Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Discussions on the Cantonese language.
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Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2005 3:53 pm

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Alex » Thu Apr 18, 2002 5:20 am

I think the Vietnamese names thing is probably because of China's influence on Vietnamese food & language when China ruled Vietnam (giving Vietnamese foodwords) and the way Chinese loanwords in Vietnamese are similar to Cantonese words.
Lisa C

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Lisa C » Thu Apr 18, 2002 4:33 pm

You know, this really goes back to Qin Shi Huangdi then. According to legend, he was looking for the herb of eternal youth and sent a 100 handsome men and 100 beautiful women on the search and were instructed not to come back without it. They supposedly settled in Japan.

I don't think it's as much a Cantonese influence as Chinese influence. Hakka people also say "hai" for the affirmative. Instead of comparing modern day dialects the study should be on old Chinese language influence. You might also check out Dylan Sung's site which I believe gives the changes in the b/p, h/f and other consonant changes among Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.
Sum Won

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Sum Won » Fri Apr 19, 2002 12:27 am

Actually, there has been some archeaological evidence, that there could have been a possibility that the Chinese in Japan had went back and forth between China and Japan, and even conducted some trade. Yes, I am aware of the Chinese-Japanese relation. However, I still think there is a possibility between the Japanese and Cantonese. If we were to prove a Cantonese-Japanese ethnic relation, there would need to be archaelogical evidence; I am aware of that. Nonetheless, even if it can't be proven, there is still no doubt in my mind that the Cantonese were originally not Chinese.

P.S. The Hakkas don't say "hai" also, they say "heh".
P.P.S. Can you provide the link to Dylan Sung's site on the Japanese "b/p-h/f" issue?

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by kp » Sat Apr 20, 2002 4:33 am

If it is true that Cantonese is closest to ancient Chinese, then the Cantonese got @ssed out. If their language is closest to ancient Chinese, than they must be the most closely related to the original Chinese. But the China of today, or at least the people who run the country mostly speak Mandarin.

However, from just pure logic, that does not make sense to me.

-Ancient maps of China do not include the areas where Cantonese of today live. But many in the forum claim that the Cantonese migrated from China into those areas.

-So what happend to the Cantonese that did not migrate? Did they just slowly start to look like the northerners and lose their own language?

Also, if Cantonese is closest to the ancient language, then those speakers would surely outnumber those Mandarin-sounding speakers and the assimilation would not have taken place.

So, I'm wondering.......who are the ones arguing that Cantonese is closest to ancient Chinese? Is it just the Cantonese that say that? Or will the Mandarins claim their own as the most similar?

China should just be renamed to.............

The United Provinces of Orientals Taken Over by the Jung Guo
Terence Lee

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Terence Lee » Sat Apr 20, 2002 10:01 am

I don’t know much about Japanese and Vietnamese and thus I cannot see if the language similarities with Cantonese have made the author here so persistent to say Cantonese not originally Chinese. Also, I do not see how ‘not original’ should be drawn to make Cantonese independence.

All I can see is that the author has misunderstood assimilation as an elimination of other races and their native culture. Someone here has taken the outlook features to indicate the differences between northern Chinese and Cantonese. I also don’t see if this is good enough for their statement that Cantonese not Chinese.

Some of the Chinese may look a bit different from one another, but not a clear cut between south and north. I had been working in various northern provinces for many years, but I did not find that differences patent on geographical districts, except those Chinese Caucasians in Xinjiang. I believe that those who think northern people look different from Cantonese have made their assertion on what they have sighted about the movie(TV) stars, who though look different but from other Chinese not limited from Cantonese. Superficial differences can be explained by immigrants having flown to China from various races during the long history including from invaders.

If Chinese is Han at the original author’s sense, the Han race is virtually not a pure race and it is a combination of many different clans and races even at time it was firstly named as a race. Han race grew bigger and bigger by receiving other minor races or small nations as part of it. The receiving is not a policy instituted by Han Government but an automatic practical means of fusing among people. Huns, a race of the main invaders from north at Han’s time, were once defeated and eventually broke up. Some of this race were driven away and intermittently moved to Europe, and had once settled in Hungary before being assimilated by other European races. Some of them, (south Huns) requested Han Government for receiving them as Han subjects. Permission was then granted and they became part of Han race. Since then, there was no Hun race around Han Empire but Han race grew bigger with Huns assimilation taking place.

