What is the first name that comes to mind when talking about the most populated country, an ancient civilization which boasts of one of the wonders of the world, , a culture which stands the test of time and whose inventions speak volumes about its modernity? Indeed the country is China. Officially known as People’s Republic of China, it lies in the Asian continent and borders more than ten countries. Chinese history is divided into dynasties, each one of which is marked by a period of rule by the emperors. The first emperor of China was from the Qin dynasty which began in 221 B.C while the last emperor was overthrown in 1912. The Great Wall of China was built in between 220–206 B.C by Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. The ancient country of China was ahead of other countries in terms of inventions in the field of science, technology, maths and astronomy. Paper, magnetic compass, printing, porcelain, silk and gunpowder are Chinese inventions. Home to one of the oldest civilizations, it has recently become a modern nation. The vast and diverse territory of China is endowed with the most beautiful, natural scenic beauty as well. Let us learn more about China, the land of inventions.

Where is it located?

China is a country in south–east Asia, bordering the East China Sea, Korea Bay, Yellow Sea and the South China Sea, between North Korea and Vietnam. Out of its total area of 9,596,960 sq. km, area occupied by land is about 9,326,410 sq. km whereas water occupies about 2,70,550 sq. km. It lies between the geographic coordinates 35°N latitude and 105°E longitude. It borders countries such as Afghanistan (91 km), Bhutan (477 km), Burma (2,129 km), India (2,659 km), Kazakhstan (1,765 km), North Korea (1,352 km), Kyrgyzstan (1,063 km), Laos (475 km), Mongolia (4,630 km), Nepal (1,389 km), Pakistan (438 km), Russia (northwest 46 km), Russia (northeast 4,133 km), Tajikistan (477 km) and Vietnam( 1,279 km).  Stretching a coastline of about 14,500 km, it is slightly smaller than US and ranks 4th in the world.

How is its topography and climatic conditions?

China enjoys an extremely diverse climate. The southern region of China has a tropical climate whereas the northern region has an almost subarctic type of climate. Its terrain is mostly mountains, high plateaus, deserts and plains in the west, deltas and hills in the east.   The lowest point of elevation is the Turpan Pendi at 154 m and the highest point of elevation is Mount Everest at 8,850 m (highest point on earth above sea level). Natural resources found here are coal, iron ore, petroleum, natural gas, mercury, tin, tungsten, antimony, manganese, molybdenum, vanadium, magnetite, aluminium, lead, zinc, rare earth elements, uranium, hydropower potential and arable land. Natural hazards such as frequent typhoons (almost five every year), damaging floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, droughts, land subsidence and volcanism (now inactive) affect the country. Also, China faces environmental issues like air pollution, acid rains and excessive production of carbon dioxide, water shortage, water pollution, deforestation, soil erosion, desertification and trading in endangered species.

What is its flora and fauna like?

Certain isolated areas of China support the world’s richest and varied collections of flora. The gingko (rare), cathaya and metasequoia tree (almost extinct) are found in China along with a variety of azalea, primrose, peony and gentian. In the needle–leaf forests, trees such as larch, Asian White Birch, Scotch Pine and Korean Pine grow. Deciduous, conifers and cypresses are found at high altitudes and bamboo at the lower levels along with broadleaf evergreen trees, which give way to natural grasslands and shrubs in the drier areas. Animals found in China include the rare mammal Panda, golden–haired monkey, tiger, river dolphin, alligator, rare David’s deer, white–lipped deer, rare white bear and lancelet. Birds such as mandarin duck, white crowned long–tailed pheasant, golden pheasant, Derby’s parakeet, yellow–backed sunbird, red–billed leiothrix and red–crowned crane are found here.      

What is its overall culture?

China is composed of a homogenous society where a major part of the population shares one language, culture and history. Earlier, the role of women was limited to the domestic front while men had dominated all other fields. But, modern society has brought about changes and women now are actively involved in all spheres of society. Marriages are arranged by parents and matchmakers and choosing their own spouse is also an emotional as well as a practical decision. Weddings are lavish, of western style and paid by groom’s family. The legal age for marriage is twenty for women and twenty-two for men. Nuclear families are common, but extended families often stay together. Under the Communist rule, women are encouraged to take jobs while grandparents look after the children. Obedience to elders is a very important part of the Chinese culture and refusing a request is considered very rude. Physical touch between men and women is limited and people of the same sex hold hands when meeting. Visiting is an important part of their social life and it is customary to bring a small gift when visiting.

Which are the religions followed and languages spoken?

The language spoken by majority of the Chinese is standard Chinese or Mandarin. However, Putonghua is its official language, which is based on the Beijing dialect. Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghainese), Min Bei (Fuzhou), Min Nan (Hokkien–Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan and Hakka dialects are spoken by the minority groups. Majority of the Chinese population is not affiliated to any religion and follow the Communist way of life.  In addition, there are Buddhists, Muslims, folk religions, Hindus, Jewish and some Taoists. Officially, China is atheist since 2010.                    

What are their food habits?

Rice is the staple food of the people in China. In dry areas of the north and west, wheat is the staple diet. Usually, breakfast consists of noodles or wheat bread. In southern China, the day starts with rice porridge or congee served with shrimp, vegetables and pickles. Lunch and breakfast are the same. Evening meal is special and includes soup as the last course. ‘Wok’, a metal pan with curved bottom is used to cook food. Meat being expensive is served occasionally. Chinese cuisine can be broken into four regional varieties namely the Shanghai, Beijing, Shandong and Hunan. Beijing and Shandong specialities are Beijing duck served with pancake and plum sauce, sweet and sour carp and bird’s nest soup. Shanghai cuisine is known for seafood and cold meat dishes with less oil whereas food is spicy and oily from the Hunan region. One of the very popular dishes is shrimp with salt and garlic, frogs’ legs and smoked duck. Cuisine from Canton is also very popular such as fried rice along with seafood, vegetables, roast pork, chicken and steamed fish. Dim sum is a very popular appetizer. As a result of wars and famines which led to scarcity of food in the past, the Chinese are used to eating parts and species of animals which, unlike people from other cultures, such as fish head, eyeballs, bird’s feet and saliva, dog and cat meat. The most common beverage is tea. The Chinese are also fond of sweet soft drinks and beer. On special occasions and family gatherings, dumplings and moon cakes (pastries) are served.

What are its economic features?

China has progressed from a closed, centrally planned system to a more market–oriented system that plays a major role in global business and economy. Despite facing many economic challenges, China has managed to implement many economic reforms. It leads the world in most of its agricultural products such as rice, wheat, potatoes, corn, peanuts, tea, millet, barley, apples, cotton, oilseed, pork and fish. Industries which contribute to its development are  mining and ore processing, iron, steel, aluminium, other metals, coal, machine building, armaments, textiles and apparels, petroleum, cement, chemicals, fertilizers, consumer products, ( including footwear, toys and electronics), food processing, transportation equipment, including automobiles, rail cars and locomotives, ships, aircrafts, telecommunications equipments, commercial space launch vehicles and satellites. Exports from China include electrical and other machinery including data processing equipment, apparel, furniture, textiles and integrated circuits to Hong Kong, US, Japan and South Korea. On the other hand China imports electrical and other machinery, oil and mineral fuels, nuclear reactor, boiler machinery components, optical and medical equipment, metal ores, motor vehicles and soy beans from South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, US, Germany and Australia.

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