Da Qin
Posted: 29 March 2016 09:50 PM   [ Ignore ]
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The stated origin for Da Qin (the Chinese name for Rome or the Roman Empire) baffles me:

e.g. in the Silk Road Seattle notes:

https://depts.washington.edu/silkroad/texts/hhshu/notes11.html

Section 11 – The Kingdom of Da Qin 大秦 (the Roman Empire)

1. Da Qin 大秦 [Ta Ch’in] = Rome or Roman territory, depending on the context. The use of such a name (literally, ‘Great Qin’ = Great China) for a foreign state probably reflects the common process of mythologizing distant and unfamiliar cultures. Pulleyblank (1999), p. 77 notes that it “...is clearly not a transcription of a foreign word” and that the “...earliest datable occurrence seems to be with reference to Gān Ying’s mission of 97 C.E.”

What? Why would China call Rome “the Great China”?
Is this a widely accepted etymology?

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Posted: 30 March 2016 04:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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That source you link to looks to be a pretty good one and from a major university, so it has a fairly high degree of credibility. (It’s certainly better than my knowledge of the topic.)

The page quotes Gan Ying, an ambassador sent to Rome in the late first century C. E. (he never actually reached it):

“The people of this country are all tall and honest. They resemble the people of the Middle Kingdom and that is why this kingdom is called Da Qin.”

There are also other references to the similarities between the organization of Roman Empire and that of China at the time. They were, at least in Chinese eyes, the only “civilized” states in the world. The source also notes that not all scholars accept this line of thinking.

The question that I would ask is what valence did Qin (Chin) have at the time when used to refer to China? Was it an ethnic term? Or did it have more a sense of “empire, civilization”? If the latter, it is easy to see why the transfer of the name took place.

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Posted: 30 March 2016 05:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Dave Wilton - 30 March 2016 04:36 AM




The question that I would ask is what valence did Qin (Chin) have at the time when used to refer to China? Was it an ethnic term? Or did it have more a sense of “empire, civilization”? If the latter, it is easy to see why the transfer of the name took place.

Interesting point.

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Posted: 30 March 2016 07:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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A good question, and I’ve posted it at LH.

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Posted: 30 March 2016 08:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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SFReader responded with the same Gan Ying quote Dave cited above, providing the Chinese original as well: 

其人民皆长大平正,有类中国,故谓之大秦
(The people of this country are honest. They resemble the Chinese, and that is why the country is called Da Qin.)

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Posted: 30 March 2016 10:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The question that I would ask is what valence did Qin (Chin) have at the time when used to refer to China? Was it an ethnic term? Or did it have more a sense of “empire, civilization”? If the latter, it is easy to see why the transfer of the name took place.

The Hebrew Bible refers to the land of Israel either as eretz Israel (“The Land of Israel”), or, frequently, simply as “The Land” (ha-aretz). This is not the only meaning of the word aretz, which can also mean simply “the ground”, or also any land ( eretz utz, “the land of Uz”, eretz mitzrayim, the land of Egypt). ha-aretz, “The Land”, however, refers exclusively to Israel. 

In the light of the above, Dave’s comment seems to me to be the one offering the most plausible answer to the question “why Da Qin”? If the word Qin, referring to China, actually had the sense of something like “The Land”, i.e. “the only country of importance as far as we’re concerned”, then perhaps “Da Qin” might have had the sense of “The Other Land”, i.e. “the only other country of anything like comparable importance to ours”.

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Posted: 30 March 2016 06:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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There’s some very interesting and well-informed commentary in the LH thread, which I recommend to all interested parties.

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Posted: 31 March 2016 02:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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languagehat - 30 March 2016 06:00 PM

There’s some very interesting and well-informed commentary in the LH thread, which I recommend to all interested parties.

Indeed it is, thanks.

For some reason I’ve always been greatly interested in why various folks have various names for various other folks.

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