Han Chinese

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(漢族 / 汉族)
Total population 1.3 billion (est. including Overseas Chinese)
Regions with significant populations Majority populations in:

Significant populations in:

Language Chinese languages
Religion Predominantly Confucianism, Taoism, Mahayana Buddhism, traditional Chinese religion. Many are also nonreligious. Small but significant Christian and Muslim populations. <tr>
<th style="background-color:#fee8ab;">Related ethnic groups</th>
<td style="background-color:#fff6d9;">See also Subgroups of the Han nationality and Overseas Chinese


The Han (Simplified Chinese: 汉族 or 汉人; Traditional Chinese: 漢族 or 漢人; pinyin: hànzú or hànrén) is an ethnic group originating from China. As the ethnic group forming the majority of the Chinese population, it is the largest single human ethnic group in the world, numbering over 1.3 billion people. The Han people constitute about 92 percent of the population of mainland China and about 19 percent of the entire global human population. There are substantial genetic, linguistic, cultural and social differences between its various subgroups. Thousands of years of regionalized assimilation of various ethnic groups and tribes in China is the primary reason for this diversity within the Han. In English, the term "Chinese" is sometimes used to refer to the Han, even though strictly speaking the Chinese encompasses many ethnic groups other than the Han.


[edit] Terms

Image:China ethnolinguistic 83.jpg
Map showing ethnolinguistic groups in China (Han in green)

"Han" or "Han Chinese" is the ethnic group forming the majority of the Chinese peoples. The name comes from the Han Dynasty which succeeded the short-lived Qin Dynasty that united China. The Zhou Dynasty, which preceded the Qin, was a period of consolidation when the various tribes coalesced into Warring States, which then annexed each other. It was during the Qin Dynasty and the Han Dynasty that the various tribes of China began to feel that they belonged to the same ethnic group, compared with other ethnic groups around them.[1]. In addition, the Han Dynasty is considered a high point in Chinese civilization, able to expand its power and influences to Central and Northeast Asia.

In the English language, the term "Chinese" is sometimes confused with "Han", without regard to the other Chinese ethnic groups. The specific words used in Chinese language such as Zhōngguó rén (Simplified Chinese: 中国人; Traditional Chinese: 中國人) and Zhonghua minzu (Simplified Chinese: 中华民族; Traditional Chinese: 中華民族) actually refer to Chinese citizens. Han Chinese is a subset of the Chinese nation (Zhonghua minzu).

Amongst some Southern Han Chinese, a different term exists within various languages like Cantonese, Hakka and MinnanTángrén (唐人, literally "the people of Tang"). This term derives from another Chinese dynasty, the Tang Dynasty, which is regarded as another zenith of Chinese civilization. It was during the Tang Dynasty that southern coastal China and the Yue peoples there were fully sinicized. In fact, the term survives in most Chinese references to Chinatown (Simplified Chinese: 中国城; Traditional Chinese: 中國城; pinyin: Zhōngguóchéng), known as 唐人街 (pinyin: Tángrénjiē; literally "Street of Tang People").

Another term used commonly to refer to overseas Chinese is Huaren (Simplified Chinese: 华人; Traditional Chinese: 華人; pinyin: huárén), derived from Zhonghua (Simplified Chinese: 中华; Traditional Chinese: 中華; pinyin: zhōnghuá), a literary name for China. The usual translation is "ethnic Chinese". The term refers to "Chinese" as a cultural and ethnic affiliation and is inclusive of both Chinese in China and persons of Chinese descent residing abroad.

[edit] History

Main article: History of China

[edit] Prehistory and the Huaxia

The history of the Han Chinese ethnic group is closely tied to that of China. Han Chinese trace their ancestry back to the Huaxia peoples who lived along the Yellow River in northern China. The famous Chinese historian Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian dates the reign of the Yellow Emperor, the legendary ancestor of Han Chinese, to 2698 BCE to 2599 BCE. Although study of this period of history is complicated by lack of historical records, discovery of archaeological sites have identified a succession of Neolithic cultures along the Yellow River. Along the central reaches of the Yellow River were the Yangshao culture (5000 BCE to 3000 BCE) and Longshan culture (3000 BCE to 2000 BCE). Along the lower reaches of the river were the Qingliangang culture (5400 BCE to 4000 BCE), the Dawenkou culture (4300 BCE to 2500 BCE), the Longshan culture (2500 BCE to 2000 BCE), and the Yueshi culture.

