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What did China call Japan?


China and Japan have a long history of cultural and political interaction. One aspect of this relationship is the names by which the two countries referred to each other in various periods of history. In this article, we will explore the different names that China called Japan, their meanings, and the historical context in which they were used.

The Ancient Period

During the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE), China referred to Japan as Wa or Wo. The term Wa was used from the 3rd century until the 8th century and was derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese character for “dwarf.” The term Wo was used during the Sui and Tang dynasties (581-907 CE) and was derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese character for “submissive.”

Japanese Snack Box

The Medieval Period

During the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE), China referred to Japan as Rìběn (日本). The characters for Rìběn mean “sun origin,” reflecting Japan’s geographic location to the east of China. This name has been used continuously since then, although with some variations in pronunciation.

The Modern Period

During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912 CE), China referred to Japan as Dōngyīng (东瀛). The characters for Dōngyīng mean “eastern ocean” or “eastern land beyond the sea,” reflecting China’s perception of Japan as a distant island nation across the sea.

The 20th Century

During the early 20th century, when Japan was expanding its empire and becoming a regional power, China began to use more derogatory terms to refer to Japan. One such term was Jiǎpǔtíng (甲普廷), which means “Japanese bandits” or “Japanese pirates.” This term reflected China’s resentment towards Japan’s aggressive behavior in East Asia.

The Second World War

During the Second World War, when Japan invaded and occupied large parts of China, China referred to Japan as Rìběn guǐ (日本鬼), which means “Japanese devils” or “Japanese demons.” This term reflected China’s anger and hatred towards Japan for its brutal treatment of Chinese civilians and soldiers during the war.

The Post-War Era

After the war, China resumed using the name Rìběn to refer to Japan. However, there were still some negative sentiments towards Japan among some Chinese people, especially those who had suffered directly or indirectly from Japanese aggression during the war.

The Contemporary Period

In recent years, as China and Japan have become major economic powers in Asia, their relationship has become more complex. While there are still some historical and territorial disputes between the two countries, they also have important economic ties and cultural exchanges. Today, China typically refers to Japan as Rìběn or sometimes simply as Yàzhōu Xīngguó (亚洲兴国), which means “rising Asian country.”


The different names that China called Japan throughout history reflect not only changes in political and cultural relations between the two countries but also changes in how China perceived Japan. From “dwarf” to “sun origin” to “devils,” these names reveal both positive and negative aspects of China’s relationship with its neighbor across the sea. Today, while there are still some tensions between the two countries, they also have important opportunities for cooperation and mutual understanding.

Why do we say Japan instead of Nippon?

In Japanese, the typical name for Japan is Nippon, however, there are different names for the country in other languages. The name “Japan” was most likely derived from the Mandarin or Wu name for the country, which was commonly transcribed as “Cipan”.

What is Japan’s nickname?

Nippon and Nihon are two expressions often used to describe the country of Japan.

What was Japan called in ww2?

The Empire of Japan, also known as Dai Nippon Teikoku or Dai Nihon Teikoku, existed from the early 20th century until its surrender in World War II on September 2, 1945. The country was reconstituted on May 3, 1947. Details about its area can be found in the linked source.

Why is Japan called Land of Rising Sun?

Japan is known as the “Land of the Rising Sun” due to its proximity to the location where the sun rises.

What was Japan originally called?

According to historical records, Japan was originally referred to as Yamato, but by the seventh century, the terms Nippon and Nihon began to be used as the country’s name. Both terms are used interchangeably.

Is Japan still Nippon?

Japan is one of the few countries without a long form of name, and its modern official title is simply “Japan” in English. In Japanese language, the official name is Nippon-koku or Nihon-koku, which means “State of Japan”.

In recent years, China and Japan have made efforts to improve their relationship through diplomatic channels, high-level meetings, and cultural exchanges. Both countries recognize the importance of their economic ties and have sought to increase trade and investment. Japan is China’s second-largest trading partner, while China is Japan’s largest trading partner.

However, there are still some unresolved issues between the two countries, particularly regarding historical disputes over territory and war crimes committed by Japan during World War II. These issues have led to occasional tensions and disagreements between China and Japan. Nevertheless, both countries have expressed a willingness to work towards finding a peaceful resolution to these disputes.

In addition to economic ties, China and Japan share a rich cultural heritage that has been shaped by centuries of interaction between the two countries. Chinese culture has had a significant influence on Japanese art, literature, philosophy, and religion. Similarly, Japanese culture has had an impact on Chinese fashion, food, and entertainment.

Today, Chinese tourists are among the largest groups visiting Japan, attracted by its unique culture and world-renowned attractions. Similarly, many Japanese tourists visit China to experience its history, culture, and natural beauty.

In conclusion, the names that China called Japan throughout history reflect the complex and evolving relationship between these two important Asian nations. While there have been periods of conflict and tension, both countries recognize the importance of their economic ties and cultural exchanges. With continued efforts towards cooperation and understanding, China and Japan can build a brighter future together.

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