In what follows, we examine a selective array of dictionaries; in a quest to understand the roots of "China".
According to THE OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY (second edition, 1989), the origin is a matter of debate, but found in Sanskrit since two millenia and that "China-ware" occurs earlier than "China", though bearing the sense "‘ware from China’" (note that the following is an extract, omitting a variety of less relevant passages, such as later derivatives and quotations of later dates; usually after 1700):
chin, obs. f. ᴄʜɪɴᴇ sb.1
China (ˈtʃaɪnə), sb.1 and a. Forms: see under II. [Not a native Chinese name, but found in Skr. as Chīna about the Christian era, and in various modified forms employed by other Asiatic peoples. In Marco Polo Chin, in Barbosa (1516) and Garcia de Orta (1563) China. So in Eng. in Eden 1555.
[The origin of the name is still a matter of debate. See Babylonian & Or. Recd. ɪ. Nos. 3 and ɪɪ.]
I. 1. The country so called, in Asia.
1555 Eᴅᴇɴ Decades W. Ind. (Arb.) 260 The great China whose kyng is thought .. the greatest prince in the world.
† A Chinaman, a Chinese. Obs.
1621 Bᴜʀᴛᴏɴ Anat. Mel. ɪɪɪ. iv. ɪ. ii. (1651) 655 How those witty China's .. should be so gulled. 1634 Sɪʀ T. Hᴇʀʙᴇʀᴛ Trav. ɪɪɪ. (1638) 338 The Chynaes are curious in novelties.
2. attrib. and Comb. a. simple attrib. Now generally superseded by Cʜɪɴᴇꜱᴇ a., exc. where this would be ambiguous, as in China trade, trader, merchant, etc. See also 3 a.
1589 Hᴀᴋʟᴜʏᴛ Voy. 551 margin, China ships with one saile. 1660 Pᴇᴘʏꜱ Diary 28 Sept., I did send for a cup of tee (a China drink). 1668 Wɪʟᴋɪɴꜱ Real Char. Table 441 Concerning the China Character. 1707 Fʟᴏʏᴇʀ Physic. Pulse-Watch 344 The old China Books. 1720 Dᴇ Fᴏᴇ Capt. Singleton xiv. (1840) 245 We found the China traders. 1868 C. Cᴏʟʟɪɴɢᴡᴏᴏᴅ (title) Rambles of a Naturalist on the shores and waters of the China sea.
b. in names of natural products, etc., as China-aster (see ᴀꜱᴛᴇʀ 3); China-berry U.S., in full Chinaberry tree,
1602 Cᴀʀᴇᴡ Cornwall 24b, Cornwall hath Doues, Geese, *China geese.
1665-6 Pᴇᴘʏꜱ Diary 5 Mar., I .. made them welcome with wine and *china oranges (now a great rarity). 1698, etc. [see ᴏʀᴀɴɢᴇ, sb.1 I a].
1660 Act 12 Chas. II (Tonnage & Poundage) Capravens, Cockared Caps, *China Pease, Citterns.
1614 in T. Roe Jrnl. (1899) II. 556 A Riall and a half of 8 the pownd ... is more than the whight *China silke doth cost in the Indies.
II. China porcelain, China-ware, china.
[Throughout India, and the East generally, the Persian name is widely diffused as chīnī, in sense of 'porcelain', 'china-ware'. From India this form and use of the word was prob. introduced in the 17th c. into England, whence the spellings 17th c. chiney, cheny, cheney, chenea, mod. dial. chainy, chaney, chany, chaynee, chayney, cheenie, cheeny, and the fashionable pronunciation of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, ('tʃeɪnɪ) (see Walker), which with ('tʃiːnɪ), still survives in the dialects.]
3. A species of earthenware of a fine semi-transparent texture, originally manufactured in China, and first brought to Europe in the 16th c. by the Portuguese, who named it porcelain. Early in the 18th c. it began to be manufactured in Europe.
a. China-ware (which naturally occurs earlier than china) had at first the literal sense of ‘ware from China’. This was soon shortened to china, and as the shortened form became gradually the common name of the material, ‘china-ware’ came to be regarded as ‘ware made of china or porcelain’, the sense it now bear.
1634 Sɪʀ T. Hᴇʀʙᴇʀᴛ Trav. 41 They sell Callicoes, Cheney Sattin, Cheney ware. 1699 Lᴜᴛᴛʀᴇʟʟ Brief Rel. (1857) IV. 553 The price of china ware in London is fallen 12s. in the pound.
1653 H. Cᴏɢᴀɴ tr. Pinto's Trav. lii. 206 A Present of certain very rich Pieces of China. 1679 Pᴇɴɴ Addr. Prot. ɪ. 17 Massy Plate, Rich Cheny. 1685 Cʀᴏᴡɴᴇ Sir Courtly Nice ɪ. 8 Women, like Cheney, shou’d be kept with care, One flaw debases her to common ware. 1694 Lᴜᴛᴛʀᴇʟʟ Brief Rel. (1857) III. 281 Three trunks .. in which were chenea and other fine things.
