(漢族 or 汉族)
19.73% of global human population
|Region2:||People's Republic of China|
|Pop32:||75,000 - 100,000|
|Religions:||Predominantly Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism. Small Christian, Muslim, Xiantian, new religious minorities and a very tiny Jew number. Background of Confucianism and Chinese folk religion.    |
Han Chinese constitute about 92 percent of the population of the People's Republic of China (mainland China), 98 percent of the population of the Republic of China (Taiwan), 75 percent of the population of Singapore, and about 19 percent of the entire global human population. There is substantial genetic, linguistic, cultural and social diversity among the subgroups of the Han, mainly due to thousands of years of immigration and assimilation of various regional ethnicities and tribes within China. The Han Chinese are a subset of the Chinese nation (Zhonghua minzu). An alternate name that many Chinese peoples use to refer to themselves is "Descendants of the Dragon" (Chinese: 龍的傳人 or 龙的传人). Many Han and other Chinese also call themselves "Descendants of the Yan Di (Yan Emperor) and Huang Di (Yellow Emperor)" (Chinese: 炎黃子孫 or 炎黄子孙).
The name Han comes from the Han Dynasty, which succeeded the short-lived Qin Dynasty that united China. The word Han is also the name of a river in central China (Han River), near which the founders of the Han dynasty were once based. Han, as a word in ancient China, especially in Classical Literary Chinese, can also mean the Milky Way, or as people in ancient China call it, the "Heavenly River".
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, relative to other ethnic groups around them. In addition, the Han Dynasty is considered a high point in Chinese civilization, in that it was able to expand its power and influence as far as Central and Northeast Asia, and came to rival the Roman Empire in both population and territory.
In the English language, the Hans are often (and in the view of many Chinese incorrectly) referred to as simply "Chinese". Whether or not the use of the term Chinese correctly or incorrectly refers only to Han Chinese often is the subject of heated debate.
Among some southern Han Chinese, a different term exists within various languages like Cantonese, Hakka and Minnan - Tángrén (唐人, literally "the people of Tang"). This term derives from a later Chinese dynasty, the Tang Dynasty, which is regarded as another zenith of Chinese civilization. The term survives in one of the Chinese names for Chinatown: 唐人街 (); literally meaning "Street of the people of Tang".
Another term commonly used by Overseas Chinese is Huaren (Simplified Chinese: ; ; ), derived from Zhonghua (Simplified Chinese: ; ; ), 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.
The vast majority of Han Chinese - over 1.2 billion - live in areas under the jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China (PRC), where they constitute about 92% of its population. Within the People's Republic of China, Han Chinese are the majority in every province, municipality, and autonomous region except for the autonomous regions of Xinjiang (41% as of 2000) and Tibet (6% as of 2000). Han Chinese also constitute the majority in both of the Special Administrative Regions of the PRC, about 95% of the population of Hong Kong and about 96% of the population of Macau.
Over 22 million Han Chinese are in Taiwan, an area under the jurisdiction of the Republic of China government. The Han Chinese began migrating from southeastern coastal provinces of mainland China to Taiwan in the 17th century.
At first, these immigrants chose to settle in locations that bore a resemblance to the areas they had left behind in mainland China, regardless of whether they arrived in the north or south of Taiwan. Immigrants from Quanzhou settled in coastal regions, and those from Zhangzhou tended to gather on inland plains, while Hakka immigrants inhabited hilly areas. Clashes between these groups over land, water, and cultural differences led to the relocation of some communities, and, as time passed, varying degrees of intermarriage and assimilation took place. As the result, descendants of both Han immigrants and aborigines on Taiwan christened the largest ethnic group in Taiwan, ethnic Taiwanese people, and the group constitutes 84% of the population in Taiwan. Recent scientific research conducted by Chen Shun-sheng of the Kaohsiung Hospital’s psychiatric department claims DNA studies of Taiwan’s people revealed around 88 percent of the population has mixed Han Chinese and aboriginal bloodlines.
See main article: Overseas Chinese.
Of about 40 million "overseas Chinese" worldwide, nearly 30 million live in Southeast Asia. Singapore has the largest majority overseas Chinese population, with about 2.7 million Chinese forming over 75% of the population. Christmas Island also have a Chinese majority. Large Chinese populations also live in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Elsewhere in the world, 3 million people of Chinese descent live in the United States where they constitute about 1% of the population, over 1 million in Canada (3.7%), over 600,000 in Australia (3.5%), nearly 150,000 in New Zealand (3.7%), and as many as 750,000 in Africa.
