China has a very long history that can generally be divided by the many dynasties, beginning with the first known dynasty, Xia. The first major era in its history is Imperial China, which began with the Qin state in 221 BC, with the first Emperor Qin Shi Huang. The Qin Dynasty lasted only fifteen years until the Emperor's death. But during his short reign, Emperor Qin made many lasting changes to China, including standardizing the language, measurements, and currency.
The Qin Dynasty was followed by the Han Dynasty, which lasted from 206 BC to 220 AD. This dynasty was a period of expansion, with military campaigns conquering parts of Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia, and Central Asia. During this period the Silk Road was established. With the collapse of the Han Dynasty, China became divided into the Three Kingdoms.
In 580 AD, China was reunited under the short-lived Sui Dynasty, followed by the Tang and Song Dynasties. During these Dynasties, Chinese culture thrived. During this period in the tenth and eleventh centuries, with the advancements in rice cultivation, China saw food surpluses, and its population quickly doubled.
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The Ming Dynasty, established in 1368 and lasting until 1644, saw another golden age of China,with a strong economy and many developments. The last imperial dynasty of China, the Qing Dynasty, remained until 1912, and saw the expansion of China into Central Asia, and the start of defense against European imperialism.
In the 1800s, China was involved in the Two Opium Wars, which were fought against Britain and then France joined in during the second. The first Opium War was from 1839 to 1842, and the second lasted from 1856 to 1860. While these wars focused on the opium trade, they were largely about the issue of European imperialism.
One result was the Taiping Rebellion, one of the bloodiest civil wars in history, with around 20 million lives lost. The war started in 1851 and ended in 1862, and was won by the Qing forces, but followed by several other rebellions. The Chinese Diaspora began in the nineteenth century, motivated by the famine of 1876 to 1879, which caused many deaths. All of these factors added to the population decline.
On January 1, 1912, the Republic of China was established, ending Imperial China. General Yuan Shikai became president, but when he tried to proclaim himself Emperor of China in 1915, he was forced to reestablish the republic. After his death, China split into regional governments, and was reunified in the 1920s by Chiang Kai-shek, in what was called the Northern Expedition. Political divisions persisted, and communists fought for control from the weakened Republic of China, leading to the Chinese Civil War - the third largest war in history after World War I and World War II. The Chinese Civil War began in April 1927, and was fought between the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT), the governing party of Republic of China, and the Communist Party (CPC). The war divided China into two: Republic of China in Taiwan, and the People's Republic of China in mainland China. The War of Liberation (or the Third Internal Revolutionary War) lasted from 1947 to 1949, and is considered the end of the civil war, though no armistice has been signed.
The People's Republic of China was proclaimed on October 1, 1949 by Mao Zedong. The People's Republic of China maintains that they control Taiwan, while the Republic of China still claims mainland China. However, the People's Republic of China took the Republic of China's place in the United Nations in 1971.
Some of the most famous events in China's history are the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre of 1989, also known as the June Fourth Incident. Demonstrations took place in Beijing from April 15, 1989, by a large group of people (mostly students) who wanted economic and political reform, including freedom of the press. Martial law was declared, and the People's Liberation Army violently cleared the square - killing anywhere from several hundred to thousands of civilians.
China is the second largest country in the world by land area (after Russia). Located in Eastern Asia, China borders fourteen countries (tying Russia for highest number of bordering countries): Vietnam, Laos, Burma, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia, and North Korea. China also shares maritime boundaries South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
A variety of landscapes are present in China, from plains and grasslands to hills and mountain ranges. The major rivers in China include the Yellow River, Yangtze River, and Xi. Other geographical features include part of the Himalayas, and Mount Everest, the highest point of China, as well as high plateaus, and the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts.
People's Republic of China is one of the five communist states left in the world. China's form of government has been called communist as well as socialist and authoritarian, with its restrictions on freedoms, including internet, press, religion, and reproductive rights.
The members of the People's Congresses are directly elected, and the National People's Congress in China is indirectly elected by the People's Congress, so there are limited democratic processes in the party.
China is divided into twenty-two provinces, and Taiwan would make that twenty-three. There are also five subdivisions, autonomous regions based on minority groups, four municipalities, and two special administrative regions: Hong Kong, Macau, which are mostly autonomous.
China has plenty to offer all types of travelers, from historical monuments and big cities, to beaches and diverse landscapes, as such a large country. Big cities like Beijing and Shanghai offer cultural experiences, low-cost shopping, nightlife, and historic sites. The regional varieties of food in China can be sampled across the country, as well as food influenced by other nearby countries.
The education system in the People's Republic of China is run by the state's Ministry of Education. Education is mandatory from ages six to fifteen. The Chinese government has pledged to provide free education to students for nine years, from elementary school to middle school. Most children residing in urban parts of China also attend high school for three years after middle school. The education system in China has produced good results, with math, science, and literacy programs at the top of world rankings.
The majority of universities in China are public, with only around 6 percent of students attending private institutions. There are a large number of schools of higher education in China.
The Song Dynasty was the first government ever to issue paper money and create a permanent standing navy.
China's four great inventions are the compass, gunpowder, papermaking, and printing.
The Pekingese dog, which has Chinese origins and is named for Beijing, was the dog of Chinese emperors.
Silk originated in China before 3500 BC, and today, the People's Republic of China is the biggest producer of silk.
Since 1978, the People's Republic of China has had a one-child policy, which limits the number of children a couple is allowed to have in an effort to slow population growth.
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