What does a visitor feel about China?


Marcus Hernig

To person

Dr. phil., born 1968; Associate Professor for German and Chinese Studies at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou; Sida Lu 266, 2 / 3f, 200081 Shanghai / China. [email protected]

Based on the concept of myth as a collective statement, the article presents two important myths of China that are closely linked: the myth of the "Middle Kingdom" and the myth of the "Chinese Dream".


Weida de zhongguo "(great Middle Kingdom) - this is the verdict of many Chinese about their country. The statement is often made spontaneously and with little reflection, as if it were a matter of course. The" great Middle Kingdom "is a myth As old as the culture of the Empire on the Yellow River and the Yangtze River, an unprecedented development into a not only economically important state in the globalized world of the 21st century makes the myth topical again today.

Originally the term "Middle Kingdom" was a plural and referred to the geographical location of small principalities on the Yellow River, which, as "Middle States" [1], formed the core of today's China. Over the centuries, other states emerged around these geographical cores. They were finally given by the potentate Qin Shi Huang (259-210 BC), who called himself the "first emperor of Qin", in the year 221 BC. united. In this way the "countries in the middle" became the "empire of the middle".

The geographical term "Middle Kingdom" soon became a cultural one: that which was in the middle and formed a united kingdom was considered to be of higher standing and more developed than the mostly nomadic "barbarian countries" on the periphery. Those who lived "in the middle" were certain to live in a region that, according to their self-perception, was considered the political and cultural center of the world, without this region knowing much about the "outside world", especially that in Europe. Up until the beginning of the 19th century, many Europeans were also convinced that China represented one of the "best possible worlds", if not the "best possible world" on our planet - in contrast to today, there were many prominent Germans among them: thinkers like Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Christian Wolff came out as "China fans" who found their "opponents" in sinos-skeptical and Eurocentric thinkers like Johann Gottfried Herder. Their discourses quickly drifted to extremes, regardless of whether Leibniz praised the Chinese emperor as an "outstanding prince" [2] or Herder dismissed China as an "embalmed mummy, painted with hieroglyphics and wrapped in silk" [3]. Not least since Marco Polo's stories, the myth of the legendary "Middle Kingdom" was also born in the West. The myth was currently nourished by the two major international events: the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai. Both events were or are superlatives of state planning that brought China back to the center of the world: with a 16 medal lead, the USA was relegated to second place by China in the nation standings during the Olympic Games. 70 million visitors brought the world right into Shanghai, which until October 2010, with actors from 242 nations and international organizations, can still feel like the "city of the middle". To become culturally the "Middle Kingdom" again in a globalized world is a core content of what is now often referred to as the "Chinese dream".