4. attrib. and Comb. a. simple attrib. Of china, made of china or porcelain.
[In the earliest quotations China prob. often bears sense ɪ, the transition being gradual.]
1579 Drake’s Voy. in Hakluyt (1600) III. 736 Fine China-dishes of white earth, and great store of China-silks. 1598 Fʟᴏʀɪᴏ, Porcellana .. whereof they make China dishes, called Porcellan dishes. 1603 Sʜᴀᴋꜱ. Meas. for M. ɪɪ. i. 97 They are not China-dishes, but very good dishes. 1646 Sɪʀ T. Bʀᴏᴡɴᴇ Pseud. Ep. ɪɪ. v. §7 We are not throughly resolved concerning Porcellane or China dishes, that according to common belief they are made of Earth.
china2 ('tʃaɪna). [From China the country, whence brought to Europe; early names were Radix Chinæ and Tuber Chinæ; the Ayeen Akb. (Pers.) calls it chob-chīnī ‘China-wood’; cf. Pg. raiz de China, pao de China, (F. bois d’eschine). The French synonym esquine, squine, and mod.Lat. schina, point to confusion with some other word.
(App. with med.L. schīnus mastic tree: cf. Susannah (Daniel xiii.) 54 sub schino, LXX. ὑπὸ σχῖνον.)]
The third edition (currently still a work in progress) does not yet list any further etymological information with regards to China.
THE AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE lists the following:
Ch´in (chĭn) See Qin.
chi•na (chī´nə) n. 1. High-quality porcelain or other ceramic ware, originally made in China. 2. Porcelain or earthenware used for the table. [Variant of earlier chiney < Persian chīnī, Chinese < chīn, China, ultimately of Chinese origin; akin to Mandarin Qín; see Qɪɴ.]
... and then for "Qin":
Qin also Ch´in (chĭn) A Chinese dynasty (221-206 ʙᴄ) that established the first centralized imperial government in China. Much of the Great Wall of China was built during the rule of this dynasty. [Mandarin Qín, name of an ancient Chinese state (originally the name of a fief located in what is now Gansu province, from which the state grew), Qin dynasty < Middle Chinese tsɦin.]
It has surprised me how little information with regards to the word "China" could be found in German etymological dictionaries.
Inset: the lemma "China" in German dictionaries
Browsed were the largest (nine) of the etymological dictionaries / dictionaries of foreign words which I was able to found in the General Reading Room of the Bavarian State Library, in Munich; on Sunday 20 November 2016.
The English word "China", equally written in German but with the "Ch" pronounced the way that "C" is pronounced in the English "cage", is supposed to be 'understood' well enough by those who understand the German language. Such is the impression remaining after discovering a complete lack of it in multiple "Fremdwörterbucher" (English: dictionaries of foreign words) by publishers otherwise distinguished for their fine dictionaries. DUDEN, for example, omits it by going from Chi|mä|re (English: Chimera) to Chi|na|cra|cker (English: banger or firecracker). The description for the latter refers to the country China, but as with all other compound words containing the root of the word China, no further explanation of the word China is provided:
Chi|na|cra|cker [çinakrɛkɐ] der; -s, -[s] <nach dem ostasiat. Land; engl.>: ein Feuerwerkskörper
WAHRIG makes exactly the same jump in words and is quite similar in its petite description:
Chi|na|cra|cker ⟨[çi:nakrækə(r)] m.; -s, -⟩ ein Knall- bzw. Feuerwerkskörper, Chinakracher [nach China + Cracker]
Well, but those aren't etymological dictionaries, you might argue. They are merely published to satisfy any need or desire to understand the superficial meaning of borrowed words. Fair enough. Let's dig into etymological dictionaries then. For example, let's see what DUDEN has to offer. Surprise, surprise ... its etymological dictionary makes a jump from Chiffre (English: cipher) to Chinin (English: quinine), as if China is further pushed into oblivion. MACKENSEN agrees on Chiffre to Chinin. WAHRIG, in its turn, seems to think Chinchilla is alphabetically the most important word, of which the etymology is of interest, after Chimäre, Schimäre. But don't despair: there are larger format dictionaries. How about DUDEN's bigger brother? Nope: Chim|ney to Chi|na|cracker. KLUGE? Chimäre to Chip. Surely, it must occur in a two-volume dictionary? Yet also AKADEMIE VERLAG lets us down: Chimäre to Chinin. The real deal then: the seven volumes by WALTER DE GRUYTER (scheduled to become fifteen when completed) yield hope just by looking at their covers. Close but no cigar: Chimäre receives two full pages, but as with KLUGE, the need to explain Chip left no place for China.
All of these nine dictionaries had no lemma for China, nor for Chinese.
On the contrary, when examining a country historically and geographically closer to Germany, one discovers that AKADEMIE VERLAG has quite some etymological information about frank, the root of the German word for France (Frankreich); yet the link to the word for France is not explicitly made. MACKENSEN also lists frank and the related Franzose, both as separate lemmas, briefly touching upon their French and even Latin roots. Here, the explanation for the word Franzose does contain a direct link to Frankreich. WAHRIG's dictionary of foreign words, in descriptions of the lemmas Frạn|ci|um or fran|ko..., Fran|ko..., equally has direct etymological information linked to France. WAHRIG's etymological dictionary does so for Francium, Franzium. Of course, one of the seven volumes by WALTER DE GRUYTER contains a plethora of information about Franko-, franko- and its relation to France.
