Middle Kingdom or Middle Country, Mandarin Zhongguo, Chinese name for China. It dates from c.1000 BC, when it designated the Chou empire situated on the North China Plain. The Chou people, unaware of high civilizations in the West, believed their empire occupied the middle of the earth, surrounded by barbarians. Since 1949, when the Communists took power, the official name for China has been Zhonghua renmin gongheguo [middle glorious people's republican country] or, in English, the People's Republic of China. The term Middle Kingdom is also used for the XII dynasty of ancient Egypt (see The Old and Middle Kingdoms under Egypt).