Japanese WA (倭, "Japan, Japanese", from Chinese 倭 Wō) is the
oldest recorded name of Japan . Chinese, Korean, and Japanese scribes
regularly wrote Wa or Yamato "Japan" with the
* 1 Historical references
* 2 The word Wa
* 2.1 倭 and 和 characters * 2.2 Pronunciations * 2.3 Etymology * 2.4 Lexicography
* 3 References * 4 External links
The earliest textual references to Japan are in Chinese classic texts
. Within the official Chinese dynastic
Twenty-Four Histories , Japan
is mentioned among the so-called
The historian Wang Zhenping summarizes Wo contacts with the Han State.
When chieftains of various Wo tribes contacted authorities at Lelang, a Chinese commandery established in northern Korea in 108 B.C. by the Western Han court, they sought to benefit themselves by initiating contact. In A.D. 57, the first Wo ambassador arrived at the capital of the Eastern Han court (25-220); the second came in 107.
Wo diplomats, however, never called on China on a regular basis. A chronology of Japan-China relations from the first to the ninth centuries reveals this irregularity in the visits of Japanese ambassadors to China. There were periods of frequent contacts as well as of lengthy intervals between contacts. This irregularity clearly indicated that, in its diplomacy with China, Japan set its own agenda and acted on self-interest to satisfy its own needs.
No Wo ambassador, for example, came to China during the second
century. This interval continued well past the third century. Then
within merely nine years, the female Wo ruler
SHAN HAI JING
The golden seal said to have been granted to the "King of Wa" by Emperor Guangwu of Han in 57 CE. Transcription of the seal. The seal reads "漢委奴國王".
Possibly the earliest record of Wō 倭 "Japan" occurs in the Shan
Hai Jing 山海經 "Classic of Mountains and Seas". The textual dating
of this collection of geographic and mythological legends is
uncertain, but estimates range from 300 BCE to 250 CE. The Haineibei
jing 海內北經 "Classic of Regions within the North Seas" chapter
includes Wō 倭 "Japan" among foreign places both real, such as
Korea, and legendary (e.g.
Kai Land is south of Chü Yen and north of Wo. Wo belongs to Yen. Ch’ao-hsien is east of Lieh Yang, south of Hai Pei Mountain. Lieh Yang belongs to Yen. (12, tr. Nakagawa 2003:49)
Nakagawa notes that Zhuyan 鉅燕 refers to the (ca. 1000-222 BCE) kingdom of Yan (state) , and that Wo ("Japan was first known by this name.") maintained a "possible tributary relationship" with Yan.
The Rŭzēng 儒増 "Exaggerations of the Literati" chapter mentions
''Wōrén 倭人 "Japanese people" and Yuèshāng 越裳 "an old name
During the Chou time there was universal peace. The Yuèshāng offered white pheasants to the court, the Japanese odoriferous plants. Since by eating these white pheasants or odoriferous plants one cannot keep free from evil influences, why should vessels like bronze tripods have such a power? (26, tr. Forke 1907:505)
Lunheng chapter Huiguo 恢國 "Restoring the nation" (58)
similarly records that
Emperor Cheng of Han
The ca. 82 CE Han Shu 漢書 "Book of Han"' covers the Former Han Dynasty (206 BCE-24 CE) period. Near the conclusion of the Yan entry in the Dilizhi 地理志 "Treatise on geography" section, it records that Wo encompassed over 100 guó 國 "communities, nations, countries".