DUDEN's etymological dictionary ascribes some detailed information about frank to the word France.
DUDEN larger dictionary lists Frạn|ci|um and links it to Frankreich; and it's interesting to note how DUDEN's dictionary of foreign words lists the origin of "franko" between chevrons in the following lemma (cf. "germ.-mlat"; meaning "from Germanic and Medieval Latin"):
fran|ko|phil ⟨germ.-mlat.; gr.⟩: Frankreich, seinen Bewohnern u. seiner Kultur besonders aufgeschlossen gegenüberstehend.
Such information, enclosed between chevrons, is completely lacking from the previously quoted description for the lemma Chi|na|cra|cker, in the same dictionary.
So, perhaps the creators of German dictionaries are not just, purposely or not, omitting the lemma for China and its corresponding etymology (as if they would seem to think that this word, or its roots aren't interesting enough). Focusing on the difference between Chi|na|cra|cker and fran|ko|phil: it might just be the case that they didn't even have a clue?
It has to be noted though, that the nine dictionaries consulted above, also didn't contain a lemma for Belgium, nor did they contain any mention of any words related to Belgium. In this regard, the lack of information puts Belgium on the same level as China, with France being the exception (obviously, for Belgium, this can be justified as there are far more derivative words stemming from the same root as the word France in the German language. But there are nevertheless quite a few such derivatives involving the roots of the word China).
Browsing for a lemma related to "Sino-", as in "Sinologie" (English: sinology), on the other hand; revealed some claims.
DUDEN's big dictionary notes that its origin is to be found in the Greek "Sínai" (extract omits the meaning):
Si|no|lo|ge der; -n, -n ⟨zu gr. Sínai (vgl. Sinanthropus) u. ↑ ...loge⟩ [...]
... and equally, when referring to "Sinanthropus" (extract omits "-anthropos"):
Sin|ạn|thro|pus der; -, Plur. ...pi u. ...pen ⟨aus nlat. sinanthropus zu gr. Sínai „Chinesen; China“ [...]
Its small dictionary only contains the following, at least with regards to etymology, both for "Sinologe" and for "Sinanthropus"; linking them, yet vaguely, to New Latin:
[...] ⟨gr.-nlat.⟩ [...]
WAHRIG notes (extract omits "-logie"):
Sinologie Lehre von der chines. Sprache und Kultur ♦ aus Sina dem spätlat. Namen für China (er soll auf das chines. Herrschergeschlecht der Ch’in, 221-206 v. Chr., zurückgehen, das zum ersten Mal einen einheitlichen chines. Staat schuf), [...]
... and when referring to "Sinanthropus" (extract omits "-anthropos"):
Sinanthropus in China gefundener Frühmensch ♦ aus Sina, dem spätlat. Namen für China (→ Sinologie), [...]
WAHRIG's dictionary of foreign words claims:
Si|no|lo|gie ⟨f.; -; unz.; Sprachw.⟩ Lehre von der chines. Sprache u. Kultur [Sinae «Chinesen» + ...logie]
AKADEMIE VERLAG, as well as DUDEN's smaller etymological dictionary did not contain any information regarding "Sino-". The required volume of DE GRUYTER had not yet been published.
Note: this section needs to be updated and moved.
This premature examination leaves us with the following hypotheses:
- The etymology of "China" is a matter of debate (cf. THE OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY).
- "China" is not a native Chinese name (cf. THE OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY).
- "China" was found in Sanskrit as "Chīna" around the Christian era (cf. THE OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY).
- "China" stems from the Greek "Sínai" (cf. DUDEN).
- "China" stems from New Latin, after it had been adopted from the Greek "Sínai" (cf. DUDEN).
- "China" stems from "Sina", the Late Latin name for the Ch'in dinasty (221-206 v. Chr.) (cf. WAHRIG).
- "China" in an earlier form was "chiney", stemming from the Persian "chīnī", adopted from the Chinese "chīn", and its origin was ultimately a Chinese word. (cf. THE AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE).
- "China" is akin to the Mandarin "Qín", which itself stems from the Middle Chinese "tsɦin". (cf. THE AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE).
Hypotheses two and seven (as well as eight) seem to be at least partially in contradiction with one another.
Those are quite a few assumptions; but unfortunately, no references are provided. Luckily, Martinus Martinius' most famous work holds the key to at least one of the mentioned claims:
- "China" is not a native Chinese name.
