The People’s Republic of China or China is located in the continent of Asia. It is bound in the North by Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Russia; in the East on land by North Korea and across the sea by South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines; in the South by Vietnam, Laos, Burma, Bhutan, and Nepal; and in the West by India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Kyrgyztan.
Administratively China is divided into 22 Provinces (shengs), five Autonomous Regions (zizhiqus), four Central Government Controlled Municipalities (shihs) and two Special Autonomous Regions (Hong Kong and Macau). The country claims sovereignty over Taiwan as its 23rd Province.
Despite its large longitudinal extent, the country has only one time zone, CST - China Standard Time (UTC +8) and it does not utilize daylight saving time.
The geographic coordinates of the country are 35 degrees 00 minutes north and 105 degrees 00 minutes east. The total area of the country is 9,596,961 sq km and this makes it the 3rd largest country in the world. Of this total; the land area is 9,569,901 sq km while the remaining 27,060 sq km is covered by water.
The northernmost point of the country is Mohe Village in the Heilongjiang Province and the southernmost undisputed point is Hai’an in Guangdong Province, while the disputed southernmost point is Zengmu Ansha or James Shoal in Spratly Islands. The easternmost point is Fuyuan County in Heilongjiang Province, and the westernmost point is Akto County in Xinjiang Province.
The highest point in the country is Mount Everest in Tingri County, Shigatse (Xigaze) Area of Tibet Autonomous Region which is 8,850 m high, while the lowest point is Turpan Pendi in the Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang which lies at 154 m below sea level.
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The vast geographical extent of the country is covered with diverse landforms which include hills, mountains, high plateaus, deserts, plains and deltas.
The Himalayas lie to the South and West, and are home to some of the highest mountains in the country including Mt. Everest also called Zhumulangma or Qomolangma; Mt. K2 also called Chogo Ri; Namjagbarwa Peak; Minya Konka; Meili Snow Mountains; Mt. Kailash; The Daocheng-Sanshen Mountain group; Mt. Emei; Mt. Huashan and Mt. Huangshan.
China is said to have more than 22,000 rivers, out of which the major ones are the Yangtze River (Changjiang), Yellow River (Huanghe), Heilongjiang River, Songhuajiang River, Zhujiang River (The Pearl), Brahmaputra River (Yaluzangbujiang), Lancang River (Lancang Jiang), Nujiang River, Hanjiang River (Han Jiang), and Liaohe River (Liao He). The Yangtze River is the longest river in the country. Most of the rivers originate in the west and flow eastwards.
Freshwater lakes in the country are mostly found in the middle-lower Yangtze Plain and include Poyang, Dongting, Taihu, and Hongze. The lakes found in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau such as Qinghai, Nam Co, and Siling Co, are saltwater lakes.
The total estimated population of China for the year 2014 is 1.36 billion, making it the most populous country in the world.
For the year 2014, the estimated birthrate is 12.17 births per 1,000, and the death rate is 7.44 deaths per 1,000 of population, while the infant mortality rate is 14.79 deaths per 1,000 live births. The sex ratio is estimated to be 1.06 males per female and the growth rate of the population is estimated at 0.44%.
The life expectancy at birth in China is 75.15 years (2014 estimate). Estimated expenditure on health care for the year 2011 was 5.2% of the total gross domestic product (GDP).
Any person above the age of 15 who can read and write is considered literate. The literacy rate in China is 95.1% (2010 estimate).
The estimated figures for the year 2014 for age structure in China shows that 17.1% of the population consists of children between 0-14 years, 14.7% of the population is in the early working age between 15-24 years, 47.2% of the population is in the prime working age between 25-54 years, 11.3% of the population is in the mature working age between 55-64 years, and 9.4% of the population is in the elderly age of 65 years and over.
As per the 2013 estimate, 53% of the total population in China is classified as urban population, while remaining 47% is classified as rural population.
Officially China is an atheist country. However, followers of Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Christianity, as well as other religions are found in the country.
The languages spoken in China are Chinese or Mandarin, Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghainese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects and other minority languages. The official language of the country is Mandarin, but some of the provinces have their own official languages. Thus, Zhuang in Guangxi Zhuang province, Yue in Guangdong province, Mongolian in Nei Mongol province, Uighur in Xinjiang Uygur province, Kyrgyz in Xinjiang Uyghur province, and Tibetan in Xizang (Tibet) are all officially used.
The ethnic groups of the country consist mainly of Han Chinese and Zuang. Other groups found are Hui, Manchu, Uighur, Miao, Yi, Tujia, Tibetan, Mongol, Dong, Buyei, Yao, Bai, Korean, Hani, Li, Kazakh, Dai, and other nationalities.
History of China
The country has one of the oldest civilizations in the world. There are several ways in which the classification of the historical periods in China can be attempted.
One way is to take into account the broad historical periods – the period of The Ancient Dynasties, The Imperial Era, The Emergence of Modern China, the period of Republican China and the period of the People’s Republic of China.
Another way could be to divide the periods per the stages that the society has gone through – the periods of the Primitive Society, Slave Society, Feudal Society, Semi-feudal and Semi-colonial Society, and Socialist Society.
Or a classification can be done by the periods of the different dynasties that have ruled over the country:
- ca. 2000 - 1500 BC: Xia Dynasty was established by Qi, the son of Yu the Great.