Beyond Lo-lang in the sea, there are the people of Wo. They comprise more than one hundred communities. It is reported that they have maintained intercourse with China through tributaries and envoys. (28B, tr. Otake Takeo 小竹武夫, cited by Nakagawa 2003:50)
Emperor Wu of Han
Text of the Wei Zhi (ca. 297)
The ca. 297 CE Wei Zhi 魏志 "Records of Wei", comprising the first
San Guo Zhi 三國志 "Records of the Three Kingdoms", covers
history of the
The people of Wa dwell in the middle of the ocean on the mountainous islands southeast of of Tai-fang. They formerly comprised more than one hundred communities. During the Han dynasty, appeared at the Court; today, thirty of their communities maintain intercourse through envoys and scribes. (tr. Tsunoda 1951:8)
This Wei Zhi context describes sailing from Korea to Wa and around the Japanese archipelago. For instance,
A hundred li to the south, one reaches the country of Nu , the official of which is called shimako, his assistant being termed hinumori. Here there are more than twenty thousand households. (tr. Tsunoda 1951:0)
Some 12,000 li to the south of Wa is Gǒunúguó 狗奴國 (lit. "dog slave country"), Japanese Kunakoku, which is identified with the Kumaso tribe that lived around Higo and Ōsumi Provinces in southern Kyūshū. Beyond that,
Over one thousand li to the east of the Queen's land, there are more countries of the same race as the people of Wa. To the south, also there is the island of the dwarfs where the people are three or four feet tall. This is over four thousand li distant from the Queen's land. Then there is the land of the naked men, as well of the black-teethed people. These places can be reached by boat if one travels southeast for a year. (tr. Tsunoda 1951:13)
One Wei Zhi passage (tr. Tsunoda 1951:14) records that in 238 CE the Queen of Wa sent officials with tribute to the Wei emperor Cao Rui , who reciprocated with lavish gifts including a gold seal with the official title "Queen of Wa Friendly to Wei".
Men great and small, all tattoo their faces and decorate their bodies with designs. From olden times envoys who visited the Chinese Court called themselves "grandees" . A son of the ruler Shao-k'ang of Hsia, when he was enfeoffed as lord of K'uai-chi, cut his hair and decorated his body with designs in order to avoid the attack of serpents and dragons. The Wa, who are fond of diving into the water to get fish and shells, also decorated their bodies in order to keep away large fish and waterfowl. Later, however, the designs became merely ornamental. (tr. Tsunoda 1951:10)
"Grandees" translates Chinese dàfū 大夫 (lit. "great man")
"senior official; statesman" (cf. modern dàifu 大夫 "physician;
doctor"), which mistranslates Japanese imperial taifu 大夫 "5th-rank
courtier; head of administrative department; grand tutor" (the Nihongi
records that the envoy Imoko was a taifu). A tattooed Haniwa
statue, 4th-6th century, Kamiyasaku Tomb,
A second Wei history, the ca. 239-265 CE
Weilüe 魏略 "Brief
account of the Wei dynasty" is no longer extant, but some sections
(including descriptions of the Roman Empire) are quoted in the 429 CE
San Guo Zhi commentary by Pei Songzhi 裴松之. He quotes the Weilüe
that "Wō people call themselves posterity of Tàibó"
(倭人自謂太伯之後). Taibo was the uncle of
King Wen of Zhou
HOU HAN SHU
The ca. 432 CE Hou
Han Shu 後漢書 "Book of Later/Eastern Han"
covers the Later
The Wa dwell on mountainous islands southeast of Tai-fang in the middle of the ocean, forming more than one hundred communities . From the time of the overthrow of Chao-hsien by Emperor Wu (B.C. 140-87), nearly thirty of these communities have held intercourse with the Han court by envoys or scribes. Each community has its king, whose office is hereditary. The King of Great Wa resides in the country of Yamadai . (tr. Tsunoda 1951:1)
Comparing the opening descriptions of Wa in the Wei Zhi and Hou Han Shu clearly reveals that the latter is derivative. Their respective accounts of the dwarf, naked, and black-teethed peoples provide another example of copying.
Leaving the queen's land and crossing the sea to the east, after a voyage of one thousand li, the country of Kunu is reached, the people of which are of the same race as that of the Wa. They are not the queen's subjects, however. Four thousand li away to the south of the queen's land, the dwarf's country is reached; its inhabitants are three to four feet in height. After a year's voyage by ship to the southeast of the dwarf's country, one comes to the land of naked men and also to the country of black-teethed people ; here our communication service ends. (tr. Tsunoda 1951:3)
This Hou Han Shu account of Japan contains some historical details not found in the Wei Zhi.
In … , the Wa country Nu sent an envoy with tribute who called himself ta-fu . This country is located in the southern extremity of the Wa country. Kuang-wu bestowed on him a seal. In … , during the reign of An-ti (107-125), the King of Wa presented one hundred sixty slaves, making at the same time a request for an imperial audience. (tr. Tsunoda 1951:2)
Tsunoda (1951:5) notes support for the Hakata location of Nu/Na country in the 1784 discovery at Hakata Bay of a gold seal bearing the inscription 漢委奴國王, usually translated "Han King of the Wa country Nu." Although the name of the King of Wa in AD 107 does not appear in the above translation, his name is Suishō (帥升) according to the original text.