V. WARTBURG notes (note that the following is an extract, omitting a variety of less relevant passages, such as later derivatives and quotations of later dates; usually after 1700):
I. 1. Mfr. nfr. chine f. „(t. de bot. et pharm.) racine ligneuse de la salsepareille de la Chine (smilax china) employée comme sudorifique“ (1572—Trév 1771, Rhlitt 6, 452), mfr. racine de chin (1590—1597, Rhlitt 6, 452), nfr. china m. (seit Fur 1690)1); sina (Fur 1690—Trév 1771). Mfr. bois d'esquine2) Montaigne, nfr. esquine f., squine (beide seit Sav Br 1723).
2. Nfr. chinefine „épicerie de l'Orient“ Sav 1679, II, 538.
3. Nfr. oranger de la Chine „citrus vulgaris sinensis“ (seit 1654, Rl Fl 3, 367), s. noch II 2.—Nfr. bled de la Chine „riz“ Enc suppl 1776.
2. Nfr chinoise „petite orange de la chine“ (1768—Land 1851; Rl Fl 3, 368); chinois „(t. de confis.) petite orange verte conservée à l'eau-de-vie“ (seit Raym 1832)3);
III. Nfr. sinologue „celui qui étudie la langue ou l'histoire de la Chine“ (seit Boiste 1829). Nfr. sinologie „science de la langue, de l'histoire, des institutions de la Chine“; sinologique „relatif à la sinologie“ (beide seit 1871).
Der ländername Chine, nlt. Sina und das adj. chinois werden zuerst von Mon I 1636 verzeichnet. In I liegt der fr. oder nlt. ländername selber vor zur bezeichnung chinesischer produkte (1—5) oder nach chinesischem geschmack gefertigter waren (6). In 7 spiegelt sich der ungern fern von seinem lande weilende Franzose. — II umfasst die wörter, die auf die ablt. chinois zurückgehen. In 1 liegt die vorstellung von der bizzarheit der chinesischen kunst, sprache und gewonheiten zugrunde, 2 schliesst sich an I 3, 3 an I 4, und 4 wohl wegen der buntheit der betr. gegenstände an I 5, 6 an. — III sind gelehrte zuss. mit nlt. Sina + -logue, -logie. — IV ist zur bezeichnung des aus China importierten produkts aus dem e. entlehnt. — S. noch ᴄᴀᴘᴘᴇʟʟᴜs — Hering.
1) Von Ac 1762—Land 1851 meist f., sonst wie coca, hortensia, réséda u.a. pflanzennamen m.
2) Diese und die folgenden formen vielleicht zu erklären aus einer aussprache kin für Chine.
3) Nach Dauzat schon 1651, welches genus? Vgl. auch gen. chïnotto „arancino della China“ piem. chinot.
Interestingly, the FRÉDÉRIC GODEFROY dictionary of old French (ninth to fifteenth century) notes a variety of meanings for "chine" or highly-similar terms, for which no direct relation to China is known:
ᴄɪɴᴇ, chine, cienne, s.f., p.-ê. cenèle:
Nasier a feru u chief dessus la crine,
A .ɪɪ. mains, si grant coup et de tele ravine,
Que la pel du serpent n’i valut une cine.
(Gaufrey, 3660, A.P.)
Sus li avoie fet une grant aatie,
Mes des or en avant ne le pris une chine
Que je li perdonroi dees or mes ma haine.
(Ib., 3668.) Impr., chime.
Por ce devroit estre estanchiee
La vilonie c’om lor fait,
Garson et escuier sorfait,
Et teil qui ne valent .ɪɪ. ciennes.
(De Charlot le Juif.)
ᴄɪɴᴇ́, voir Sᴇɴᴇ́.
For example, "chine", "chinee" or "chynee" might have meant reservoir, occuring as early as 1314.
LE GRAND ROBERT notes (extract):
1. CHINE [ʃin] n. m. — xɪxe; «plante», 1572; nom du pays.
♦ 1 (1866). Papier de luxe. Du chine et du japon.
♦ 2 (1855) N. m. Porcelaine de Chine. Un vase en vieux chine. Ellipt. Un chine: une pièce de porcelaine de Chine. [...]
CHINOIS, OISE [ʃinwa, waz] adj. et n. — 1610; chinese, 1602; de Chine.
[I] A Adj. ♦ 1 De Chine; relatif à la Chine. → Sino-. Le Peuple chinois. L'économie, la société chinoise. La population chinoise est la plus importante du monde. — L'ancien empire chinois. [...]
C N. m. ♦ 1 (1616, in D.D.L.) Le chinois : langue parlée en Chine par 90 % des Chinois (les Hans), sous des formes dialectales variées, et écrite de manière unifiée au moyen d'idéogrammes. [...]
The slightly larger DICTIONNAIRE CULTUREL EN LANGUE FRANÇAISE notes (extract):
1 CHINE [ʃin] n. m.〈1837, papier de chine 1572, nom d'une plante; du nom du pays〉
1 〈1866〉Papier de luxe. Du chine et du japon.
2.〈1854〉 N. m. Porcelaine de Chine. [...]
CHINOIS, OISE [ʃinwa, waz] adj. et n.〈1605, var. chinese 1602; dér du nom de la Chine〉
I A Adj. 1 De Chine; relatif à la Chine. → Sino-.
