In areal linguistics, Sinosphere refers to a grouping of countries and regions that are currently inhabited with a majority of Chinese
Han Chinese
Han Chinese are an ethnic group native to China and are the largest single ethnic group in the world.Han Chinese constitute about 92% of the population of the People's Republic of China , 98% of the population of the Republic of China , 78% of the population of Singapore, and about 20% of the...

 population or were historically under Chinese cultural
Culture of China
Chinese culture is one of the world's oldest and most complex. The area in which the culture is dominant covers a large geographical region in eastern Asia with customs and traditions varying greatly between towns, cities and provinces...

 influence. The linguist James Matisoff
James Matisoff
James A. Matisoff is a professor emeritus of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley and noted authority on Tibeto-Burman languages and other languages of mainland Southeast Asia....

 coined the term "Sinosphere" in 1990, contrasting with the Indosphere
Indosphere is a subgrouping of Tibeto-Burman languages as defined by linguist James Matisoff, which includes languages that are typologically and morphologically a closeness to Indo-Aryan languages...

, "I refer to the Chinese and Indian areas of linguistic / cultural influence in Southeast Asia as the 'Sinosphere' and the 'Indosphere'."

The terms Chinese cultural sphere and Chinese character
Chinese character
Chinese characters are logograms used in the writing of Chinese and Japanese , less frequently Korean , formerly Vietnamese , or other languages...

 cultural sphere are used interchangeably with "Sinosphere" but have different denotations. Chinese cultural sphere denotes a grouping of countries, regions, and people which have participated in or been heavily influenced by the Culture of China
Culture of China
Chinese culture is one of the world's oldest and most complex. The area in which the culture is dominant covers a large geographical region in eastern Asia with customs and traditions varying greatly between towns, cities and provinces...

, such as Tibet
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

 or Sichuan
' , known formerly in the West by its postal map spellings of Szechwan or Szechuan is a province in Southwest China with its capital in Chengdu...

. Countries such as Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 or Viet Nam which did in the past or do now use the Chinese writing system denote the other sense.
For Mainland Southeast Asia (MSEA) the term has been glossed as "Sinosphere: a socio-political sphere of MSEA, subsuming those countries, cultures, and languages that have historically come under influence from the politics, culture, religion, and languages of China (notably Vietnam, Southwestern China, northern parts of Laos, as well as most urban centers in MSEA)."


In linguistic (and German) terms, the Sinosphere is a Sprachbund
A Sprachbund – also known as a linguistic area, convergence area, diffusion area or language crossroads – is a group of languages that have become similar in some way because of geographical proximity and language contact. They may be genetically unrelated, or only distantly related...

 or "language league." This cultural region closely corresponds to the ancient "Sinic civilization" and its descendants, the "Far Eastern civilizations" (the Mainland and the Japanese ones), which Arnold J. Toynbee
Arnold J. Toynbee
Arnold Joseph Toynbee CH was a British historian whose twelve-volume analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations, A Study of History, 1934–1961, was a synthesis of world history, a metahistory based on universal rhythms of rise, flowering and decline, which examined history from a global...

 presented in the 1930s in "A Study of History
A Study of History
A Study of History is the 12-volume magnum opus of British historian Arnold J. Toynbee, finished in 1961, in which the author traces the development and decay of all of the major world civilizations in the historical record...

", along with the Western
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

, Islamic, Eastern Orthodox, Indic, etc. civilizations, among the major "units of study" of the world's history.

Defining characteristics

The Sinosphere is generally unified by first written language ability in Chinese
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

. This defines the unifying factor as the influence of traditional Chinese cultural beliefs, marked by Confucianist social and moral ethics, Taoist or Mahayana Buddhist religious beliefs, as embodied in text using Chinese characters  (Hanzi in Chinese, kanji
Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters hanzi that are used in the modern Japanese writing system along with hiragana , katakana , Indo Arabic numerals, and the occasional use of the Latin alphabet...

in Japanese, hanja
Hanja is the Korean name for the Chinese characters hanzi. More specifically, it refers to those Chinese characters borrowed from Chinese and incorporated into the Korean language with Korean pronunciation...

in Korean, and Hán tự in Vietnamese) whether within China proper
China proper
China proper or Eighteen Provinces was a term used by Western writers on the Qing Dynasty to express a distinction between the core and frontier regions of China. There is no fixed extent for China proper, as many administrative, cultural, and linguistic shifts have occurred in Chinese history...

 or in a peripheral culture before it emerged from the dominance of the center.

Another indicator is the everyday use of chopsticks
Chopsticks are small, often tapered, sticks used in pairs of equal length as the traditional eating utensils of China and its diaspora, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Northern provinces of Laos, Thailand and Burma. Generally believed to have originated in ancient China, they can also be found in some...

, which also may have originated in China.

External links

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