The 488 CE
Song Shu 宋書 "Book of Song" covers the brief history of
Liu Song Dynasty
The country of Wa is in the midst of the great ocean, southeast of Koguryŏ. From generation to generation, carry out their duty of bringing tribute. In … , the first Emperor said in a rescript: "Ts'an of Wa sends tribute from a distance of tens of thousands of li. The fact that he is loyal, though so far away, deserves appreciation. Let him, therefore, be granted rank and title." … When Ts'an died and his brother, Chen , came to the throne, the latter sent an envoy to the Court with tribute. Signing himself as King of Wa and General Who Maintains Peace in the East Commanding with Battle-Ax All Military Affairs in the Six Countries of Wa, Paekche, Silla, Imna, Chin-han and Mok-han, he presented a memorial requesting that his titles be formally confirmed. An imperial edict confirmed his title of King of Wa and General Who Maintains Peace in the East. … In the twentieth year , Sai , King of Wa, sent an envoy with tribute and was again confirmed as King of Wa and General Who Maintains Peace. In the twenty-eighth year , the additional title was granted of General Who Maintains Peace in the East Commanding with Battle-Ax All Military Affairs in the Six Countries of Wa, Silla, Imna, Kala, Chin-han and Mok-han. (99, tr. Tsunoda 1951:22-23)
The Song Shu gives detailed accounts of relations with Japan, indicating that the Wa kings valued their political legitimization from the Chinese emperors.
The 635 CE
Liang Shu 梁書 "Book of Liang", which covers history of
The Wa say of themselves that they are posterity of Tàibó. According to custom, the people are all tattooed. Their territory is over 12,000 li from Daifang . It is located approximately east of Kuaiji , though at an extremely great distance.
Later texts repeat this myth of Japanese descent from Taibo. The 648 CE Jin Shu 晉書 "Book of Jin" about the Jin Dynasty (265-420 CE) uses a different "call" verb, wèi 謂 "say; call; name" instead of yún 云 "say; speak; call", "They call themselves the posterity of Tàibó ". The 1084 CE Chinese universal history Zizhi Tongjian 資治通鑑 speculates, "The present-day Japan is also said to be posterity of Tàibó of Wu; perhaps when Wu was destroyed, a collateral branch of the royal family disappeared at sea and became Wo." .
The 636 CE
Sui Shu 隋書 "Book of Sui" records the history of the
Wa-kuo is situated in the middle of the great ocean southeast of Paekche and Silla, three thousand li away by water and land. The people dwell on mountainous islands. During the Wei dynasty, over thirty countries , each of which boasted a king, held intercourse with China. These barbarians do not know how to measure distance by li and estimate it by days. Their domain is five months' journey from east to west, and three months' from north to south; and the sea lies on all sides. The land is high in the east and low in the west. (tr. Tsunoda 1951:28)
In 607 CE, the
Sui Shu records that "King Tarishihoko" (a mistake for
"The Son of Heaven in the land where the sun rises addresses a letter to the Son of Heaven in the land where the sun sets. We hope you are in good health." When the Emperor saw this letter, he was displeased and told the chief official of foreign affairs that this letter from the barbarians was discourteous, and that such a letter should not again be brought to his attention. (tr. Tsunoda 1951:32)
In 608, the Emperor dispatched Pei Ching as envoy to Wa, and he returned with a Japanese delegation.
The Japanese Nihongi (22, tr. Aston 1972 2:136-9) also records these imperial envoys of 607 and 608, but with a differing Sino-Japanese historical perspective. It records more details, such as naming the envoy Imoko Wono no Omi and translator Kuratsukuri no Fukuri, but not the offensive Chinese translation. According to the Nihongi, when Imoko returned from China, he apologized to Suiko for losing Yang's letter because Korean men "searched me and took it from me." When the Empress received Pei, he presented a proclamation (tr. Aston 1972 2:137-8) contrasting Chinese Huángdì 皇帝 "Emperor" with Wōwáng 倭王 "Wa King", "The Emperor greets the Sovereign of Wa ." According to the Nihongi, Suiko gave Pei a different version of the imperial letter, contrasting Japanese Tennō 天皇 "Japanese Emperor" and Kōtei 皇帝 "Emperor" (Chinese tiānhuáng and huángdì) instead of using "Son of Heaven".