C N. m. 1 〈1616〉Le chinois : langue parlée en Chine par 90 % des Chinois (les Hans), sous formes dialectales très différentes, et écrite de manière unifiée au moyen d'idéogrammes. [...]
I don't know why these two very related dictionaries, note a slightly different date for "N. m. Porcelaine de Chine" (1855 and 1854 respectively).
DE MORAIS notes (please note I did not reproduce all derivatives of "China" or "chinês", further in this reference):
China 1, adj. 2 gén. (de China, top.). Relativo ou pertencente à China. || S. 2 gén. Indivíduo natural da China; chinês, chim: «Uma boca sorvida e sem dentes, olhos pequenos apresilhados nos cantos como olhos de china», Rebelo da Silva, Mocidade de D. João V, I, cap. 15, 241. || Bot. Certa variedade de laranja.
China 2, adj. 2 gén. (de China 1). Bras. Moreno, tostado.
China 3, s. f. (de China 1). Bras. do Rio Grande do Sul. Mulher de índio ou pessoa de sexo feminino de raça aborígene, ou que apresenta alguns caracteres étnicos das mulheres indígenas: «De toda china bonita», Afrânio Peixoto, Trovas, 90. || Mulher de vida airada: «Agora está com outra, com uma china bêbeda», Erico Veríssimo, Música ao Longe, 173, 3.a ed. || Mulher provocante. || Moça morena: «Chegue e assente, china verde de Sorocaba», Valdomiro Silveira, Caboclos, 125. || Zool. Espécie de raça bovina, proviniente de cruzamento de zebu com gado da terra. || Bot. Planta medicinal.
China 4, s. m. (de China 1). Bras. Arroz doce. || Mingau de mandioca puba com leite. || Restaurante barato. || Zool. Espécie de tatu. || Ver o ou a) china, ver o china seco, atrapalhar-se.
China 5, s. f. (do cast. china). Provinc. Pedaçà de pedra, calhau ou de caco, sobre que os sapateiros batem a sola ou se doba para fazer novelo.
China 6, s. f. Gir. ant. Dinheiro, chelpa.
Chinês 1, adj. (de China, top.). Pertencente ou relativo à China: «morada de Deus, seja templo católico, judaico, chinês ou árabe», Franklin Távora, O Matuto, última pag.
Chinês 2, s. m. (de China, top.). Indivíduo natural da China; chim, china, chino: «...pretende não deformar a vida em aparelhos como os aplicados às chinesas nos pés», Samuel Maia, Dona sem Dono, 226. || Língua dos naturais da China. || Fig. Coisa muito complicada, incompreensível: «isso para mim é chinês».
China is already identified as "La Chine" on André Thevet's north polar projected hemispheric map, entitled "MIPART SEPTENTRIONALLE DU MONDE" in "Le grand insulaire et pilotage", an atlas from around 1586.
The ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA notes:
Tʜᴇ account of this great empire of Eastern Asia may fitly commence with a brief notice, 1st, of China as known to the ancients (the land of Sinæ or Seres), and, 2d, of China as known to mediæval Europe (Cathay).
China as known to the Ancients.
The spacious seat of ancient civilization which we call China has loomed always so large to Western eyes, and has, in spite of the distance, subtended so large an angle of vision, that, at eras far apart, we find it to have been distinguished by different appellations, according as it was reached by the southern sea-route, or by the northern land-route traversing the longitude of Asia.
In the former aspect the name has nearly always been some form of the name Sin, Chin, Sinæ, China. In the latter point of view the region in question was known to the ancients as the land of the Seres, to the Middle ages as the empire of Cathay.
The name of Chin has been supposed (doubtfully) to be derived from the dynasty of Thsin, which a little more than two centuries before our era enjoyed a brief but very vigorous existence, uniting all the Chinese provinces under its authority, and extending its conquests far beyond those limits to the south and the west.
The mention of the Chinas in ancient Sanskrit literature, both in the laws of Manu and in the Mahâbhârat, has often been supposed to prove the application of the name long before the predominance of the Thsin dynasty. But the coupling of that name with the Daradas, still surviving as the people of Dardistan, on the Indus, suggests it as more probably that those Chinas were a kindred race of mountaineers, whose name as Chinas in fact likewise remains applied to a branch of the Dard races. Whether the Sinim of the prophet Isaiah should be interpreted of the Chinese is probably not at present susceptible of any decision; by the context it appears certainly to indicate a people of the extreme east or south.
The name probably came to Europe through the Arabs, who made the China of the further east into Sîn, and perhaps sometimes into Thîn. Hence the Thin of the author of the Periplus of the Erythræan Sea, who appears to be the first extant writer to employ the name in this form (i.e., assuming Müller's view that he belongs to the 1st century); hence also the Sinæ and Thinæ of Claudius Ptolemy.
