History of Ancient China’s Name for Japan

The relationship between China and Japan is one that has captivated people for centuries. From the earliest days of diplomatic relations to the modern-day economic ties, their intertwined paths have been full of complexity and intrigue. Even in antiquity, these two great civilizations were exchanging ideas and technology, resulting in a unique blend of culture and thought that we still see today.

Throughout history, each country has referred to the other with various names. In ancient times, China was known as “the Middle Kingdom” while Japan was referred to as “the Land of the Rising Sun”. Later on in history, during the Edo period (1603-1868), Japan began calling itself “Nihon”, while China was known as “Kara”. These terms are still used today when referring to each country in conversation or writing.

Today, despite differences in language and culture, the two countries remain close trading partners with strong economic ties. Their long history together is an interesting tale that continues to shape our world today.


A perplexing saga of the interaction between ancient China and Japan persists through time. Initially, in the 3rd century BC, the Chinese referred to Japan as Wa (倭). This term was utilized to describe an ethnic group located in southern Japan. As time continued, it became synonymous with all of Japan and its inhabitants. In the 8th century AD, the Japanese began referring to themselves as Nippon (日本), or “the origin of the sun”. This title has been employed since then, while Wa has become obsolete.

– History of Ancient Chinese Perception of Japan

For centuries, a distant and mysterious land to the east has been shrouded in obscurity. Shrouded in uncertainty, little was known about the people or culture of this far-off realm. Yet over time, this perception began to shift, evolving into one of admiration and respect.

It wasn’t until 607 AD that a delegation from Japan visited China and presented gifts to Emperor Yangdi, marking the beginning of formal diplomatic relations between China and Japan. This event introduced Chinese people to Japanese culture for the first time and scholars began to record their impressions in various documents such as poems and books. Praising their artistry and craftsmanship, they noted their admiration for Japanese politeness and etiquette.

As time went on, trade between China and Japan flourished while cultural exchange became commonplace during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). Both countries had developed a deep appreciation for each other’s customs and traditions by this point.

This ancient perception still lingers today in modern-day relations between both countries; despite political differences or conflicts that have arisen over time, there remains an underlying mutual respect for each other’s cultures that can be traced back centuries ago.

– Historical Impact of Ancient Chinese-Japanese Relations

Throughout the ages, the Chinese-Japanese relationship has had a deep and far-reaching effect on both countries. From ancient times to the present day, these two nations have interwoven their paths in many ways – from trading and cultural exchange to military clashes. In this article, we’ll delve into the historical backdrop of their relations and how it has molded each nation’s advancement.

In antiquity, Chinese culture had a major impact on Japan. During the Wei Dynasty (220–265 AD), Buddhism was brought over to Japan from China, leaving an indelible mark on Japanese culture and faith. During the Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD), China dispatched envoys to Japan to propagate Confucianism as well as other components of Chinese culture. This period also saw heightened commerce between them, with silk being one of the main traded items.

During the Heian period (794–1185 AD), Japan started creating its own unique culture that was separate from China’s. However, during this time there were still numerous exchanges between them in regards to artistry, literature, technology, and religion. This period likewise saw increased diplomatic contact between them as they sought to fortify their ties through marriage alliances and other forms of diplomacy.

The Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) was a time when relations between China and Japan became tense due to warring states within both nations. Despite this strain, there were still some attempts at diplomacy such as negotiations for peace treaties and trade agreements. This period also saw intensified contact between scholars from both countries who shared ideas about philosophy and politics.

In today’s world, Chinese-Japanese relations have become more complex due to economic rivalry as well as ideological contrasts between each nation’s political systems. Notwithstanding these difficulties, both countries have collaborated in areas such as international security and environmental protection while sustaining solid economic ties through free trade agreements.

Overall, Chinese-Japanese relations have been a crucial factor in forming each country’s history throughout the centuries. From ancient times up until now, these two nations have interacted in various ways which have had a lasting effect on their societies and cultures today.