See main article: History of China.
The history of the Han Chinese ethnic group is closely tied to that of China. Han Chinese trace their ancestry back to the Huaxia people, 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 the 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 Jiahu culture (7000 BCE to 6600 BCE), 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.
In the 19th century Europe, there were numerous conjectures and speculations published as to where Chinese people came from, ranging anywhere from Ancient Egypt to India to Mongolia. Around the turn of the 20th century, a French author, Terrien de Lacouperie, proposed a theory tracing them to a tribe supposedly found in Elamite inscriptions as "Bak-sing" or "Bak" being southeast of the Caspian Sea. Although most specific elements of this theory were soon discredited as being based upon several outright misreadings and other less-than-compelling evidence (such as equating the Yellow Emperor, Hwang-ti with the Mesopotamian god Nahhunte), several scholars continued to maintain into the 1920s that an Akkadian origin for the Han Chinese was still likely. Lacouperie's erroneous books were also translated into Japanese as well as widely promoted in China, often by Japanese interests, with the result that such "Western Origins" theories became thoroughly discredited after World War Two.
See main article: 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 founded the Shang Dynasty (1600 - 1046 BCE). The earliest archaeological examples of Chinese writing date back to this period, from characters inscribed on oracle bone divination, but the well-developed oracle characters hint at a much earlier origin of writing in China. 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 the 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. However, the power of the Zhou kings fragmented, and many independent states emerged. This period is traditionally divided into two parts, the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period. This period was an era of major cultural and philosophical development known as the Hundred Schools of Thought. Among the most important surviving philosophies from this era are the teachings of Confucianism and Taoism.
See main article: Qin Dynasty.
The era of the Warring States came to an end with the unification of China by the Qin Dynasty after it conquered all other rival states. Its leader, Qin Shi Huang, declared himself the first emperor, using a newly created title, thus setting the precedent for the next two millennia. He established a new centralized and bureaucratic state to replace the old feudal system, creating many of the institutions of imperial China, and unified the country economically and culturally by decreeing a unified standard of weights, measures, currency, and writing.
See main article: Han Dynasty.
However, the reign of the first imperial dynasty was to be short-lived. Due to the first emperor's autocratic rule, and his massive construction projects such as the Great Wall which fomented rebellion into the populace, the dynasty fell soon after his death. The Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD) emerged from the succession struggle and succeeded in establishing a much longer lasting dynasty. It continued many of the institutions created by Qin Shi Huang but adopted a more moderate rule. Under the Han Dynasty, arts and culture flourished, while the dynasty expanded militarily in all directions. This period is considered one of the greatest periods of the history of China, and the Han Chinese take their name from this dynasty.
The fall of the Han Dynasty was followed by an age of fragmentation and several centuries of disunity amid warfare by rival kingdoms. During this time, areas of northern China were overrun by various non-Chinese nomadic peoples which came to establish kingdoms of their own, the most successful of which was Northern Wei established by the Xianbei. Starting from this period, the native population of China proper began to be referred to as Hanren, or the "People of Han", to distinguish from the nomads from the steppe; "Han" refers to the old dynasty. Warfare and invasion led to one of the first great migrations in Han population history, as the population fled south to the Yangtze and beyond, shifting the Chinese demographic center south and speeding up Sinicization of the far south. At the same time, in the north, most of the nomads in northern China came to be Sinicized as they ruled over large Chinese populations and adopted elements of Chinese culture and Chinese administration. Of note, the Xianbei rulers of the Northern Wei ordered a policy of systematic Sinicization, adopting Han surnames, institutions, and culture.
The Sui (581 - 618) and Tang Dynasties (618 - 907) saw the continuation of the complete Sinicization of the south coast of what is now China proper, including what are now the provinces of Fujian and Guangdong. The later part of the Tang Dynasty, as well as the Five Dynasties period that followed, saw continual warfare in north and central China; the relative stability of the south coast made it an attractive destination for refugees.