The Emperor of the East respectfully addresses the Emperor of the West. Your Envoy, P'ei Shih-ch'ing, Official Entertainer of the Department of foreign receptions, and his suite, having arrived here, my long-harbored cares were dissolved. This last month of autumn is somewhat chilly. How is Your Majesty? We trust well. We are in our usual health. (tr. Aston 1972 2:139)
Aston quotes the 797 CE Shoku Nihongi history that this 607 Japanese mission to China first objected to writing Wa with the Chinese character 倭.
"Wono no Imoko, the Envoy who visited China, (proposed to) alter this
term into Nippon, but the Sui Emperor ignored his reasons and would
not allow it. The term Nippon was first used in the period …
618-626." Another Chinese authority gives 670 as the date when Nippon
began to be officially used in China. (1972 2:137-8) The island
of "Wa" (倭, probably modern
The custom of writing "Japan" as Wa 倭 ended during the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE). Japanese scribes coined the name Nihon or Nippon 日本 circa 608–645 and replaced Wa 倭 with a more flattering Wa 和 "harmony; peace" around 756–757 CE (Carr 1992:6-7). The linguistic change is recorded in two official Tang histories.
The 945 CE Tang shu "Book of Tang" 唐書 (199A) has the oldest Chinese reference to Rìběn 日本. The "Eastern Barbarian" section lists both Wakoku 倭国 and Nipponkoku 日本国, giving three explanations: Nippon is an alternate name for Wa, or the Japanese disliked Wakoku because it was "inelegant; coarse" 不雅, or Nippon was once a small part of the old Wakoku.
The 1050 CE Xin Tang Shu 新唐書 "New Book of Tang", which has a Riben 日本 heading for Japan under the "Eastern Barbarians", gives more details.
Japan in former times was called Wa-nu. It is 14,000 li distant from
our capital, situated to the southeast of
Regarding the change in autonyms, the Xin Tang Shu says.
In … 670, an embassy came to the Court to offer congratulations on the conquest of Koguryŏ. Around this time, the Japanese who had studied Chinese came to dislike the name Wa and changed it to Nippon. According to the words of the (Japanese) envoy himself, that name was chosen because the country was so close to where the sun rises. Some say, (on the other hand), that Japan was a small country which had been subjugated by the Wa, and that the latter took over its name. As this envoy was not truthful, doubt still remains. was, besides, boastful, and he said that the domains of his country were many thousands of square li and extended to the ocean on the south and on the west. In the northeast, he said, the country was bordered by mountain ranges beyond which lay the land of the hairy men. (145, tr. Tsunoda 1951:40)
Subsequent Chinese histories refer to Japan as Rìběn 日本 and only mention Wō 倭 as an old name.
The earliest Korean reference to Japanese Wa (Wae in Korean) is the
Gwanggaeto Stele that was erected to honor King Gwanggaeto the
If Kokuryo could not destroy Paekche itself, it wished for someone else to do so. Thus, in another sense, the inscription may have been wishful thinking. At any rate, Wae denoted both the southern Koreans and people who lived on the southwest Japanese islands, the same Kaya people who had ruled both regions in ancient times. Wae did not denote Japan alone, as was the case later. (1997:34)
"It is generally thought that these Wae were from the archipelago," write Lewis and Sesay (2002:104), "but we as yet have no conclusive evidence concerning their origins."