Wind is blowing from high pressure to low pressure zone. People with poor living standard flow to zones of higher standard. When there was not the term of nationalism in the native tribes of South China 2200 years ago, those natives having been conquered would love to live as citizens under Canton Government (not use the historical term), due to higher living standard, better technology and higher culture. Those not being conquered living around the Han cultural sphere would like to take advantage from Han. Then, contacting with Han, learning from Han and deliberately fusing to Han took place from time to time. This also explained why most Hong Kong people (though despicable) wanted to live under British Governing and dislike the return to China in 1997 (from high to low) and why so many Chinese like to immigrate to US and other rich European countries even through illegal means. Simply, this is an act of taking benefit.

Conquer means no eliminating of culture but means fusing of culture or even in certain circumstances upgrading culture. Native people naturally flowing to Han sphere were also an act of taking benefit. Their own culture was not forced to abandon but they chose better things. This also explains why in history conquerors from north (nomads of lower culture) had finally been assimilated by Han culture.

Some native culture worthy to be inherited still passes generations to generations and sometimes influence that of Han. Just look at the language (part of culture, not all), examples are found: tea (originally flourished in Yunnan and South China, they were called da or tu in some minor races of Yunnan, the pre-Qin Chinese put character荼(tou4) to name it. At first, only the Southern races and people who drank tea. But under the south influence, the Northen Chinese drunk it and made it very popular since the prosperity of Buddhism in Tang, Sound change in Tang had made tea sound as 茶(caa4), but Fujianian still calls it as ‘de1’. English took from Fujianian to call ‘de1’ as tea. Now, tea is from South to North and to the world. Paddy/rice experienced the similar way of tea from south to north. Water chestnut, the name in common language is荸薺(bi2qi) , in Cantonese, it is called maa5 tai5(馬蹄) which is a substratum existing in southern races and has never been killed. Shaddock in mandarin is called 柚子(you4zi), which in Zhuang race, is called 波碌(po1 luk1) and in Cantonese called 碌柚(luk1jau2), it is very obvious that Cantonese has combined the shaddock’s name in Mandarin with that of Zhuang race. It reflects the fusing of culture in a lateral view. Apart from languages, many traditions and customs of the Southern minor races are left and inherited so long as the natives themselves want them to be. (see Dialects and Chinese Culture by Zhou Zhen Peng)

Qin founded Nanhai (Canton, according to the o. author) in the natives’ land. Then, central plain migrants came to the new territory settling down together with those remained natives. According to the natural act of flowing from low to high culture, it is believed that many people of the surrounding tribes were willing to fuse into the Han cultural sphere attempting to adopt their culture, share their technology and take everything being deemed good. Adopting other’s culture is a way of assimilation and thus, not necessarily blood -mixing, the people living in Nanhai and those having adopted Nanhai culture were called Nanhaiese. When Nanhai was finally renamed to be Canton, all the people there are then called Cantonese. The same applies to those Arabian descendants in Guangzhou. Nowadays, though they believed in Islam, they call themselves Cantonese and Chinese. Also, like Indian descendants in Hong Kong, they call themselves Hong Kong people. An additional example is given here, Zheng He 鄭和(San Boa Eunuch) was from Hui race回族, though he was not Han but he was a Chinese representing Ming government carrying Han culture to launch the well-known oversea expedition some 600 years ago.

Hui is a race but still a part of Chinese. Cantonese is not a race at all. Cantonese are just residents of a place which is named Canton. Is that simple? I just don’t understand why there is someone who seems to be so dump to comprehend the term using to call Cantonese. Maybe they assert Cantonese are equal to the natives while reluctant to admit the outnumbered migrants to be the main Canton population. Maybe they believe that different speaking language (dialects) in Canton is the outcome of migrants having been assimilated by natives, but they neglect to consider the never-ending change of sound.

