|simp. and trad.
Transcription of the same Old Persian [script needed] (*Hinduka, “India”) (or its minor variants, such as 𐏃𐎡𐎯𐎢𐏁 (hinduš)) as 天竺 (Tiānzhú). It is the oldest of the Chinese names for India, and occurs in Shiji in connection with the mission of Zhang Qian to Daxia.
Using Middle Chinese reconstructions of the two characters in this word (ɕiɪn duok̚) gives the false impression that this is derived from the name of Sindhu (सिन्धु) – the name of the westernmost kingdom of India. Factors making this etymology unlikely include:
- Zhang Qian had no direct contact with India or with the Indians. He gathered the name from the people of Daxia which was a pure Iranian zone then under the occupation of Yuezhi;
- The choice of an alveolopalatal sibilant ɕ- for a clear dental sibilant s- in the original language; cf. known transcriptions of Sindhu: 新頭 新陶 辛頭 信度, all commencing with a dental sibilant; and
- The presence of a final -k in 身毒, as in 天竺.
The variant of Late Old Chinese that Zhang Qian had used showed the dialectal development of Old Chinese 身 *n̥in > *χin ~ hin, explaining the choice of 身 (shēn). This is perhaps comparable to the case of 天 in 天竺 (“India”), also a dialectal Old Chinese variant pronunciation. Modern dictionaries variably designate the proper pronunciation of this word in modern Beijing Mandarin as Juāndú, Yuándú, Yuāndú, but rarely Shēndú as would be pronounced by an unknowledgeable native.
- 天竺 (Tiānzhú)
|Kanji in this term|