In Mandarin Chinese, 中 (Pinyin: zhōng 🔊) means “centre”, “middle”, “medium”, “within”, “among” and so on. It is also short for 中国 (Zhōngguó 🔊), one of the names of China, known in its (not quite accurate) English translation as “Middle Kingdom”. Combining 中国 with 人, we get 中国人 (Zhōngguórén 🔊), “a Chinese (person)” or “the Chinese (people)”.
According to one theory, 中 is derived from an image of a flagpole:
Based on archaeological evidence, the middle box has been interpreted as a drum (建鼓). This flagpole with a drum was placed in the center of a field to gather people and to detect the direction of the wind.Many historical forms of the character support this explanation. However, another theory is simpler and makes this character easier to remember:
It has also been interpreted as an arrow in the center of a target.