Brill’s Encyclopedia of China

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Managing Editor English Edition: Daniel Leese

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Brill’s Encyclopedia of China Online is based on the originally a thousand-page reference work on China with a clear focus on the modern period from the mid-nineteenth century to the 21st century. Written by the world’s top scholars, Brill’s Encyclopedia of China is the first place to look for reliable information on the history, geography, society, economy, politics, science, and culture of China.

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(1,100 words)

Author(s): Alleton, Viviane
The official name of a Chinese person consists of a family name, followed by a given name. The xing (family names) are derived from the clan names of ancient China. They are only very few (a couple of hundred), and their number is fixed. In ancient China, only the aristocratic clans had family names. Their use became common practice during the Han period. The family names usually have one syllable, sometimes two, i. e. they consist of one or two characters. Today, the most common one hundred family names account …


(821 words)

Author(s): Jacobs, J. Bruce
Nanjing, which means "Southern Capital", is one of China's most important cities. Located in southwest Jiangsu province, it lies on the south bank of the Yangzi River and forms a key transportation node. Nanjing is a key port on the Yangzi which forms a major east-west transportation artery. It is also near the Grand Canal, which was historically important for north-south transportation. More crucial today is that Nanjing has a major station on the Beijing-Shanghai railway. The construction o…

Nanjing Nationalist Government

(3,700 words)

Author(s): Merker, Peter
1. Establishment From its power base in Guangzhou, where in July 1925 the headquarters of the United Front between the Guomindang (GMD) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had been transformed into the Chinese National Government ( Zhonghua minguo guomin zhengfu), the National Revolutionary Army under the general command of Chiang Kaishek launched its Northern Expedition in order to unify the country. In the course of the militarily successful advance in central China the tensions and conflicts between the two allied parties in thei…

Narrative Literature

(3,051 words)

Author(s): Schmidt-Glintzer, Helwig
1. Narrative Literature in Pre-Modern Times In ancient China, literary forms such as anecdotes, fairytales and stories about miracles, as well as later the novella, were not considered part of high literature. However, according to what is known about narrative traditions from even before Han times, there must have existed a rich treasure of narrative literature about everyday events and life at the courts. This narrative literature was composed for entertainment and criticism, and thus belonged to an…

National Budget

(2,117 words)

Author(s): Taube, Markus
There is only scant information on the volumes and structures of the budgets of the Chinese dynasties. It is likely that, over an extended period of time, the most important source of revenue was taxation, levied on agricultural products. It is known that revenues during the late Tang dynasty were largely characterized by state monopolies on salt, alcohol, and tea. Such state monopolies continued to play a significant role during the Song dynasty, along with trade tariffs. During the Ming and Qi…

National Geographic Units

(978 words)

Author(s): Domrös, Manfred
With a total area of 9.6 million km2 China is the third-largest country of the world, after Russia and Canada. It covers 6.4% of the world's land surface. Located at the eastern rim of the Eurasian continent, China forms the largest part of East Asia (together with Korea and Japan) and also expands over large parts of Central Asia. The huge Chinese territory (including the islands in the South China Sea which China claims, in part controversially) spans a linear distance of about 5500 km because of its…


(2,604 words)

Author(s): Meissner, Werner
Western social-science literature (social-science research on China) frequently points out that the development of nationalism primarily emanates from two sources. First, it says that there is a close relationship between the development of liberal nationalism and the bourgeois revolutions in America and France in the 18th century. Second, almost simultaneously one can observe the evolution of a nationalism of a more ethnic-cultural character, especially in Germany. Both forms, liberal and ethni…

National Minorities

(3,167 words)

Author(s): Heberer, Thomas
1. Population, Settlement Areas, Languages According to the 2000 census there are 55 officially recognized "national minorities" ( shaoshu minzu) in China, in addition to more than one billion Han Chinese. The 2000 census showed that with a population of 91.2 million (108.5 million according to the micro-census of 1995, 106.4 million according to the census of 2000) they represent around 8-9% of the overall population. According to official statistics, the autonomous regions and other autonomous regional administr…

National Minorities Languages

(1,555 words)

Author(s): Kaden, Klaus
1. General Situation The language of the Han Chinese (Chinese in the narrow sense of the word) is the state language and the most common language in China. In addition, there are more than 80 other languages. They are spoken by approximately 8.4% of the population, who belong to the so-called national minorities, i.e. by a total of about 100 million people. Aside from the Han, 55 other nationalities have so far been officially acknowledged by the government. Most of these live in the scarcely settl…

National Minorities Literature

(1,174 words)

Author(s): Nentwig, Ingo
Minzu wenxue (nationalities literature) is the short form for shaoshu minzu wenxue (national minorities literature), a term for which China claims exclusivity. Although a vivid discussion has taken place, especially during the 1980s, no agreement has been reached regarding a definition of the term beyond the ethnic belonging of the creators of this literature. In fact, this ethnic belonging is already problematic in itself: was the poet Sa Dula (1271-1368, Yanmen ji) a Mongol or a Hui, was Pu Songling (1640-1715, Liaozhai zhiyi) a Han or a Mongol, was the Chinese banner-man C…

Natural Resources

(1,459 words)

Author(s): Böhn, Dieter
Natural resources are all naturally existing resources, whose value is determined by their usefulness for humans. Among them are, in addition to mineral resources , forests, water, the sea with its raw materials as well as energy reserves (energy industry ). Furthermore, the topics treated in this section, namely arable land, forests, pasture, and sweet water, including their respective resources, are all decisive factors in China's economic and social development. 1. Arable Farmland China has only 7% of the world's agricultural areas, but must feed 20% of the world'…

Near East

(1,227 words)

Author(s): Friedrich, Stefan
The first contacts between China and the Near East reach back to the 3rd century. At that time, Arab and other merchants from the region began trading with China via the Silk Road and the ocean routes. Early contacts were made during the Tang period, when Christianity, Judaism (Jews), and Islam spread to China. However, official relations between China and the countries in the Near East were not established until the 20th century. 1. China and Israel During the first half of the 20th century, Shanghai was at the center of the Jewish community's activities in China. On …


(1,179 words)

Author(s): Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten
In the social sciences, "network" denotes a subset of all directed social interactions between a set of persons. It can be represented, for instance, by means of graphs. In empirical research, the causes for the selectivity and directedness of the interactions are investigated. The concept has been increasingly used for a number of years, in order to clarify the role of informal factors and of personal trust in the structuring of societies. It is therefore closely related to concepts such as "so…