Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Origins of Nippon-Japan

In the early part of the Chinese Tang Dynasty, circa A.D. 670, Japanese scholars who had studied Chinese created a new name for their country using the Chinese phrase for “origin of the sun, sunrise,” because Japan is located east of China. In the Chinese of the time, the phrase was nzyet-pwun. To this the scholars added the Chinese suffix –kwuk, “country,” yielding a "nzyet-pwun-kwuk," “sun-origin-country, land of the rising sun.” The words were not pronounceable in Old Japanese, so the form was simplified to Nip-pon-gu. The form Nippon of today are the same as these, minus the “country” suffix. Japan is the early Mandarin word borrowed from the Malay Japang, which was encountered by Portuguese traders in Moluccas in the 16th century. These traders may have been the ones to bring the word to Europe; it is first recorded in English in 1577, spelled Giapan.

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