THE WORD WA
This section's FACTUAL ACCURACY IS DISPUTED . Relevant discussion
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The Japanese endonym Wa 倭 "Japan" derives from the Chinese exonym
Wō 倭 "Japan, Japanese", a graphic pejorative
倭 AND 和 CHARACTERS
Most characters written with this wěi 委 phonetic are pronounced
* wèi 魏 ("ghost" radical ) "the state of Wei " * wēi 逶 ("motion" radical ) "serpentine; winding, curving" * wěi 萎 ("plant" radical ) "wilt; wither; atrophy; tire, grow weary; (metaphorically) decline, fade" * wěi 痿 ("sickness" radical ) "paralysis; impotence" * wěi 諉 ("speech" radical ) "shirk; shift blame (onto others)" * wèi 餧 ("food" radical ) "feed (animals)"
The unusual Wō 倭 "Japan" pronunciation of this wěi 委 phonetic element compares with:
* wō 踒 ("foot" radical ) "strain; sprain (sinew or muscle)" * wǒ 婑 ("woman" radical ) "beautiful"
A third pronunciation is found in the reading of the following character:
* ǎi 矮 ("arrow" radical ) "dwarf, short of stature; low; inferior"
Graphic replacement of the 倭 "dwarf Japanese" Chinese logograph became inevitable. Not long after the Japanese began using 倭 to write Wa ∼ Yamato 'Japan', they realized its 'dwarf; bent back' connotation. In a sense, they had been tricked by Chinese logography; the only written name for 'Japan' was deprecating. The chosen replacement wa 和 'harmony; peace' had the same Japanese wa pronunciation as 倭 'dwarf', and - most importantly - it was semantically flattering. The notion that Japanese culture is based upon wa 和 'harmony' has become an article of faith among Japanese and Japanologists. (1992:6)
In current Japanese usage, Wa 倭 "old name for Japan" is a variant
HANYU PINYIN wō
HOKKIEN POJ e
MIDDLE CHINESE /ʔˠiuᴇ/, /ʔuɑ/, /ʔuɑX/
ZHENGZHANG /*qoːl/, /*qoːlʔ/, /*qrol/
REVISED ROMANIZATION wae
KANA ワ (On ) やまと (Kun )
ROMANIZATION wa (On) yamato (Kun)
In Chinese, the character 倭 can be pronounced wēi "winding", wǒ
"an ancient hairstyle", or Wō "Japan". The first two pronunciations
are restricted to
* wōqī 倭漆 "
Reconstructed pronunciations of wō 倭 in
In Japanese, the
Although the etymological origins of Wa remain uncertain, Chinese
historical texts recorded an ancient people residing in the Japanese
The first "submissive; obedient" explanation began with the (121 CE)
The second etymology of wō 倭 meaning "dwarf; short person" has
possible cognates in ǎi 矮 "short (of stature); midget, dwarf; low",
wō 踒 "strain; sprain; bent legs", and wò 臥 "lie down; crouch;
sit (animals and birds)". Early Chinese dynastic histories refer to a
Zhūrúguó 侏儒國 "pygmy/dwarf country" located south of Japan,
associated with possibly
Since early Chinese information about Wo/Wa peoples was based largely on hearsay, Wang Zhenping (2005:9) says, "Little is certain about the Wo except they were obedient and complaisant."
The NEUTRALITY OF THIS SECTION IS DISPUTED . Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page . Please do not remove this message until conditions to do so are met . (November 2013) (Learn how and when to remove this template message )
An article by Michael Carr (1992:1) "compares how Oriental and Occidental lexicographers have treated the fact that Japan's first written name was a Chinese Wō < *ʼWâ 倭 'short/submissive people' insult." It evaluates 92 dictionary definitions of Chinese Wō 倭 to illustrate lexicographical problems with defining ethnically offensive words. This corpus of monolingual and bilingual Chinese dictionaries includes 29 Chinese-Chinese, 17 Chinese-English, 13 Chinese to other Western Languages, and 33 Chinese-Japanese dictionaries. To analyze how Chinese dictionaries deal with the belittling origins of Wō, Carr divides definitions into four types, abbreviated with Greek alphabet letters Alpha through Delta.
* Α = "dwarf; Japanese" * Β = "compliant; Japanese" * Γ = "derogatory Japanese" * Δ = "Japanese"
For example, Alpha (A) type includes both overt definitions like "The land of dwarfs; Japan" (Liushi Han-Ying cidian 劉氏漢英辭典 1978) and more sophisticated semantic distinctions like "(1) A dwarf. (2) Formerly, used to refer to Japan" (Lin Yutang\'s Chinese-English Dictionary of Modern Usage 1972). Beta (B) "compliant; Japanese" is illustrated by "demütig , gehorchen " (Praktisches zeichenlexikon chinesisch-deutsch-japanisch 1983). Gamma (Γ) "type definitions such as "depreciatingly Japanese" (e.g., A Beginner's Chinese-English Dictionary of the National Language (Gwoyeu) 1964) include usage labels such as "derogatory," "disparaging," "offensive," or "contemptuous". Some Γ notations are restricted to subentries like "Wōnú 倭奴 (in modern usage, derogatively) the Japs" (Zuixin shiyong Han-Ying cidian 最新實用和英辭典 1971). Delta (Δ) "Japanese" is the least informative type of gloss; for instance, "an old name for Japan" (Xin Han-Ying cidian 新漢英詞典 1979).
