Thursday, October 21, 2021

What is the "Middle Kingdom" and why are we journeying to it?

The Journey to the Middle Kingdom series is about 3 American teenagers who travel to the past, to a world of Chinese myths and fairy tales. Their mission is to ensure the stories happen as they should, protecting history and the future. But why is the series called "Journey to the Middle Kingdom?" Where is the Middle Kingdom?

Put simply, the Middle Kingdom is China. Chinese people call their country "Zhong Guo" in Mandarin. We need two Chinese characters to write this out, and they look like this:

The character on the left means "middle" and it's easy to remember this because when you look at it, you see a line with a box in the middle of it. The second, more complicated character is the one for "kingdom" or "country." You might be wondering what Chinese people call America. Well here it is!


The character on the left means "beautiful" and the second one you already know. Chinese people call America "Mei Guo" and the characters have the meaning of "beautiful country." 


So is there any significance to the term "Middle Kingdom" other than the fact it means China? For most of the history of East Asia, China was always a big player. In terms of culture, economics, language, and military might, China was a huge influence on its neighbors and the center of attention. How has China influenced its neighbors you may ask? Here's a quick rundown:

  • Japanese uses Chinese characters in their writing system. 
  • Koreans and Vietnamese also did in the past, but have since dropped Chinese characters for their own writing system. 
  • Buddhism entered Japan by way of China.
  • Art styles for painting landscapes and religious icons are heavily influenced by China. 
  • City planning, astronomy, government...China, China, China.

So in a way, by using the characters for "Middle Kingdom" in a way we learn that China thought of itself as the center of the world in art, literature, language, and technology. And for most of the history of East Asia, it was. 

In modern times, the Chinese economy has grown so much, its world influence has increased, and we can expect that world events will hinge on what happens there. You need only look at the Evergrande crisis to see how the country has increased in influence. This is partly my goal with the Journey to the Middle Kingdom series, to help more Westerners develop an understanding of the culture.

No comments:

Post a Comment