Who discovered China?

Answered by Jeremy Urbaniak

Well, let me start off by saying that the concept of “discovering” a country is a bit complicated when it comes to China. China has a rich history that dates back thousands of years, with its own indigenous cultures and civilizations long before any European explorer set foot on its shores.

However, in terms of European exploration and contact with China, Marco Polo is often credited with introducing China to Europe in the 13th century CE. His famous book, “The Travels of Marco Polo,” detailed his adventures and experiences in China during his time there.

Marco Polo referred to China as “Cathay” in his writings, which was a term commonly used in Europe at the time to refer to the land of the Mongols, who ruled over China during the Yuan Dynasty. It’s important to note that Marco Polo was not the first European to reach China, as there were earlier travelers and traders who had made their way to China via the Silk Road.

In terms of the Chinese name for their own country, it is known as “Zhongguo” in Mandarin Chinese. “Zhong” means “central” or “middle,” and “guo” means “state” or “empire.” So, the name Zhongguo can be translated as “central state” or “middle empire,” reflecting China’s historical view of itself as a central power.

It’s worth mentioning that the idea of “discovering” a country can be seen as a Eurocentric perspective, as it implies that the country was unknown or unseen until a European explorer arrived. In reality, China had a complex and well-established civilization long before European contact.

While Marco Polo is often credited with introducing China to Europe, it’s important to recognize that China had its own rich history and culture long before his arrival. The name “Cathay” was used by Marco Polo to refer to China, and the Chinese name for their own country is “Zhongguo,” meaning “central state” or “middle empire.”