More possible is that they think they are from pure native and now want to get rid of migrants and migrants’ descendents in order to claim back their land and to avenge their ancestor’s humiliation of being conquered by Han culture. If so, I think the native Americans should at once launch a rebel or revolution to claim independence because their hostility against the white is still very fresh (just several hundred years).

It is totally not to blame the Han culture dominates the south China while on the contrary, the natives should thank for bringing to them higher culture and better living. Some present minor races in Yunnan are admiring that the Han’s giving them characters so that their history can be recorded and their culture can be inherited.

Indeed, I do not see how good and how right should an independence be called for. Does the independence serve to restore our original culture (native’s culture)? Then, it is easy, we simply don’t write and speak Chinese but what characters should we take to record our history and culture? And, what kind of speaking language we should use for communication, use that from Dai, from Shen, from Li, from Zhuang, from Men or from Taishan; or simply return to tribal living to lessen communication? We Cantonese have already taken benefit of the unity of Chinese not just writing and language, and great honor of her civilization. We are certainly feed and brought up by Chinese culture even if we are really from pure native. And at this point, we are Chinese without doubt! Why independent? Because China is ruled by communist? Because her people live in poverty? Because Canton is richer and thus not to be shared out by other poor fellow-countrymen? This is totally a matter of already-gained benefit既得利益, and it is as despicable as those nationalist in Taiwan shouting for independence but forgetting who has given them both writing and speaking language for propaganda, and who’s given them the first wealth (mainland people’s fat ) to launch independence campaign. Consider that should we need to politicalize everything among and around China?

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by joe » Sat Apr 20, 2002 10:08 pm

Well put Terrence. This is exactly the kind of analysis that is needed to put a close to this topic.

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by kp » Sun Apr 21, 2002 10:41 pm

Very well put Terrence.

However, you give the impression that many of these races conquered by the Han came willingly since the Han were so advanced compared to them. That is certainly not the case.

Regarding the language part.....
Many people in here claim that Cantonese is closest to ancient Chinese compared to any other Chinese dialect. What I don't understand is what happend to that language?

My lack of Chinese dialect knowledge may be the problem here, but it seems that those in the northern plains areas of ancient China speak dialects much more similar to Mandarin than Cantonese. Did the ancient "Cantonese-sounding" Chinese language die out due to Mongol and Manchu influences? Or was ancient Chinese nothing like Cantonese at all?

Regarding the superficial references....this has nothing to do with tv/movie stars. I live in San Francisco where theres a large Cantonese population and growing numbers of mainlanders. I dont deny that the lines are extremely blurry, but for the most part, its not very hard to tell the difference between Cantonese speakers and Mandarin speakers.

I dont have the luxury of actually comparing the features of people in China. I can only base my assumptions on those who migrate to my area. Those who speak Mandarin have a look much more similar to Koreans and Japanese compared to their Cantonese counterparts. Those in the North tend to have larger nose and noseridges, more of a "white" skin color, small slanted eyes and taller in height.

Of course, many of those Cantonese speakers I am referring to look just like the "Northerners." For the most part, there are a mixture of "pure" Chinese blood and tribes of South Asia or a more malayan look.
Sum Won

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Sum Won » Mon Apr 22, 2002 4:26 am