[edit] Early history

Main articles: Xia Dynasty, Shang Dynasty and Zhou Dynasty

The first dynasty to be described in Chinese historical records is the Xia Dynasty, a legendary period for which scant archaeological evidence exists. They were overthrown by peoples from the east, who formed the Shang Dynasty (1600 BCE - 1046 BCE). Some of the earliest examples of Chinese writing date back to this period, from characters inscribed on oracle bone divination. The Shang were eventually overthrown by the people of Zhou, which had emerged as a state along the Yellow River sometime during the 2nd millennium BC.

The Zhou Dynasty was the successor to Shang. Sharing the language and culture of the Shang people, they extended their reach to encompass much of the area north of the Yangtze River. Through conquest and colonization, much of this area came under the influence of sinicization and the proto-Han Chinese culture extended south.

[edit] Culture

Main article: Culture of China

Part of one of the world's oldest and most complex civilizations, Chinese culture dates back thousands of years. Han Chinese believe they share common ancestors, mythically ascribed to the patriarchs Yellow Emperor and Yan Emperor, some thousands of years ago. Hence some Han Chinese refer to themselves as "descendants of the Yan and/or Yellow Emperor" (Traditional Chinese: 炎黃子孫; Simplified Chinese: 炎黄子孙), a phrase which has reverberative connotations in a divisive political climate, as in that between Mainland China and Taiwan.

Throughout the history of China, Chinese culture has been heavily influenced by Confucianism. Credited with shaping much of Chinese thought, Confucianism was the official philosophy throughout most of Imperial China's history, and mastery of Confucian texts provided the primary criterion for entry into the imperial bureaucracy.

[edit] Language

Main article: Chinese language

Han Chinese all speak some form of Chinese languages; one of the names of the language group is Hanyu (Traditional Chinese: 漢語; Simplified Chinese: 汉语), literally the "Han language". Similarly, Chinese characters, used to write the language, are called Hanzi (Traditional Chinese: 漢字; Simplified Chinese: 汉字), or "Han characters."

[edit] Names

Main article: Chinese name

Chinese names are typically two or three syllables in length, with the surname followed by the given name. Surnames are typically one character in length, though a few uncommon surnames are two or more syllables long, while given names are one or two syllables long.

There are 4000 to 6000 surnames in China, but only around 1000 surnames are popularly used. According to a study by Li Dongming (李栋明), a Chinese historian, as published in the article "Surname" (姓) in Dongfong Magazine (东方杂志) (1977), the common Han surnames are:

Top 10 surnames, which together account for about 40% of Chinese people in the world, (trasciptions in Pinyin):

Zhang 張/张, Wang 王, Li 李, Zhao 趙/赵, Chen 陳/陈, Yang 楊/杨, Wu 吳/吴, Liu 劉/刘, Huang 黃/黄, Zhou

The 11th to 20th common surnames, which together account for more than 10% of Chinese people in the world:

Xu 徐, Zhu 朱, Lin 林, Sun 孫/孙, Ma 馬/马, Gao 高, Hu 胡, Zheng 鄭/郑, Guo 郭, Xiao 蕭/萧

The 21st to 30th common surnames, which together account about 10% of Chinese people in the world:

Xie 謝/谢, He 何, Xu 許/许, Song 宋, Shen 沈, Luo 羅/罗, Han 韓/韩, Deng 鄧/邓, Liang 梁, Ye 業/叶

The next 15 common surnames, which together account for about 10% of Chinese people in the world:

Fang 方, Cui 崔, Cheng 程、Pan 潘, Cao 曹, Feng 馮/冯, Wang 汪, Cai 蔡, Yuan 袁, Lu 盧/卢, Tang 唐, Qian 錢/钱, Du 杜, Peng 彭, Lu 陸/陆

[edit] Dress

Today, Han Chinese usually wear Western-style clothing. Few wear traditional Han Chinese clothing on a regular basis. It is, however, preserved in religious and ceremonial costumes. For example, Taoist priests dress in fashion typical of scholars of the Han Dynasty. The ceremonial dress in Japan, such as those of Shinto priests, are largely in line with ceremonial dress in China during the Tang dynasty. The traditional Chinese clothing worn by many Chinese females in important occasions such as wedding banquets and Chinese New Year is called the qipao. Ironically, this attire comes not from the Han Chinese but from a modified dress-code of the Manchus, the ethnic group that ruled China between the 17th (1644) and the early 20th Century.

[edit] Contribution to humanity

Han Chinese have played a major role in the development of the arts, sciences, philosophy, and mathematics throughout history. In ancient times, the scientific accomplishments of China included seismological detectors, matches, paper, dry docks, sliding calipers, the double-action piston pump, cast iron, the iron plough, the multi-tube seed drill, the wheelbarrow, the suspension bridge, the parachute, natural gas as fuel, the magnetic compass, the relief map, the propeller, the crossbow, gunpowder and printing. Paper, printing, the compass, and gunpowder are celebrated in Chinese culture as the Four Great Inventions of ancient China. Chinese astronomers were also among the first to record observations of a supernova.

