A Singaporean friend of mine calls his Chinese: 华文. I didn't realise that this also meant Chinese.

What is the difference between 华文 and 汉语?

  • 1
    Never heard of 华文 in mainland China. It might be region difference.
    – fefe
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 8:19
  • It should be 华语, not 华文. May be it is a Singapore thing to use this term
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 8:37
  • 2
    华语/华文 is the standard way to refer to Standard Mandarin Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia. 中文 is also used, but much less so.
    – Michaelyus
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 9:40
  • 2
    I grew up in Singapore, and I will agree with @Michaelyus that 华语 and 华文 were standard terms for the Chinese language. I do not recall if people made distinctions between spoken and written Chinese, or if you could say 华文 for either spoken or written Chinese.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 18:19
  • Cantonese has always been 一文兩語; 一文 is Standard Written Chinese, 兩語 are literary and colloquial Cantonese.
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 21:00

3 Answers 3


It should be 华语. May be it is a Singapore thing to use the term 华文.

华 or 华夏 is the origin of Chinese culture. While 汉 is one of the greatest and longest ruling dynasty in Chinese history. The words 华 and 汉 along with 唐 (another great dynasty) are commonly used as representative of "Chinese"

  • 华语, 汉语 and 唐話 (Cantonese) all mean "Chinese spoken language" (中国语)

  • Both 汉文/ 汉字 and 唐字 (Cantonese) mean "Chinese written language" (中文/中国字)

  • Both 华人 and 唐人(Cantonese) mean "Chinese people" (中国人)

  • I understand, thank you for your answer! Commented Mar 18, 2019 at 8:56
  • 汉文 = 中文 = 中国文体 written Chinese language, while 汉字 = 中国字 = Chinese characters.
    – Victor
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 15:36

All of the following names mean the Chinese languages (including variants and dialects):

汉语 (漢語)

华语 (華語)

华文 (華文)


All these four names mean the same, except 语 (語) is more likely to refer to spoken languages, while 文 is more likely to refer to written languages.

The terms 汉语 and 中文 are more likely to be used in China, while the terms 华语 and 华文 are more likely to be used in South East Asia.

The meaning of 中华 (中華), 华夏 (華夏), 华 (華), 汉 (漢) are similar, so they are often used interchangeablely.


The character 夏 (Xia), which means summer in modern Chinese, is a dynasty name in early peroid of China's history, and the character 華/华 means splendid, grandeur, luxury, etc, in ancient China, so the Xia dynasty claimed to be 华夏/華夏 (Hua Xia), which means Splendid/Grandeur Xia.

There are also two far-reaching dynasties in Chinese history, 漢/汉 (Han) dynasty and 唐 (Tang) dynasty, the Han people is the largest ethnic group in China now. 漢語/汉语 became the official name of Chinese language, and 唐人 is also an alias of Chinese people since Tang dynasty.

There are many variant names for Chinese language and Chinese people nowadays, for example 中華/中华, and 華夏/华夏 also are used for China sometimes, 漢語/汉语 and 華語/华语 are used for Chinese (language) sometimes, and 唐人 and 華人/华人 are used for Chinese (people) sometimes.

These names are from different dynasties and are still in use today in different occasions.

漢語/汉语: Official name for Chinese language.
國語/国语: Mandarin, official spoken Chinese standard. The name is still used in Taiwan & HK.
普通話/普通话: Mandarin, the name was introduced in mainland China, called 国语 formerly.
中文: A modern word, seems to replace 漢語/汉语.
唐人: Used outside of the Greater China area, especially Europe and America.
華人/华人: Used outside of the Greater China area, especially certain parts of southeast Asia.
華文/华文: Used outside of the Greater China area, especially certain parts of southeast Asia.

  • 華夏最初是指史前黃河流域中下游一带分佈的若干部落或政治共同體,这些部落被后世视为漢文化及中华文明的起源之一 《左傳》“裔不謀夏,夷不亂華”一語,華、夏同義反復, 華即是夏 (夏即是華)
    – Tang Ho
    Commented Mar 20, 2019 at 14:11
  • @TangHo 华夏这个词汇的来源,网上说法非常多,没有统一说法。华字的来源其中一种说法是与花有关。而夏这个字的来源,一说是夏族,一说是夏朝。那时华夏是一个词汇,华和夏不同义。华、夏单独使用且逐步具有相同的意义,是从周朝开始才有。
    – xenophōn
    Commented Mar 21, 2019 at 4:37
  • 唐朝经学家孔颖达《春秋左传正义》:「中国有礼仪之大,故称夏;有服章之美,谓之华。」意即因中国是礼仪之邦,故称「夏」,「夏」有高雅的意思;中国人的服饰很美,故作「华」。华夏一词,不仅是地理层面的,更深一层的价值在文化沉积方面。
    – xenophōn
    Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 8:07

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