The next few centuries saw successive invasions of non-Han peoples from the north, such as the Khitans and Jurchens. In 1279 the Mongols (Yuan Dynasty) conquered all of China, becoming the first non-Chinese to do so. The Mongols divided society into four classes, with themselves occupying the top class and Han Chinese into the bottom two classes.
In 1368 Han Chinese rebels drove out the Mongols and, after some infighting, established the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). Settlement of Han Chinese into peripheral regions continued during this period, with Yunnan in the southwest receiving a large number of migrants.
In 1644, the Manchus (Qing Dynasty) invaded from Manchuria. Remnant Ming forces led by Koxinga fled to Taiwan, where they eventually capitulated to Qing forces in 1683. Taiwan, previously inhabited mostly by non-Han aborigines, was Sinicized via large-scale migration accompanied with assimilation during this period, despite efforts by the Manchus to prevent this, as they found it difficult to maintain control over the island. At the same time the Manchus discouraged (with only limited success) Han Chinese migration to Manchuria, because the Manchus perceived it as the home base of their dynasty. During the late Qing Dynasty however, restrictions were dropped in the face of Russian and Japanese expansionism, and Han migration to Manchuria boomed. (During previous dynasties, Han Chinese settlement in Manchuria was limited to the southern part, in what is now the province of Liaoning; during and after the late Qing Dynasty, however, Han Chinese settled and became the majority in nearly all of Manchuria.)
The Qing Dynasty was replaced by the Republic of China in 1912. In 1931 Japan detached Manchuria and created the puppet state of Manchukuo. Manchukuo attempted to appeal to Manchu nationalism, but by then the majority of its population was Han Chinese.
In 1949 the People's Republic of China was established while the Republic of China fled to Taiwan. About one million refugees fled with it, further augmenting the population of Taiwan. Meanwhile, the People's Republic of China organized migration into peripheral areas. In Xinjiang region in the northwest, the Han Chinese population rose from under ten percent in the 1950s to over forty percent today.
Chinese migration overseas has also continued into the 20th and 21st centuries. The approach of the handover of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 prompted large waves of Hong Kong Chinese migration to North America, Australia, and elsewhere. Chinese presences have also been established in Europe as well as Russia, especially the Russian Far East.
See main article: Culture of China.
Han China is one of the world's oldest and most complex civilizations. Chinese culture dates back thousands of years. Some Han Chinese believe they share common ancestors, mythically ascribed to the patriarchs Yellow Emperor and Yan Emperor, some thousands of years ago. Hence, some 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.
See main article: Chinese language.
Han Chinese speak various forms of the Chinese language; one of the names of the language group is Hanyu (Traditional Chinese: ; ; ), literally the "Han language". Similarly, Chinese characters, used to write the language, are called Hanzi (Traditional Chinese: ; ; ), or "Han characters".
Despite the existence of many dialects of Chinese spoken languages, one factor in Han ethnic unity is the Chinese written language, which has a unified standard form, regardless of local variations. 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 twentieth 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 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.
See main article: Chinese name.
Chinese names are typically two or three syllables in length, with the surname preceding 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 4,000 to 6,000 surnames in China, of which about 1,000 surnames are most popularly used.
See main article: Han Chinese clothing.
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. Now, the most popular traditional Chinese clothing worn by many Chinese females in important occasions such as wedding banquets and Chinese New Year is called the qipao. However, 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 seventeenth (1644) and the early twentieth century.
Chinese Han people traditionally commonly lived with the whole family in large houses that were rectangular in shape. This house is called a 四合院 (traditional and simplified characters) or sì hé yuàn (Hanyu Pinyin). These houses had four rooms in the front: the guest room, kitchen, lavatory, and servants' quarters. Across the large double doors was a wing for the elderly in the family. This wing consisted of three rooms, a central room where the four tablets, heaven, earth, ancestor, and teacher, were worshipped. There the two rooms attached to the left and right were bedrooms for the grandparents. The east wing of the house was inhabited by the eldest son and his family, while the west wing sheltered the second son and his family. Each wing had a veranda, some had a "sunroom" made from a surrounding fabric supported by a wooden or bamboo frame. Every wing is also built around a central courtyard used for study, exercise, or nature viewing.
See main article: Chinese literature.