Chinese art, Chinese philosophy, and Chinese literature all have thousands of years of development, while numerous Chinese sites, such as the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Army, are World Heritage Sites. Since the start of the program in 2001, aspects of Chinese culture have been listed by UNESCO as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Throughout much of history, successive Chinese states have exerted influence on their neighbors in the areas of art, music, religion, food, dress, philosophy, language, government, and culture. In modern times, Han Chinese form the largest ethnic group in China, while an overseas Chinese diaspora numbering in the tens of millions has settled in and contributed to countries throughout the world.

[edit] Language as a uniting factor

Despite the existence of many dialects of Chinese spoken languages, one factor in Han ethnic unity is the Chinese written language. This unity is credited to the Qin dynasty which unified the various forms of writing that existed in China at that time. For thousands of years, Literary Chinese was used as the standard written format, which used vocabulary and grammar significantly different from the various forms of spoken Chinese. Since the 20th century written Chinese has been usually vernacular Chinese, which is largely based upon dialects of Mandarin, and not the local dialect of the writer (with the exception of the informal use of written Cantonese). Thus, although the residents of different regions would not necessarily understand each other's speech, they would be able to understand each other's writing.

[edit] "Han" as a fluid concept

The definition of the Han identity has varied throughout history. Prior to the 20th century, some Chinese-speaking ethnic groups like the Hakka and the Tanka were not universally accepted as Han Chinese, while some non-Chinese speaking peoples, like the Zhuang, were sometimes considered Han.<ref>Kaup, Katherine Palmer, Creating the Zhuang: Ethnic Politics in China, Lynne Rienner Publishers, Jan 1, 2000, ISBN 1555878865</ref> Today, Hui Chinese are considered a separate nationality, but aside from their practice of Islam, little distinguishes them from the Han; two Han from different regions might differ more in language, customs, and culture than a neighboring Han and Hui. During the Qing Dynasty, Han Chinese who had entered the Eight Banners military system were considered Manchu, while Chinese nationalists seeking to overthrow the monarchy stressed Han Chinese identity in contrast to the Manchu rulers. Upon its founding, the Republic of China recognized five major nationalities: the Han, Hui, Mongols, Manchus, and Tibetans, while the People's Republic of China now recognizes fifty-six nationalities.

[edit] Han diversity

In addition to a diversity of spoken language, there are also regional differences in culture among Han Chinese. For example, China's cuisine varies from Sichuan's famously spicy food to Guangdong's Dim Sum and fresh seafood. However, ethnic unity still exists between these two groups because of common cultural, behavioural, linguistic, and religious practices.

According to recent scientific studies,<ref name=naturestudy>Table from "Genetic evidence supports demic diffusion of Han culture". Nature (journal, 16 September 2004 issue)</ref> there are slight genetic differences throughout China. Due to several waves of immigration from Northern China to Southern China in China's history, there are strong genetic similarities in the Y chromosome between Southern and Northern Chinese males. However, the mitochondrial DNA of Han Chinese increases in diversity as one looks from Northern to Southern China, which suggests that many male migrants from northern China married with women from local peoples, such as the Yue people, after arriving in Guangdong, Fujian, and other regions of Southern China. As this mixing process continued and more Han people migrated south, the people in Southern China became Sinicized and identified themselves as Han.

Historical documentation indicates that the Han were descended from the ancient Huaxia tribes of northern China. During the past two millennia, the Han culture (that is, the language and its associated culture) extended into southern China, a region originally inhabited by the southern natives, including those speaking Dai, Austro-Asiatic and Hmong-Mien languages. As Huaxia culture spread from its heartland in the Yellow River basin, it absorbed many distinct ethnic groups which then came to be identified as Han Chinese, as these groups adopted Han language (or variations of it) and customs.

For example, during the Shang Dynasty people of the Wu area, in the Yangtze River Delta, was considered a "barbarian" tribe. They spoke a distinct language that was almost certainly non-Chinese, and were described as being scantily dressed and tattooed. By the Tang Dynasty, however, this area had become part of the Han Chinese heartland, and is today the most densely populated and strongest performing economic region in China, the site of China's largest city Shanghai. The people in the Wu area today speak the Wu dialects, which are part of the Chinese language family but are mutually unintelligible with other Chinese languages/dialects, and do not see themselves as a separate ethnic group. The Wu area is one example of many involving the absorption of different cultural groups in contributing toward the diversity of culture and language throughout the Han Chinese ethnic group.

[edit] References

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[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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Han Chinese

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