Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Middle Kingdom

China is called 中国 (zhōngguó) in Chinese.

(zhōng): middle

(guó): state

中国 (zhōngguó): Middle Kingdom

Maybe the map below will help us explain why China is called the Middle Kingdom.

“The map is similar to many present-day Chinese world maps in that it positions at the centre of the map China (which used self-confidently to refer to itself as the “Middle Kingdom”), and not Europe.”

One theory, among few others, says that China is called the Middle Kingdom because its rulers believed that China is in the center of the world as shown in the map above.

But why is the United States called 美国 (měiguó)?

(měi): beautiful

(guó): state


  1. Did the early Chinese know about the Western World, and the "far" West of the Americas? Cool stuff.

  2. Well, most Chinese people do consider America as a “美”国。

  3. It can be a beautiful place... if you visit the right places :)

    Do most countries have a different name in Chinese like "Beautiful State" or are some countries just Chinese sounding versions of the country name-- like Nepal or Botswana?

  4. Lets thank the chinese for coming up with such a kind and meaningful name to the USA.

  5. Actually most of the countries have Chinese sounding versions of the country name. I am planning to have more posts on country names in the future.

  6. 最初美洲的译法是亚美利坚,非洲是亚非利加,而简称只能选择第二个音节.否则就无法区分两个洲.

    why America called 美国 in chinese