It has often indeed been denied that the Sinæ of Ptolemy really represented the Chinese. But if we compare the statement of Marcianus of Hereclae (a mere condenser of Ptolemy), when he tells us that the “nations of the Sinæ lie at the extremity of the habitable world, and adjoin the eastern Terra Incognita,” with that of Cosmas, who says, in speaking of Tzinista, a name of which no one can question the application to China, that “beyond this there is neither habitation nor navigation,”—we cannot doubt the same region to be meant by both. The fundamental error of Ptolemy's conception of the Indian Sea as a closed basin rendered it impossible but that he should misplace the Chinese coast. But considering that the name of Sin has come down among the Arabe from time immemorial as applied to the Chinses, considering that in the work of Ptolemy this name certainly represented the furthest known East, and considering how inaccurate are Ptolemy’s configurations and longitudes much nearer home, it seems almost as reasonable to deny the identity of his India with ours as to deny that his Sinæ were Chinese.
If we now turn to the Seres we find this name mentioned by classic authors much more frequently and at an earlier date, for the passages of Eratosthenes (in Strabo), formerly supposed to speak of a parallel parsing through Thinæ—διά Θινῶν, are now known to read correctly δι᾽Αθηνῶν. The name Seres indeed is familiar to the Latin poets of the Augustan age, but always in a vague way, and usually with a general reference to Central Asia and the farther East. We find, however, that the first endeavours to assign more accurately the position of this people, which are those of Mela and Pliny, gravitate distinctly towards China in its northern aspect as the true ideal involved. Thus Mela describes the remotest east of Asia as occupied by the three races (proceeding from south to north), Indians, Seres and Scyths; just as in a general way we might still say that eastern Asia is occupied by the Indies, China and Tartary.
Ptolemy first uses the names of Sera and Serice, the former for the chief city, the latter for the country of the Seres, and as usual defines their position with a precision far beyond what his knowledge justified—the necessary result of his system. Yet even his definition of Serice is most consistent with the view that this name indicated the Chinese empire in its northern aspect, for he carries it eastward to the 180th degree of longitude, which is also, according to his calculation, in a lower latitude the eastern boundary of the Sinæ.
Ammianus Marcellinus devotes some paragraphs to a description of the Seres and their country, one passage of which is startling at first sight in its seeming allusion to the Great Wall, and in this sense it has been rashly interpreted by Lassen and by Reinaud. But Ammianus is merely converting Ptolemy’s dry tables into fine writing, and speaks only of an encircling rampart of mountains within which the spacious and happy valley of the Seres lies. It is true that Ptolemy makes his Serice extend westward to Imaus, i.e. to Pamir. But the Chinese empire did so extend at that epoch, and we find Lieut. John Wood in 1838 speaking of “China” as lying immediately beyond Pamir, just as the Arabs of the 8th century spoke of the country beyond the Jaxartes as “Sin,” and as Ptolemy spoke of “Serice” as immediately beyond Imaus.
If we fuse into one the ancient notices of the Seres and their country, omitting anomalous statements and manifest fables, the result will be something like the following:—“The region of the Seres is a vast and populous country, touching on the east the ocean and the limits of the habitable world, and extending west to Imaus and the confines of Bactria. The people are civilized, mild, just and frugal, eschewing collisions with their neighbours, and even shy of close intercourse, but not averse to dispose of their own products, of which raw silk is the staple, but which included also silk-stuffs, fine furs, and iron of remarkable quality.” That is manifestly a definition of the Chinese.
That Greek and Roman knowledge of the true position of so remote a nation should at best have been somewhat hazy is nothing wonderful. And it is worthy of note that the view entertained by the ancient Chinese of the Roman empire and its inhabitants, under the name of Ta-thsin, had some striking points of analogy to those views of the Chinese which are indicated in the classical descriptions of the Seres. There can be no mistaking the fact that in this case also the great object was within the horizon of vision, yet the details ascribed to it are often far from being true characteristics, being only the accidents of its outer borders.
China as known to the Mediæval Europe.
Cᴀᴛʜᴀʏ is the name by which the Chinese empire was known to mediæval Europe, and it is in its original form (Kitai) that by which China is still known in Russia, and to most of the nations of Central Asia. West of Russia the name has long ceased to be a geographical expression, but it is associated with a remarkable phase in the history of geography and commerce, of which we purpose under this head to give some account.
The name first became known to Europe in the 13th century, when the vast conquests of Jenghiz and his house drew a new and vivid attention to Asia. For some three centuries previously the northern provinces of China had been detached from indigenous rule, and subject to northern conquerors. The first of these foreign dynasties was of a race called Khitán issuing from the basin of the Sungari river, and supposed (but doubtfully) to have been of the blood of the modern Tunguses. The rule of this race endured for two centuries and originated the application of the name Khitât or Khitâï to northern China. The dynasty itself, known in Chinese history as Liao, or “Iron,” disappeared from China 1123, but the name remained attached to the territory which they had ruled.
>> Cathay and the way thither: being a collection of medieval notices of China
Cochin-China the former name for the southern region of what is now Vietnam. Part of French Indo-China from 1862, in 1946 it became a French overseas territory, then merged officially with Vietnam in 1949.