Chinese has a rich history of classical literature dating back several thousand years. Important early works include classics texts such as Analects of Confucius, the I Ching, Tao Te Ching, and the Art of War. Some of the most important Han Chinese poets in the pre-modern era include Li Bai, Du Fu, and Su Dongpo. The most important novels in Chinese literature, or the Four Great Classical Novels, are: Dream of the Red Chamber, Water Margin, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and Journey to the West.
See main article: Science and technology in China.
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, cannon, flare, continuous flame throwers, fire arrow, paper-printed money, chain drive, escapement, pendulum, silk, multistage rocket, landmine, quilling-wheel, odometer, sluice gate, the canal lock, flash lock, rudder, pontoon bridge, gimbal, South Pointing Chariot, water-tight compartment, blast furnace, porcelain, belt drive, dry docks, sliding calipers, the double-action piston pump, cardon suspension, cast iron, metal stirrups, civil service examination system, paddle wheels, the iron plow, the multi-tube seed drill, the wheelbarrow, rotary winnowing fan, collapsible umbrella, toothbrush, trip hammer, trebuchet, kites, Su Song water-driven astronomical clock tower, grand canal, horse collar, chain pump, pound lock, the suspension bridge, the parachute, natural gas as fuel, the magnetic compass, the raised-relief map, the propeller, inoculation, 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 cuisine, 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 Dynasties 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.
In modern times, Han Chinese have continued to contribute to the maths and sciences. Among them are Nobel Prize recipients Steven Chu, Samuel C. C. Ting, Chen Ning Yang, Tsung-Dao Lee, Yuan T. Lee, Daniel C. Tsui, Roger Y. Tsien, Gao Xingjian, Fields Medal recipients Terence Tao and Shing-Tung Yau, and Turing Award recipient Andrew Yao. Tsien Hsue-shen was a prominent scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, while Chien-Shiung Wu contributed to the Manhattan Project. Others include Charles K. Kao, a pioneer in fiber optics technology, and Doctor David Ho, one of the first scientists to propose that AIDS was caused by a virus, thus subsequently developing combination antiretroviral therapy to combat it. Dr. Ho was named TIME magazine's 1996 Man of the Year.
See main article: Religion in China. In Han Dynasty, although Confucian ideals were popular in the beginning, towards the end of the dynasty Buddhism became a widely recognised religion. In later Empires, Buddhism would remain supreme, along with Confucianism and Taoism, and the first Muslim minority emerged during the Tang dynasty, and Jewish minorities emerged during the Song Dynasty.
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. Today, Hui Chinese are considered a separate ethnic group, 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 ethnic groups: the Han, Hui, Mongols, Manchus, and Tibetans, while the People's Republic of China now recognizes fifty-six ethnic groups.
Whether the idea of Han Chinese is recent or not is a debated topic in China studies. Scholars such as Ho Ping-Ti argue that the concept of a Han ethnicity is an ancient one, dating from the Han Dynasty itself. By contrast, scholars such as Evelyn Rawski have argued that the concept of Han Chinese is a relatively recent one, and was only invented in the late 19th and early 20th century by scholars such as Liang Qichao who were influenced by European concepts of race and ethnicity.
See main article: Subgroups of the Han Chinese.
In addition to a diversity of spoken language, which were all descended from a common Old Chinese ancestor, 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, like other ethnic groups, some sense of cultural (or at least political) unity still exists between the various groups because of common cultural, behavioural, linguistic, and religious practices.
According to recent scientific studies,  there are significant 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 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. This is supported in Jacques Gernet's book, A History of Chinese Civilization, where he says soldier from the State of Chu, migrated south and married local women.
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 inhabited by the southern natives, including those speaking Kradai, 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, were considered a different tribe. They spoke a language that was almost certainly distinct from that of the Shang, and were described as being scantily dressed and tattooed. Later Taibo, elder uncle of King Wen of Zhou. Realising that his younger brother, Jili, was wiser than him, and deserved to inherit the throne, Taibo would have fled to Wu and settled there. Three generations later, King Wu of Zhou defeated the last Yin emperor, and enfeoffed the descendents of Taibo in Wu, this mirrors the later history of Nanyue, where a Chinese king and his soldiers ruled a local non-Chinese population, and mixed with the local inhabitants who were sinicized over time. 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. All Chinese dialects are mutually unintelligible, but descend from a common Old Chinese, and Middle Chinese ancestor.