I agree the comment KP made towards Terrence, on the assimilation process. However, on race issue, I acknowledge that we do have Chinese blood within us, if you would only scroll up and look at my previous postings, you'll find I have admitted that already. Also, that's why the topic is entitled "Cantonese originally not Chinese", and not "Cantonese not Chinese". As I have said in that same posting, that I believe it is still our obligation to learn more about the indigenous culture, rather than just blindly following one that took over, for the mere sake of "convenience".
Back to "Politicizing an issue" now: You can go ahead and ignore the issue of Cantonese independance. I would like to see the day the Cantonese get their independance from the Chinese, and if possible, to increase more studies of the indegenous culture, and even try to incorporate them into our modern-day society. For a written system, we can look towards the Koreans for example, who have come up with their own alphabet system. If we follow this example, we could come up with our own system of writing (not necessarily using an alphabet), for a means of communication, and to "record our history and culture". Now, what will we be using to talk to each other with? Obviously a system which will be the original Cantonese system, before the "hundred Yue Tribal" system was formed. This can be done with anthropological research. Once again, you may choose to ignore this view...
Now, in reference to the Native Americans, they're still battling out the territories with the US government, on sovereignty and representation. However, they can solve it either by violence or like Ghandi, and do things peacefully. Whichever path they choose, is their own. The same goes for the rest of the natives of any other country, whose sovereign rights and lands were taken away from them.
On to the disscussion of looks between the different races: "If you look back at all of my postings, I'm the only one who has ever refrained from using any such references for my arguements." This reason for this, is because I'm also Asian, and I can't ever tell the difference between most Asians myself."
Sum Won

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Sum Won » Mon Apr 22, 2002 4:38 am

I can understand how you can get confused about the Cantonese-Chinese issue. It is a fact that Cantonese does resemble the ancient Chinese language the most. This is most likely because they felt the need to "civilize" --in their sense-- the Cantonese tribes, and set up schools all over the Cantonese regions to teach them everything about Chinese. Whether the aborigines went of their own accord or were forced, still remains a mystery to me. Religion even played a role. They tried to use Buddhism as a tool, so that the Cantonese wouldn't pray to the "God of the South Sea" --Just like those bothersome missionaries that come to your house and try to convert you.

About the language, as I've speculated from the start, it was almost wiped out (except a few remnences of the original language).

Now, on the proposal for the "United Provinces of Orientals Taken Over by the Jung Guo", there would be some nice debate over what system should be used, as there was such a debate in the beginnings of the United States with the white-Americans.
Terence Lee

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Terence Lee » Mon Apr 22, 2002 3:57 pm

I am poor in English. Maybe my posting in English did not make you guys understand what I said. Or it is just like a Chinese proverb says “Playing Piano towards an Ox.” The origin of races and history of the sound-change of Chinese language are specialized subjects which are supposed not proper to publish here as it will be a book-sized essay. Also it will exhaust me if writing long essay in English. KP’s saying ‘My lack of Chinese dialect knowledge may be the problem here’ is definitely the factor causing so much confusion. For you guys understanding on this subject, I suggest you to read more Chinese cultural books (if you can read Chinese), not limited to dictionaries and textbook but also the dialectal books regarding Chinese races migration.

When I was in school, my teacher taught me to firstly make clear of the terms before making debates on it. So, what is Chinese, what is Cantonese should be made clear before hand (see my previous postings). If the topic had been changed to that aborigines of South China 2200 years ago were not Chinese, I think no one here would have argued on it. But when talking of Cantonese, it indicates the people of Canton province of China. China people are Chinese no matter where they are from. It is as clear as Hua race living in America called American. American can be of Indian races, German races, and Negro races.

I see that there is somebody taken natives of 2200 year- ago as an equivalent term calling Cantonese. However, this is wrong apply and consent. Natives were called Yue or Hundred Yue tribes 百越by Han (Han cultural people). Some scholars have said that Yue was a character derived from ‘ Hotness’ 熱, which was a name put by central people denoting the places where had no snow.

Yue themselves had no characters at that time, their history was recorded by Han scholars. As time went by, Han scholars got to know more of the native tribes so that within Yue, there were tribes named Eastern and Western Ou, Lao, Dai, Dong, Zhuang, Li etc. These were the aborigines in ancient Yue places. Geographically, Yue places broadly indicated provinces of Fujian, Canton, Taiwan, Guangxi, Hainan. These provinces are mainly separated from the northern provinces by Wu Ling (5 mountains). Cultural spreading to Canton from the common language blocks was always difficult and time consuming. But in history (800,000days, figure for those deem 2200 years not long enough to make those differences), cultural spreading never stopped. I have plenty of materials showing migration and change of sound more frequently happen in northern part of China but find it difficult to post them all here (please carefully read the book I referred last time). You guys should refer to Chinese history to check how many invasions and civil wars occurred in northern China, how many races in history have been assimilated into Han and how many migrations the northern people did to escape from wars, flood and famine.