Léonard Aurousseau identified the first part "Cochin", as being based on the Chinese "Kiao-tche" [交趾]. The relevant suffix then, has been argued to be an identifier to distinguish it from a similarly named Indian town.. Aurousseau claimed it originally pointed towards its situation at the east side of Indo-china, i.e. on the side of China (C̆īna). As the name was already used in 1502 on a Portuguese map, at a time when the Portuguese would have had no direct knowledge of the coast of Indo-china; the full name were to have been adopted, without a doubt, by the Portuguese from the Arabs, who used it as early as the end of the fifteenth century.
Occurrences in early maps
- The Ortelius Map of China (1584), by Abraham Ortelius, based on data compiled by Luis Jorge de Barbuda, is entitled:
It is noted to be "the earliest printed map to focus on China and the first to illustrate the Great Wall of China".
olim Sinarum regionis, nova descriptio.
Martinus Martinius (in Italian usually "Martino Martini") is noted to be the first person to have published major writings on Chinese history in a European language. Interestingly, the publishing of works by Martino Martini, as well as those by Philippe Couplet, challenged the European chronology as based on the Bible, as their historical accounts became widespread in the second half of the seventeenth century. In Martinus' most famous work, his atlas and description of China entitled "Novus Atlas Sinensis", there is information recorded about etymology of the word "China".
Selective biographical overview until 1655
For the most part, this overview draws on Bertuccioli's extensive Italian chronology. Chinese characters for most of the place names can be found in a later appendix of the same volume.
- Caption: Certificate of birth and baptism of Martinus Martinius.
Martinus Martinius, son of Andrea Martini and Cecilia de Rubeis (Rossi), was born on 20 September 1614 in Trento, Italy. His parental house is located at via San Pietro, n° 4, in Trento; of which the doorway is visible on Google Maps Street View
. The Society of Jesus opened a school in Trento on 26 November 1625 (aged 11), where Martinus presumably went to take his gymnasium courses. On 7 October 1632 (aged 18), he entered into The Society of Jesus in Sant'Andrea del Quirinale in Rome. On 11 August 1634 (aged 19), he asked the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Muzio Vitelleschi, to be invited to go on a mission to India. On 22 July 1638 (aged 23), he received the order to depart for China instead. That same year, during the first days of september, he became a Jesuit priest.
On 27 June 1643 (aged 29), he went to Xam Hay (Shanghai [上海]), where he started systematically studying the Chinese language. He chose the Chinese surname "di Wei" [衛] and "Kuangguo" [匡國], which means 'saviour of the country', i.e. China. As a second name, he chose "Jitai" [济泰], which on the one hand also implies the meaning of "helping, assisting, succoring" and, on the other hand, vaguely resembles the pronounciation of another Italian Jesuit priest, Matteo Ricci di Xitai, or 'of the extreme West'.
In October 1643 (aged 30), he is in Hangzhou [杭州], where he would later often settle to visit places in the region Kiangnan (Jiangnan [江南]), which is currently the province Jiangsu [江蘇], and in the region of Chekiang (Zhejiang [浙江]). On 14 February 1644, he was invited to take part in a mission to Cham Xo (Changshu [常熟]), a place to the north of the city of Sucheu (Suzhou [蘇州]), together with priest Francisco Ferreira di Macao. Martinus stays there for one month and twenty-two days. Around March, he receives the order by Novice Master, priest Giulio Aleni, to go to Nanjing [南京] to replace priest Francesco Sambiasi.
On 6 July 1644, by order of Giulio Aleni, Martinus returns to Hangzhou to replace priest Joâo Monteiro. In August 1645 (aged 31), the Manchu people occupy Hangzhou. Martinus described the battle for the conquest of the city, but did not mention where he was located at the moment of the victory. It is known, however, from his own writing, that he was ordered by Aleni to go to Jen Ping (Yanping, currently: Nanping [南平]) in the province of Fujian [福建] that same year (yet certainly after the capture of Hangzhou). His tasks included introducing the study of Chinese to priest Johannes Nikolaus Smogulecki.
During the second lunar month of 20 February to 21 March 1646, Martinus reported that a high dignitary of the court, the "Colao" (Grand Secretary [閣老; Pinyin: gé lǎo]) Chu Ta? Tien (Zhu Dadian?) invited him repeatedly and insistently to accept the dignity of Mandarin, offered by the Longwu emperor, due to his desire to use his teachings on "European matters". Martinus declined, but at some point was ordered nevertheless to obey the reception of this honour and to wear the uniform of a high degree, embroidered with dragons. In reality, the emperor and his partisans were interested in the ballistic knowledge of Martini. In relation to this expertise, Martinus had some contact with Ming general Liu Zhongcao, for which he perhaps melted arms; hence his nickname "huoyao dachen" [火药大臣; Pinyin: huǒ yào dà chén], meaning 'gunpowder Mandarin'.
