The Chinese self-designation Hua and the root-word Ᾱrya

The essence of the article is that the word that the Chinese use to call themselves is derived from the Sanskrit word “Aryan.” The article explains how this conclusion is arrived at. Excerpt: ‘It is but rare that I take the trouble to write a mere summary of a paper I have read with increasing enthusiasm. Here is one occasion. It pertains to “The earliest Chinese words for ‘the Chinese’: the phonology, meaning and origin of the epithet Ḥarya — Ᾱrya in East Asia” by Christopher Beckwith, published in Journal Asiatique 304:2 (2016), p.231-248. Some comments and background data are mine, but for the factual frame, the entire credit goes to Beckwith.

I had never suspected that the Chinese word for “Chinese” has a foreign origin. But yes, it does. In fact, the same foreign word has been borrowed twice and yielded two different Chinese words, one of which is widely used as the ethnonym for “Chinese”.’

“At any rate, the same word, or etymologically a homophonous loanword which came to be written with the same character, came to serve as the name of “us, Chinese”. According to Beckwith, in this meaning the term does not predate the Warring States period, the final part of the Zhou age (-5th to -3rd). At that time, knowledge was extant about distantly neighbouring countries, including Daxia 大夏, meaning “Greater Bactria” or “the Bactrian Empire”, i.e. Central Asia, then firmly held by the Iranian-speaking Scythians. These were a predominant influence from Croatia to Mongolia, where they imparted their lucrative knowledge of metallurgy and horse-training (Scythian legends pertaining to these skills were interiorized even by the Japanese). Their ancestral heartland was Bactria, i.e. present-day northern Afghanistan and southeastern Uzbekistan around the Amu Darya river (Greek: Oxus), an oasis friendly to agriculture and habitation amidst a harsh and inhospitable region.

The later Chinese tended to identify themselves with their ruling class. The Qin 秦dynasty (-3rd) yielded the international name China, Sanskrit Cīnā; the Han 漢 dynasty (-3rd to +3rd) lent its name to the usual self-designation of the ethnic Chinese as distinct from the minorities within China as “the Han”. It might be that a Chinese elite for some reason had identified itself with the expanding Scythians.”[...] read more

Origins of Vedic Civilization: Did Aryan Invaders of India Create the Vedic Tradition?

HOW ANCIENT IS THE VEDIC TRADITION and how did it begin? Was it the creation of a people who invaded India from outside, as many European scholars believed for centuries? Or did it arise among an indigenous people of northern India? In this chapter we will ask where the Vedic tradition originated, and in the next chapter, we will consider when it came into existence. In the third chapter, we will consider its relation to European civilization.

According to the Vedic tradition, the Veda is eternal. It exists within the eternal fabric of consciousness itself. As such it is uncreated. But even so, we can ask, when was the Veda first cognized? And when did the tradition of reciting the Veda begin? Did Invaders of India Create the Vedic Tradition?[...] read more

A Historical Sense

I had come to Sanskrit in search of roots, but I had not expected to have that need met so directly. I had not expected my wish for a ‘historical sense’ to be answered with linguistic roots.

Aged twenty-seven or so, when I first began to study Sanskrit as a private student at Oxford, I knew nothing about the shared origins of Indo-European languages. Not only did I not know the example given in my textbook—that the Sanskrit ãrya, the Avestan airya, from which we have the modern name Iran, and the Gaelic Eire, all the way on the Western rim of the Indo-European belt, were all probably cognate—I don’t even think I knew that word, ‘cognate’. It means ‘born together’: co + natus. And natus from gnascor is cognate with the Sanskrit root jan from where we have janma and the Ancient Greek gennaõ, ‘to beget’. Genesis, too.[...] read more

European Misappropriation of Sanskrit led to the Aryan Race Theory

It is not widely known that the European quest to appropriate the highly prized library of Sanskrit’s ancient spiritual texts motivated the construction of the “Aryan” race identity, one of the ideological roots of Nazism. The Sanskrit word “arya” is an adjective that means noble or pure. For example, the famous Buddhist Four Noble Truths are described as the Four Arya Truths or catvari aryasatyani in Sanskrit. Arya does not refer to a race, but a cultural quality venerated in Sanskrit texts.

German nationalism turned this word into a noun, “Aryan,” and capitalized it to refer to an imagined race of people that were the original Sanskrit speakers who had composed its great texts. Early romantic claims that Indians were the ancestors of the Europeans were gradually replaced by the new myth that a race called “Indo-Aryans” was the common ancestors to both. Their origin was thought to be in the Caucasus Mountains, hence the term “Caucasian.” Later, the “Indo” was dropped and the white Aryan Race Theory emerged. Thus, from the European desire to be seen as the inheritors of the Sanskrit civilization, the notion of a European super-race was born, with Germany as its highest manifestation.[...] read more