Language did not die out but changed. In some areas, changes were more rapid while some were not. Assimilation could be easier here but stagnant there. Moreover, language changes varied from sound to expression, written to colloquial and it was not solely influenced by other races, but changed throughout practical uses due to departed geographical grounds, like that between British and American English (250 years?) and that between Guangzhou and Hong Kong Cantonese (150 years).

If facial difference is to be drawn to prove races differences, statistics should be scientifically conducted but I am quite sure about the result not against me. Skin color may be quite apparent but may be due to weather zones. It’s fun when describing northern people having small slanted eyes, then women in north must be from different races of men in north too. I think the description was made in a slanted stance as well. Mandarin speakers of today reflect no geographical boundaries of people as Putonghua has been forcibly promoted in Mainland China recent decades If you guys came to Canton, younger Cantonese can talk with you in Putonghua (precisely not Mandarin). Most of the illiterate older inland residents of China don’t speak Mandarin instead, they speak their own dialects which to some extent are deemed more closer to Putonghua in contrast with Cantonese. However, they are just geographically closer to ancient capitals and have not separated by Wu Ling. Some colloquial that Cantonese speaks are the same sound as that Sichuanese, Hunanese and Zhejiangese speak, such as啥. 渠, 窖and覅. Just go and visit China to check them out if have doubt.

As for the so-called indigenous culture of the native, what was that? Schools established in Canton for forcing natives to learn Han culture, where were them? Think if the modern terms and modes of society applicable to the ancient Canton. Mind you that there were still 0.2 billion illiterate people in China nowadays.

On the other hand, Li, Zhuang and Dong races were comparatively purer descendants of the aborigines in Canton 800,000 days ago. They kept their own customs and traditions and even language but they still don’t have their writing besides educated people writing in Han. They being a race of Chinese, mostly scattered in Hainan province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and now they are still on their way to being assimilated by Han culture. If there is someone would ask for independence, I think Zhuang-Dong-Li people should be more likely to than those Hanian and Hanized漢化 Cantonese should. Furthermore, assimilation, in term of cultural history, means absorbing and mixing cultures depending on natural selection. Some cultures of minor races are also naturally selected to fuse into Han culture whilst not being totally eliminated.

I hope this is enough to draw back the attention of those young, innocent Chinese who might have fallen confused with this topic and thus save my words.

PS. A philosopher said truth is to be found through debates, but I think except for political belief.
Lisa C

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Lisa C » Mon Apr 22, 2002 5:13 pm

Dylan Sung's website is as follows:

It gives a comparison of the main language groups in China and some history of migrating/invading groups influence on language.

I don't know how many of you speak Cantonese (HK) as opposed to mainland, but there are differences and native speakers can usually tell the origin of the other person. Differences are dying out b/c everyone in China now seem to have a TV and get the HK programming, just like differences in the US accents/dialects are dying out. Except for some isolated regions or large populations groups most people in the US sound like they're from California.
Sum Won

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Sum Won » Mon Apr 22, 2002 5:34 pm

Once again, you express your views, which I've taken careful consideration to, as always. You are correct that their history was recorded by the Han, but remember, that the Han were merely outsiders, and only recorded their interaction and experience with the Yue, and not the history of the Yue themselves. You keep telling me to read more Chinese history, and books on Chinese migration; I have read some. However, just because it's from a Chinese source, doesn't necessarily they include every aspect, or that they don't leave any details out for a certain reason. As I have recommended, you should read Edward Schafer's "The Vermilion Bird: T'ang Images of the South". Here, you'll see the setup of schools were they try to assimilate the Chinese... Mainly, these "schools" were set up as a religious center, and tried to teach Chinese Buddhism, or more rare, taoism. These religions generally counteracted the religion(s) of the aborigines.