– Origins of the Ancient Chinese Name for Japan

Enveloped in a veil of antiquity, the Chinese name for Japan, Wa, has been around since time immemorial. Its first known use was in the 7th century BC during the Zhou Dynasty; then, Japan was known as Wa and referred to by the Chinese as a faraway and enigmatic land. The name is believed to have derived from an ancient Chinese character meaning “submissive” or “peaceful”, likely due to Japan’s seclusion from China at that time.

Wa gradually became an integral part of Chinese culture and literature, often used in poetry and other artistic works to depict an idyllic and distant place that was both mesmerizing and perilous. Eventually, other terms were also employed to refer to Japan such as Nippon (“land of rising sun”) and Dai Nihon (“greater Japan”).

By the mid-19th century, though still holding its historical significance in Chinese culture and literature, Wa began being supplanted by modern words like Nippon and Dai Nihon. Even though it is no longer used much in everyday conversation nowadays, its legacy remains deeply rooted.

– Historical Development of Trade Between China and Japan

A longstanding and intricate relationship exists between China and Japan, with records of trade stretching back to the seventh century. During the Tang Dynasty, Chinese culture and technology were embraced by Japan, including Buddhism, Confucianism and writing systems. This period also saw a boost in trading between the two countries.

In the 12th century, the Sung Dynasty encouraged foreign trade with Japan, resulting in an influx of new commodities from both nations. Luxury items such as silk and porcelain were exchanged alongside ironware from China for use in weapons manufacturing. The Ming Dynasty likewise brought about an increase in trade between China and Japan; however this era was marked by heightened competition from European traders who had started to appear in East Asia.

The Edo Period saw Japan close itself off to outside influence but maintain diplomatic relations with China through the Ryukyu Kingdom. Trade continued to be conducted through this middleman kingdom until it was annexed by Japan in 1879. In 1858, Japan signed its first treaty with a western power which opened its ports to foreign ships; this allowed Chinese merchants access to Japanese ports again.

In modern times, commerce between China and Japan has skyrocketed as both countries have become major players on the international stage. At present they are amongst each other’s biggest trading partners; their bilateral trade summing up to $345 billion USD in 2014 alone – a figure that is expected to continue rising as both nations explore ways of further strengthening their economic ties.

– Cultural Exchange and Interaction in Ancient China and Japan

A mysterious, long-standing history of cultural interconnection between Ancient China and Japan has left a lasting legacy that continues to this day. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Chinese culture was embraced by Japan in the form of Confucianism, Buddhism, and art styles; while Japanese monks travelled to China for more Buddhist teachings.

In 794, Emperor Kammu moved the capital from Nara to Kyoto, and implemented a government inspired by the Chinese model, thus promoting trade and diplomatic relations between both nations. As a result of this increased contact, Chinese literature, writing systems and technologies such as gunpowder and printing presses were adopted by Japan.

The Heian Period (794-1185) saw further exchange between the two countries as Japanese nobles studied in Chinese universities or embarked on diplomatic missions to China; while Japanese scholars pursued knowledge in medicine and astronomy. By the end of Muromachi Period (1336-1573), centuries of cultural exchange had resulted in a shared cultural heritage that is still felt today – from religious beliefs to artistic styles – it is clear that both countries have been profoundly impacted by their ancient connection.


It appears that, from as far back as the 3rd century CE, ancient China has made reference to Japan in a variety of texts by way of the name Wa or Wo. An examination of these records paints a picture of the early relationship between the two countries.


Some questions with answers

Q1. What did ancient China call Japan?
A1. Ancient China called Japan “Wa”.

Q2. How long has China called Japan “Wa”?
A2. China has been calling Japan “Wa” since the 3rd century.

Q3. Is there any other name that ancient China used to call Japan?
A3. Yes, in some Chinese texts, Japan was also referred to as “Fújiǔ” or “Fójiǔ”.

Q4. Are there any other names used by other countries to refer to Japan?
A4. Yes, many countries such as Korea and Vietnam have different names for Japan such as “Nippon” and “Nihon”.

Q5. Where can I find more information about the history of how ancient China called Japan?
A5. You can find more information about the history of how ancient China called Japan in books and online sources related to Chinese and Japanese history.

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