Excerpted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
China (Zhonggúo) is an ancient cultural and
geographic entity in continental East Asia with some
offshore islands which since 1949 has been divided between
the People's Republic of China (governing Mainland China,
Hong Kong, and Macau) and the Republic of China (governing
Taiwan and several outlying Fujianese islands).
The term "China" can narrowly mean China proper, or,
more usually and inclusively, China proper and Manchuria,
Inner Mongolia, Tibet, and Xinjiang.
In the western news media, "China" is commonly used
synonymously with the People's Republic of China or
mainland China, while "Taiwan" is used to refer to the
Republic of China.
The historical capitals of China were mostly in the
The four most commonly designated capitals are Nanjing,
Beijing, Xi'an, and Luoyang.
Official languages once included Chinese, Mongol, and
The English word China and prefix Sino- probably came
from "Qin" (pronounced halfway between "Chin" and "Tsin").
Others believe that China may have been derived from
the Chinese word for Tea (Cha) or Silk.
In any circumstance, the word China passed through many
languages along the Silk Road before it finally reached
China was one of the earliest centres of human civilisation,
and became a large united country with an advanced culture
at a very early stage, outpacing the rest of the world
in areas like art and science.
China consisted of several hundred small kingdoms since
around 1000 BC.
All of which were unified under one emperor in 221 BC
by the Qin Dynasty.
Over the course of centuries, China underwent periods
of unity and disunity, order and disorder.
In the 18th century, China achieved a decisive technological
advantage over the peoples of Central Asia, while simultaneously
falling behind Europe technologically.
This set the stage for the 19th century, in which China
adopted a defensive posture against European imperialism
while simultaneously extending control into Central
In the early 20th century, the institution of the Emperor
of China disappeared, and China entered a period of
disunion started by the Chinese Civil War.
There are now two nations which lay formal claim to
the title of "China": the People's Republic of China
(also called "Mainland China") and the pre-revolution
government of the Republic of China which administers
Taiwan and several small islands of Fujian.
After the Qin Empire unification, China experienced
about 13 more dynasties, many of which includes extensive
system of kingdoms, principalities, dukedoms, earldoms,
However, ultimately, the emperor had the centralised
The emperor also consulted civil and martial ministers,
especially the prime minister.
Sometimes political power, however, fell into the hands
of the officials, eunuchs, or relatives.
Political relations with dependencies (tributary kingdoms)
were maintained by international marriages, military
aids, and gifts.
Originally in the Zhou Dynasty, China was the region
around the Yellow River.
The territory since then had been expanding from the
West outward in all directions, and was largest during
the Tang, Yuan, and Qing Dynasties.
From the Chinese point of view, the "Chinese" Empire
includes most parts of southern Russia in and Central
Asia during the strongest periods in Yuan, although
China was mere one of territories of the Mongol Empire
Like provincial administrators, some foreign monarchs
sent envoys to offer gifts to the Emperor of China and
the Emperor returned compliments to them.
The Chinese ostensibly saw that barbarians attached
themselves to the virtue of the Emperor, the foreign
people had different perspectives.
Since the end of the 19th century, China has tried to
interpret this relationship as suzerainty-dependency
one based on Western international law.
The Qing Empire reduced the territorial value of Great
Wall as a barrier of China proper.
In 1683, Taiwan became a part of the Qing Empire, originally
as a prefecture, then two.
Top-level political divisions of China have altered
as the administration changed.
Top levels included circuits and provinces.
Below that, there have been prefectures, subprefectures,
departments, commandries, districts, and townships.
Recent divisions include counties and cities.
China contains a large variety in landscapes, with mostly
plateaux and mountains in the west, and lower lands
on the east.
As a result, principal rivers flow from west to east
(Chang Jiang, the Huang He (of central-east), the Amur
(of northeast), etc), sometimes to south (Pearl River,
Mekong River, Brahmaputra, etc).
All rivers empty into the Pacific.
In the east, along the shores of the Yellow Sea and
the East China Sea are found extensive and densely populated
alluvial plains; the shore of the South China Sea is
more mountainous and southern China is dominated by
hill country and lower mountain ranges.
