The Chinese word for Asia is 亞細亞 (yaxiya).

The root of these words seems to be the greek word "Asia", derived from the Akkadian "asu" which means "to rise".

Thus, Asia is the land of the rising sun. But this only has meaning if Asia is seen from the West (historically from the region around the Aegean Sea).

The Chinese historical name of China is 中國 (zhongguo) and means "central region". From the perspective of a Chinese, it is natural to name his own land that way.

But what is the Chinese ancient name of the whole region/continent of Asia?

  • 3
    No. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continent#Number - The division of "Asia" from "Europe" is an arbitrary Greek division which is not rooted in any kind of geography. If you want to see an arbitrary Chinese division instead, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinocentrism#Sinocentric_system.
    – dROOOze
    Jul 2, 2020 at 10:46
  • I think 九服 zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E4%B9%9D%E6%9C%8D already cover the whole Asia, I guess today's Vietnam was in around 衛服 and 蠻服 area. the furthest 藩服 probably reached Russia
    – Tang Ho
    Jul 2, 2020 at 10:58
  • To give a cogent answer, a definition of "ancient" is necessary. How far ancient back do you want to go since ancient China, (using this term loosely), could go back over 5000 years. In any case, there was no such thing as "Asia", (meaning a defined geographical landmass east of the Bosporus river) or "the West", (where white people lived), in ancient Chinese geopolitical ideology. Jul 2, 2020 at 11:15
  • I'd define "ancient" to mean "before the need to translate the western word/concept "Asia"".
    – Bao
    Jul 2, 2020 at 11:21
  • 亞細亞/亚细亚 is only a phonetic rendering of the (Greco-Latin) word Asia, and not used other than for transliterating the name of companies, and for the ancient Roman province of Asia, or if someone by chance bears the name Asia and a transliteration of the name is needed, e.g. in the lack of a proper Chinese name. The Chinese word commonly used for Asia is 亞洲/亚洲.
    – imrek
    Jul 2, 2020 at 15:07

1 Answer 1


Ancient Chinese has no concept of the modern-called continents. Instead, they describe the world as a "China-Foreign" system, while China is the centre of the world, and other countries are scattered around China.
The name of Asia firstly appeared in China in 1582, on the map Kunyu Wanguo Quantu. The name was translated by Matteo Ricci, assisted by Chinese officials.

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