese. They stubbornly stick to the view that the minorities and related political powers are included in China has not conformed to historical realities and do not meet political needs. However, the ethnic minorities and their regimes in ancient China have already had the identity consciousness of “China” in history, and used to call themselves “China”. The project, based on the designative meaning of “China” in ancient times as “Central Plains” in geographical sense, on the national meaning of “the Han nationality” , on the cultural connotation of “a feudal state adopting the barbarians' culture were deemed barbarous; one that adopted the Chinese culture were deemed Chinese” (“诸侯用夷礼则夷之,夷而进于中国则中国之”) and on the regime meaning implied in the “Country”. The project starts from national identity, ethnic identity, history identity to cultural identity, and discusses and studies the “China” identity in ancient times. The project proposes that the ethnic groups and their regimes in ancient China all possess the strong sense of identification with Chinese history and Chinese traditional culture. They call themselves “The children of the Yellow Emperor”, “People of the Northern Dynasties”, “Chinese” and “The legitimists” and are not against the phenomenon of “China” shaped by the Han nationality and the central plains regime. Not only Huaxia (an ancient name for China), and the Han nationality generally had the identity consciousness of “China”, but also the man of insight identified with the “Chinese Nature” of the ethnic minorities and their history. Hence, in ancient China, there was formed the national consciousness of “China” with unity in diversity by Huaxia, Han nationality and the various minority nationalities , which became an important factor in the formation and cohesiveness of all ethnic groups in China, and made important contributions to the formation and development of the Chinese nation.