Why are the Chinese people called Han Chinese？ Why not Ming Chinese or Song Chinese？
Anthony To， Fanatic of Chinese History
Answered Sep 20
Firstly， Han Chinese people refer to themselves by all sorts of different names， not just Han like you might think； in fact， throughout history and even today， there are Chinese who call themselves as 唐人 “Tang people” or even “Ming people” in the case of Ming dynasty loyalists in history. Let me explain：
The Han dynasty was the first dynasty to occupy all of China proper， well aside from the short-lived Qin dynasty that only ruled for a meager 15 years and only had two emperors， while the Han dynasty’s rule spanned the course of nearly four centuries， making it the longest lasting Chinese dynasty during the Imperial Era (the Shang dynasty did last longer， but was much smaller and is considered as part of the Ancient era). The Han dynasty was also the first dynasty in which China began to exert significant influence over its neighbors； China’s military campaigns against the nomadic Xiongnu led to the Chinese territory to stretch all the way to the Tarim Basin in Central Asia， located in the southern part of modern day Xinjiang (新疆)， where it was administered under the Han as the “Protectorate of the Western Regions”， and would later help create part of a trade network known as the “Silk Road”， a trade route that reached as far as the Mediterranean world：
Han dynasty in 2 AD， the light blue colored region is the Tarim Basin， forming a crucial part of China’s historic Silk Road
The Han dynasty was also the first Chinese dynasty where the Chinese civilization began to spread into nearby regions， such as from the Han conquest of Nanyue (111 BC)， which allowed Chinese influence to spread all the way to present day Northern Vietnam， and the Han conquest of Gojoseon (109 - 108 BC)， which brought Han influence onto parts of the Korean peninsula. As such， the Han dynasty was the first Chinese dynasty to spread out of the area known as “China proper”， and began to exert its influence into other regions， which would later lead to many countries later adapting and following its culture， particularly the countries in the “East Asian Cultural Sphere”， though most of this cultural adoption would take place in the later Tang dynasty. Still， the Han established the groundwork for this， and was by far the largest Chinese dynasty by territory by that time， and was referred to as the first “golden age” of China， so many Chinese are very respect and proud of this dynasty， hence why the majority of ethnic Chinese people still refer to themselves as 汉人 “Han people” even today.
Aside from calling themselves as the “Han people” 汉人， some Chinese also refer to themselves as Tang people 唐人 in reference to the Tang dynasty， which was another golden age for China that re-established the Silk Road that was created during the Han dynasty. Often the people who refer to themselves as Tang people are the ones who live in the southern regions of China； why is that you ask？ Because unlike the Tang dynasty where the southern regions was entire assimilated into what is now China proper， during the early years of the Han dynasty， from the 2nd-1st Century BC， southern China was occupied by people known as the “Bai Yue” 百越， or the Hundred Yue Tribes.
The Yue people， also referred to as the “Southern Barbarians” at the time due to being culturally different than the Han were indigenous non-Chinese people who initially inhabited a wide range of China， such as far north as the coastal regions of Shandong， and as far west as the Sichuan basin. By the time of the Han dynasty however， these many “non-sinicized” tribes were mostly located in southern China， and the Han dynasty， during the 2nd century BC were still fighting against the Yue states in the south and the Xiongnu in the north， as depicted by this map：
A map illustrating the Han dynasty’s military operations during 2nd century BC. As you can see， many offensive military campaigns to the north against the Xiongnu， and man...(more)
汉代是中华文明开始蔓延到附近地区的中国第一个王朝，比如汉人征服南越(公元前111年)，这使得中国的影响力传播到今天越南北部，和汉人征服古代朝鲜(公元前109 - 108年)，这使得汉族影响到朝鲜半岛的部分地区。
Anry Young， Carpe Diem.
Answered Dec 10， 2016
Eh， first of all， I need to correct you that Han Chinese is just one of the 56 ethnic groups in China， you cannot just say Chinese are equal to Han Chinese. Second， for you question， I guess you may mean what does the name “Han” come from， obviously it is from Han Dynasty， which is the first prosperous dynasty in China’s history because Han dynasty defeated Hun and controlled most part of Serindia which built solid foundations for China being a unified big country in the following two thousand years. In addition， since Han Dynasty brought so many glories to Chinese at that time， during the hundreds years’ disintegration， nationwide disorder after Han Dynasty perished， Chinese people at that time yearned Han Dynasty and were eager to reconstruct it， so they still called themselves Han people as an important identity especially when facing the ？massive invasion of the northern barbarian tribes. Moreover， during Tan dynasty， many poets use Han to allude Tang in their poems massively， these poems are still popular in China and many Chinese can recite a lot of Tang poems from childhood. So due to the historical and cultural factors， the main ethnic group of Chinese people tend to identify themselves Han people. But Han dynasty is just the history memory for Han people not all Chinese， so the remaining 55 ethnic groups are not called Han Chinese but like Manchu Chinese， Mongolia Chinese， Hui Chinese， Uigur Chinese or Tibetan Chinese and so on.