- 1700 - 1027 BC: Shang Dynasty was established by Tang and ruled by 31 emperors.
- 1027 - 771 BC: Western Zhou was founded by Zhou Wuwang (Ji Fa) after defeating Shang.
- 770 - 221 BC: Eastern Zhou.
- 221 - 207 BC: Qin Dynasty was established by Emperor Qin Shi Huang who is best known for the army of terracotta warriors in his tomb complex in Xian.
- 206 BC - AD 9: Western Han Dynasty.
- AD 9 - 24: The Xin Dynasty was established by Wang Mang.
- AD 25 - 220: Eastern Han Dynasty.
- AD 220 - 280: Three Kingdoms (220-265: Wei Dynasty, 221-263: Shu Dynasty, 229-280: Wu Dynasty ruled in China.)
- AD 265 - 316: Western Jin Dynasty was established by Sima Yan.
- AD 317 - 420: Eastern Jin Dynasty was founded by Sima Rui.
- AD 420 - 588: Southern and Northern Dynasties
[386-588: Northern Dynasties (386-533: Northern Wei Dynasty, 534-549: Eastern Wei Dynasty, 535-557: Western Wei Dynasty, 550-577: Northern Qi Dynasty, 557-588: Northern Zhou Dynasty)]
- AD 581 - 617: Sui Dynasty.
- AD 618 - 907: Tang Dynasty.
- AD 907 - 960: Five Dynasties (907-923: Later Liang Dynasty, 923-936: Later Tang Dynasty, 936-946: Later Jin Dynasty, 947-950: Later Han Dynasty, 951-960: Later Zhou Dynasty.)
- AD 907 - 979: Ten Kingdoms.
- AD 960 - 1279: Song Dynasty (960 - 1127: Northern Song Dynasty was established by Zhao Kuangyin, 1127 - 1279: Southern Song Dynasty was established by Zhao Gou.)
- AD 916 - 1125: Liao Dynasty was established by Yelv Abaoji.
- AD 1038 - 1227: Western Xia Dynasty was founded by the Tanguts (Dangxiang) people.
- AD 1115 - 1234: Jin Dynasty was founded by the Jurchen people.
- AD 1279 - 1368: Yuan Dynasty was founded by the Mongol, Kublai Khan.
- AD 1368 - 1644: Ming Dynasty was founded by Zhu Yuan-zhang and ruled by 19 emperors.
- AD 1644 - 1911: Qing Dynasty was established by the Manchu people.
- AD 1911 - 1949: Republic of China (in mainland China.)
- AD 1949 -: Republic of China (in Taiwan.)
- AD 1949 -: People's Republic of China
- 21st to 17th century BC: Xia, the first hereditary dynasty in Chinese ancient history was established by forming a league of different tribes.
- 11th century BC to 771 BC: The Han Chinese nationality came into being.
- 476 to 221 BC: This was an era of conflict between the seven major states of Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhao, Wei and Qin.
- 221 to 207 BC: King Ying Zheng built the first Great Wall of China. Standardization of weights and measures as well as the Chinese characters for the entire country was done.
- 206 BC to 24 AD: Great improvements in agriculture, handicrafts and commerce took place during this period.
- 25 to 220 AD: The Silk Road to Europe was opened. Buddhism was introduced in China and Taoism was founded in the country.
- 220 to 280 AD: The phase saw confrontations between the three kingdoms of Wei, Shu and Wu.
- 581 to 618 AD: The Imperial Examination System was founded.
- 618 to 907 AD: Under successive emperors of the Tang Dynasty, this period saw great achievements in politics, economy, military, culture and diplomacy. It also saw China’s influence spreading around the neighboring countries as well as around the world.
- 1271 to 1368 AD: For the first time in Chinese History a minority regime was established by the Mongols. Beijing became the capital of China and westerners including Marco Polo visited the country. This was also the period when the Great Wall of China was completed.
- 1644 to 1911: The Chinese Empire reached its zenith at the beginning of this period with the annexation of Tibet, Mongolia, and the present day Xinjiang. The ‘Boxer Rebellion’ sought to establish traditional rule and drive out the foreigners but was defeated by foreign intervention. At the end of this period China became a semi-colony and semi-feudal society.
- 1912 to 1949: Over 2000 years of feudal system came to an end. On 1 October 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
- 1950 to 2000: The five-year economic plan, the ‘Great Leap Forward’ was launched and abandoned. Large-scale revolt was suppressed in Tibet. Economic reforms introduced by Deng Xiaoping put China on the road to transformation. The Cultural Revolution resulted in massive social, economic and political upheaval. In 1979, the government imposed the One-Child Policy to curb the growing population. China opened its door to foreign investment with its ‘Open-door Policy’ in the late 80s, however the Tiananmen Square incident where 200 students were killed during protests lead to international outrage and was followed by sanctions. In 1997, Hong Kong reverted back to Chinese control.
- In 2003, Astronaut Yang Liwei went into space in China’s first manned spacecraft.
- In 2006, the Three Gorges Dam was completed. The world’s highest train route the China-Tibet railway line begun its operation.
- In 2008, China hosted the Olympic Games in Beijing.
- In 2013, the Communist Party leadership announced the relaxation of the One-Child Policy.
- In 2014, China's trade surplus jumped to USD 31.9 billion.
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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