Feifei Wang, I spend about the same amount of my life in China and in the US.
Answered Jan 30 · Author has 5.7k answers and 44.9m answer views
This is actually a lot more complicated than you think.
First of all, China as a “nation state” as we know it now didn’t come to be until 1911 after we overthrew the last dynasty and established the Republic of China. The concept of “nation state” itself is actually relatively new, being coined sometime around the 19th century.
Secondly, ancient China wasn’t aware of or acknowledged the existence of other people. For the longest time, we believed we’re the only country in the world (that matters). After all “溥天之下，莫非王土；率土之滨，莫非王臣” (everything under the sky was the King’s land; everyone on these land are the King’s subjects). When there’s no concept of “other”, there’s no point in defining “self”. When there’s no “other country” you need to communicate with on equal footing, there’s no need to give yourself a name so “others” can call you with.
All of the names for China commonly mentioned are Dynasty names. They some times can be used as names to reference China as a nation, but in most cases, they are not the name of China as a nation. It’s like calling Great Britain “Tudor country” and then “Windsor country”.
There wasn’t really an unified, officially acknowledged and confirmed name for China, not until much later when we started dealing with foreigners. For example, we know Manchu emperors use the term “大清国” (the Great Qing Empire) when facing foreigners.
But before that, there are only references some people used to call China, and some are generally accepted by people throughout centuries. Names like, 赤县神州 (Red country godly state); 中华 (Zhong Hua); or 华夏 or 九州 (Nine states).
None of those are official. It’s more like poetic nicknames, like calling Ireland “The Emerald Isle”.