Carr evaluates these four typologies for defining the Chinese 倭 "bent people" graphic pejoration.
From a theoretical standpoint, A "dwarf" or B "submissive" type definitions are preferable for providing accurate etymological information, even though it may be deemed offensive. It is no transgression for an abridged Chinese dictionary to give a short Δ "Japan" definition, but adding "an old name for" or "archaic" takes no more space than adding a Γ "derogatory" note. A Δ definition avoids offending the Japanese, but misleads the dictionary user in the same way as the OED2 defining wetback and white trash without usage labels. (1992:12).
The table below (Carr 1992:31, "Table 8. Overall Comparison of Definitions") summarizes how Chinese dictionaries define Wō 倭.
DEFINITION TYPE CHINESE–CHINESE CHINESE–ENGLISH CHINESE–OTHER CHINESE–JAPANESE
Α "dwarf; Japanese" 3 (10%) 10 (59%) 5 (38%) 4 (12%)
Β "compliant; Japanese" 0 0 1 (8%) 4 (12%)
Γ derogatory Japanese 0 1 (6%) 3 (23%) 11 (33%)
Δ "Japanese" 26 (90%) 6 (35%) 4 (31%) 14 (42%)
TOTAL DICTIONARIES 29 17 13 33
Half of the Western language dictionaries note that Chinese Wō 倭 "Japanese" means "little person; dwarf", while most Chinese-Chinese definitions overlook the graphic slur with Δ type "ancient name for Japan" definitions. This demeaning A "dwarf" description is found more often in Occidental language dictionaries than in Oriental ones. The historically more accurate, and ethnically less insulting, "subservient; compliant" B type is limited to Chinese-Japanese and Chinese-German dictionaries. The Γ type "derogatory" notation occurs most often among Japanese and European language dictionaries. The least edifying Δ "(old name for) Japan" type definitions are found twice more often in Chinese-Chinese than in Chinese-Japanese dictionaries, and three times more than in Western ones.
Even the modern-day
* Ancient Japan portal
* Aston, William G. 1924. Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697. Charles E. Tuttle reprint 1972. * Carr, Michael. 1992. "Wa 倭 Wa 和 Lexicography," International Journal of Lexicography 5.1:1-30. * Forke, Alfred, tr. 1907. Lun-hêng, Part 1, Philosophical Essays of Wang Ch\'ung. Otto Harrassowitz. * Karlgren, Bernhard. 1923. Analytic Dictionary of Chinese and Sino-Japanese. Dover Reprint 1974. * Lee, Kenneth B. 1997. Korea and East Asia: The Story of a Phoenix. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-95823-X OCLC 35637112. * Lewis, James B. and Amadu Sesay. 2002. Korea and Globalization: Politics, Economics and Culture. Routledge. ISBN 0-7007-1512-6 OCLC 46908525 50074837. * Nakagawa Masako. 2003. The Shan-hai ching and Wo: A Japanese Connection, Sino-Japanese Studies 15:45-55. * Tsunoda Ryusaku, tr. 1951. Japan in the Chinese dynastic histories: Later Han through Ming dynasties. Goodrich, Carrington C., ed. South Pasadena: P. D. and Ione Perkins. * Wang Zhenping. 2005. Ambassadors from the Islands of Immortals: China-Japan Relations in the Han-Tang Period. University of Hawai'i Press. * Wilkinson, Endymion. 2000. Chinese History: a manual, revised and enlarged ed. Harvard University Asia Center.
Look up 倭 in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
* Unihan data for U+502D, Unihan Database entry for 倭
* English translation of the Wei Zhi, Koji Nakayama
* Hong, Wontack (1994). "Queen