On the Goodness Brought by the Ugly Barbarians A Case Study of the Iranization of Chinese Nomenclature

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Sanping Chen



In early medieval China, the word hu 胡, at the time referring primarily to Iranian-speaking Central Asians, came to be used in a large group of personal names whose bearers ranged from ordinary people to a member of the Tang royal family. This paper examines the true meaning of these personal names, which has neither been recorded in known primary sources nor been explained in any dictionary, ancient or modern. Using both Sinitic and Iranian onomastic data, these names are shown to be part of the Iranization of Chinese nomenclature. They showcase the breadth and depth of the pre-Islamic Iranian cultural influence in medieval China.

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