Now, on the issue for Cantonese independance, you are correct that the Zhuang, and other tribes have more of a right to call for independance. However, a similar case was debated in the courts of America, where a group of people who have only one-sixteenth of Native blood, looking very similar to caucasians, tried to settle land disputes and set up their own casino. To make a long story short, they won the case, and are recognized as a sovereign people. Though their rights are still impeded upon, from time to time, this is a first step. These people have both caucasian and native blood in them. So why did they fight against who Terrence might consider, "their own people"? Because they had rights, which were "inalienable" to any person, or group of people. If these people, aren't a good example I don't know what is.
Sum Won

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Sum Won » Mon Apr 22, 2002 5:51 pm

Thank you for sending me the link.
Yes, I am aware of the many dialectal differences in Cantonese itself. I'm not sure if any of you can hear the differences between GuangXi and GuangFu Cantonese, but I can speak both, and recognize the differences in pronounciation and some different uses of words.

It's sad to see many Yue people "switching over" from their own dialect to what they consider "standard Cantonese". Many languages in the world are dieing out and some are lost already... Sure, we're communicating better by using one language, but it seems as if we lose a part of ourselves in the process. The study of anthropology, is labeled under the category of humanities. Anthropologists in essence, "study humans". language is a big part of human life. So whenever a language dies out, it seems like we're losing a part of our humanity.

Luckily, thanks to the many works of linguistics-anthropologists, we can trace, or sometimes even reconstruct many lost languages.
Shanghai Noon

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Shanghai Noon » Thu Apr 25, 2002 1:49 pm

I agree with you Terence. Don’t play piano for ox again. Haahaa…

Now, readers can see how assimilation works. The author is apparently assimilated by Western culture. He takes Western (American) law as infallible law to judge the world. He takes western historian view on China as his view to comprehend China. He takes American standard to standardize the world. American do not set up schools to force other nations to learn American culture but set up the media net with money coverage to assimilate others and unify the world under her measure of value. Yes, American domination over the world should be resisted by other nations and aborigines.

Schools in Canton for Buddhism and Toaism? Wrong. Vermilian Bird meant southern direction in comparing to the position of Chinese central government. South of China is not Canton. Leaning culture through preaching religion was not likely happened in Canton. It sounds more likely in Thailand and Tibet, China. Matteo Ricci could have made wrong or inaccurate records on China even though he lived there for decades. How can western scholars make accurate criticism on China issues without accurate knowledge? Why there are so many conflicts between Western and Eastern is self-explanatory.
Sum Won

Re: Cantonese originally not Chinese???

Post by Sum Won » Fri Apr 26, 2002 6:03 pm

Why many people in this forum who disagree with me, seem to be so ignorant in the truth is self-explanatory. The people who disagree with me in this forum seem to be merely cows that can't comprehend music of any sort, let alone the mere sounds made from a piano/guitar. Western scholars (at least the good ones --which means "better than any of you here") look at many sources, including foreign and domestic. Just because Matteo Ricci made mistakes, doesn't mean all non-Chinese who retrieve information are wrong also. Edward Schafer used many resources from Chinese and from archaelogical discoveries made. Correct, he could have some things wrong, but that's because there weren't any Western scholars allowed into China during his time. However, I would have to give you credit in being correct that "South China is not Canton", but that "The Cantonese Regions are contained within South China". Maybe you should read it again, since it seems that you don't understand it all too well.

You're accusing someone with a sense of individuality of using "American standards and values" to make decisions. Though I am an American, I still live with Asian culture surrounded all over me. I have looked at Chinese sources, such as Si Ma Qian's "Shi Ji", and maybe all of you should too. Remember, Zhao Tuo married an aborigine. You know what else? A person with aborigine descendant had control of the throne.
Funny how someone can manage to lump "Western" with "American", and somehow mention "law" when actually, the main issues here are ideology and history. Then, somehow you try to say I'm an outside towards Chinese culture, when in actuality, through the intensive research and personal experience with it, I probably know more about Chinese culture than any other person here.