During the sixth lunar month of 13 July to 10 August 1646, Martinus had gone to an appointment, received by Longwu, in town nearby Wenzhou [溫州], in southern Zhejiang, which might have been Xuigan (Rui'an [瑞安]). While the Manchu people advanced their conquest, Martinus almost lost his life. Interestingly, to ward off the aggression of the Manchu people, he attached a large sheet of red paper to the outside of his door reading "Here lives a doctor of the divine law of the Great West". Together with putting up books, scientific instruments and sacred images at his disposal, in his antechamber; this allowed him to gain interest of the Manchu commander, who made Martinus wear the Manchu uniform, to shave off the hair at the top of his head and to tie his neck-hair in a ponytail. This ended Martinus short appearance as a Mandarin of the Ming dinasty, and was the start of his strong support for the strong Manchu regime, which he deemed offered stability and disposition towards Christianity.
During the fifth lunar month of 5 June to 1 July 1647 (aged 32), Martinus reached the Jesuit settlement in Lanxi [兰溪], Zhejiang. Then, he moved to Lingyan, where he met the local scholar Zhu Shi. In 1648, he was yet again located in the settlement at Hangzhou. With the help of Cosma Chu (Zhu Zhongyuan), born in Ningbo [寧波], he began translating the works of the Jesuit priest Francisco Suarez into Chinese. However, this venture did not reach completion, as the men needed to separate in 1650. Martinus is noted as the superior of the residence in Hangzhou that same year. It has been claimed that he was appointed this position in 1648. In 1650, the Provincial Father Manuel Diaz sent Martinus to Beijing to work with Adam Schell von Bell, of the Board of Astronomers. Their collaboration was difficult, and Martinus might have stayed only briefly: from the end of March untill the end of April (aged 35). Perhaps because of lack of assistance on behalf of Schall von Bell, or perhaps since the latter feared to intervene in issuing a residence permit for Martinus because of his relation to the Ming dinasty in the past, which might have smeared the name of the Jesuits in the capital, Martinus was ordered to return to Hangzhou.
Diaz, together with the Visitor Francisco Furtado, decided that Martinus were to go to Rome as a procurator with the dual task of explaining to the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith both the issues related to Schall von Bell, as head of the Board of Astronomers, as well as why the Jesuits had not observed orders given by The Holy See in 1645. Not all Jesuit missionaries in China agreed on Martinus' appointment, either because of his young age, or because of his confrontation with Schall von Bell. It was decided that Martinus should leave hastily, almost secretly, from a location different than Macau (which was unusual), which rose suspicion on behalf of the Portuguese authorities.
In January 1651 (aged 36), Martinus arrived at Anhai [安海], town of Fujian province, located to the north of the island of Jinmen (also romanized as Quemoy [金門]). Presumably in March 1651, he departed on a yearly Chinese commercial ship, going from Fujian to Manila, the Philippines. Martinus was accompanied to Europe by a twenty-eight year old Chinese called Domenico Siquin, who served as a handyman, secretary, interpreter and living dictionary (it was a custom for Jesuit missionaries to be accompanied by such a young Chinese during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries). Maritnus had asked the Dominicans for such a young Christian Chinese to accompany him on his journey to Europe. Domenico, who had been baptised by the Dominicans in Fujian, had thus been presented to him. Martinus used his travel time to Europe to organise his collected historical and geographical information, e.g. during his stop in Manila from March 1651 to January 1652 or during his stop in Jakarta, Indonesia in May 1652 (aged 37). On 1 February 1653 (aged 38) he departs from Jakarta to Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, from where he departed to to Bergen, Norway, arriving there on 31 August 1653.
Early 1654, during his first visit to the Jesuit College in Leuven, Belgium; Martinus held a conference in which he described his journey and his Chinese mission. Martinus, also being a forerunner in this field, illustrated the conference using some sort of a laterna magica
After having published other works through publishing houses in Europe (amongst which "De Bello Tartarico Historia" in March 1654, which had also been translated into German, Italian, French, English and Dutch in the same year), his "Novus Atlas Sinensis
" was published in Amsterdam by the publisher J. Blaeu (Joan Blaeu), (a seemingly conflicting source wrote Willem Blaeu) during the second half of 1655
(this can be presumed from the date "11 May 1655" in his "Summa Privilegii").
- Caption: Martinus depicted by Michaelina Wautier in 1654.
- Caption: Oil on canvas, 91,5 x 55 cm, unknown author (seventeenth century).
- Latin inscription: "R.P. MARTINUS MARTINI(S) TRID. GEOGRAPHIAE ET ASTRONOMIAE / PERITISSIM(US) A(NN)O MDCXLI IN SINAS PENETRAVIT, A REGNI PRIMA / RIIS OB EXIMIAM PRUDENTIAM ET VIRTUTEM HONORAT(US) A(NN)O MDCLI ROMAM PROCURATOR MISSUS, A PIRATIS ET TEMPE / STATE VEXAT(US) OB(II)T IN URBE HANGCHEU, VI. JUN. MDCLXI. AET. XLVII".
- Caption: Oil on canvas, 30 x 23,5 cm, unknown author (eighteenth century).
- Latin inscription: "P. MARTINUS MARTINIUS S.J. --- MISS. IN SINA --- OB. 1661 AET. 47".
Novus Atlas Sinensis
The large preface to the Novus Atlas Sinensis was re-published seperately in ..., [...] multi-lingual (Italian, French, English and German) translation.