Han Chinese (Simplified: 汉; Traditional: 漢; Pinyin: hàn) is a term which refers to the majority ethnic group within China which constitutes over 92% of the population. The name was occasionally translated as the "Chinese proper" in older texts (pre-1980s) and is commonly rendered in Western media as the "ethnic Chinese".
The term is used to distinguish the majority from the various minorities in and around China. The name comes from the Han Dynasty which ruled the parts of China where Han Chinese originate. Even today many Chinese people call themselves "Han persons" (Hànrén). The term Han Chinese is sometimes used synonomously with "Chinese" without regard to the other 55 minority Chinese ethnic groups; this usage tends to be frowned upon by Chinese.
Many Uyghurs, either disparagingly call the Han Chinese Anangga ski Hanzular or apply on them the historical ethnonym of Hitay (Khitan), originally belonging to a Confucian, Mongolic state, that once lorded over the Turkic Kara-Khanids. It is interesting to note that the designations for the Chinese in the Russian and Mongol languages today, Kitaj and Khyatad, respectively, derives from the original Mongolic ethnonym, yielding these nations' perception of the Chinese State's northern nomad, Altaic origin.
Among Han Chinese, there is a wide diversity of distinct cultural and linguistic groups. The differences among regional and linguistic subgroups of Han Chinese are at least as great as those among many European nationalities. Han Chinese speak many varieties of Chinese spoken language which are generally labelled as different Chinese dialects although the difference between them is greater than many European languages. Cultural differences (cuisine, costume, and custom) are equally great. Modern Chinese history provides many examples of conflict, up to the level of small-scale regional wars, between linguistic and regional groups.
Such diversities, however, have not generated exclusive ethnic identities, and distinctions in religion or political affiliation have not reinforced regional differences. Rather, there has been a consistent tendency in Chinese thought and practice to downplay intra-Han distinctions, which are regarded as minor and superficial.
One factor in Han ethnic unity is the Chinese written language. Chinese is written with ideographs (sometimes called Chinese characters) that represent meanings rather than sounds, and so written Chinese does not reflect the speech of its author. The disjunction between written and spoken Chinese means that a newspaper published in Beijing can be read in Shanghai or Guangzhou, although the residents of the three cities would not necessarily understand each other's speech. It also means that there can be no specifically Cantonese Chinese or Hunanese literature because the local speech of a region cannot be directly or easily represented in writing. (It is possible to add local color to fiction, cite colloquialisms, or transcribe folk songs, but it is not commonly done.) Therefore, local languages have not become a focus for regional self-consciousness or nationalism.
Han Chinese usually wear Western-style clothing. Traditional Han Chinese clothing is no longer worn except as a curiosity.
Within some variants of Chinese nationalist theory, China is composed of many ethnic groups, and promoting the interest and culture of Han Chinese at the expense of the other ethnic groups is known as Han chauvinism, which has a pejorative meaning. However, another interpretation of Chinese nationalist theory takes the very opposite view and considers only the Han Chinese to be true Chinese and thus equates Chinese nationalism with Han nationalism.
See also: List of Chinese ethnic groups
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