To the west, the north has a great alluvial plain, and
the south has a vast calcareous tableland traversed
by hill ranges of moderate elevation, with the Himalaya,
containing highest point Mount Everest.
The southwest also has high plateaux feature among the
more arid landscape of deserts such as the Takla-Makan
and the Gobi Desert, which has been expanding.
Due to a prolonged drought and perhaps poor agricultural
practices dust storms have become usual in the spring
During many dynasties, the southwestern border of China
has been the high mountains and deep valleys of Yunnan,
which separate modern China from Burma, Laos and Vietnam.
The climate of China varies greatly.
Southern China lie within the tropics.
The northern zone (in which lies Beijing), by contrast,
has a climate with winters of Arctic severity.
The central zone (in which Shanghai is situated) has
a generally temperate climate.
The Palaeozoic formations of China, excepting only the
upper part of the Carboniferous system, are marine,
while the Mesozoic and Tertiary deposits are estuarine
and freshwater or else of terrestrial origin.
Groups of volcanic cones occur in the Great Plain of
In the Liaodong and Shandong Peninsulas, there are basaltic
Over a hundred ethnic groups have existed in China.
Many of them were assimilated into neighbouring ethnicities.
Some, like the Hun, have left China and their current
whereabouts is unknown.
Several previously distinct ethnic groups have Sinicized
into the Han, making its population increasing dramatically.
The Han, however, had been speaking several virtually
China has largely been an atheist nation throughout
Today, China has about 100 million religious worshippers
(10% of the population):
Buddhists 72%, Muslims 11%, Protestants 10%, Catholics
5.10%, Taoist 1.5%, Orthodox Jews ??%
The earliest religions in China are: Ancestor worship:
A prevalent ritual even today. Shamanism: practised
by many ethnicities, including several states during
the Spring and Autumn Period.
Taoism is the only major Chinese religion that originated
Other popular religions such as Islam, Buddhism, and
Christianity were spread into China through the Silk
Road by travellers between the 5th and 7th centuries.
Buddhism came from India and has been very popular among
Chinese of all walks of life, admired by commoners,
and sponsored by emperors.
Christianity was spread by European or Middle-Eastern
travellers who came to China in 635 A.D., as documented
by the Nestorian Stone in Xi'an.
During the 1840's foreign missionaries spread Christianity
rapidly through the foreign occupied coastal cities.
Philosophy that have had extremely consequential impact
on the Chinese culture, literary or illiterate, stems
from Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism (in order of
Chinese literature have the longest continuous history
and had been more numerous than other cultures' for
centuries because of the Chinese invention of printmaking.
Prior to that, manuscripts of the Classics and religious
texts (mainly Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist) were
manually written by ink brushes and distributed.
To comment on these works, printed or written, scholars
formed numerous academies, many of which were sponsored
by the empire, and some royalties constantly participated
in the discussions.
Chinese philosophers, writers, and poets have been mostly
highly respected, and considered to be those preserving
and promoting the culture of the empire.
Some classical scholars, however, were noted for their
daring depictions of lives of the common people.
The Chinese created numerous musical instruments, such
as zheng, xiao, that erhu, that have spread around East
and Southeast Asia, especially to its dependencies.
Sheng became the mother of several Western free-reed
The Chinese characters have had many variants and styles
throughout the history of China, and was "simplified"
in mid-20th century in mainland China.
Bonsai is a millennia-old art that spread to Japan and
Technology and science
In addition to the above mentioned cultural inventions,
technological inventions from China include:
Printmaking / Printing Technology
Other areas of science are:
Chinese astrology and constellations were often used
for divination purposes. One of the main applications
of mathematics in China have been architecture and geography.
Alchemy was Taoist chemistry, very different from modern
Studies in biology has been extensive, and historic
records are consulted upon today, such as pharmacopoeias
of natural medicinal plants.
Traditional medicine and surgery have been advanced.
A well-known example is acupuncture.
However, autopsy was unacceptable, because of the belief
that the corpses should not be violated.
Nonetheless, there were several doctors who increased
the understanding of internal anatomy by violating this
This information was updated & correct in December
2003 E. & O.E.
All text is available under the terms of the GNU
Free Documentation License
Copyrights for details).
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