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China Culture, Geography and History
Culture and Customs of China
As one of the world's oldest cultures, China has a fascinating array of cultural treasures to observe, taste, admire and learn about. Ancient mythology and spirituality is infused throughout the traditional dance, art, music and literature of China, with many contemporary customs being directly attributed to century-old traditions. While modern China is changing at a rapid pace, with technological advances and infrastructure cropping up at a speedy rate, much of China still clings to age-old traditions and ways of life. This culture clash is particularly evident when visiting large cities like Beijing that are home to ancient hutongs, modern skyscrapers, time-worn temples and glorious UNESCO World Heritage sites, which can all be found near each other. Culturally, China has given the world everything from martial arts to mah jong, with the greater world enjoying China's rich cuisine, delicate art, evocative dance and enlightening philosophy. Although the language may be impenetrable for new comers and some of the customs and foods a little strange to western tastes, China's culture remains one of the world's most fascinating.
Geography and Environment of China
As one of the world's largest countries, China's vast land mass spreads across a large part of northern Asia and includes a diverse range of terrain and people. With fertile rice terraces, inhospitable desert, towering mountain ranges, earthy steppes and life-giving rivers and channels, China is a revolving door of natural environments. The diversity of topography is also matched by the different ways of living that have evolved over the years. Contemporary China is a mixture of sleepy villages, busy port cities, burgeoning industrial centres and thriving metropolises.
History and Government of China
As one of the world's oldest civilisations, China has an intriguing history that spans thousands of years. The Yellow River is known as the Cradle of Chinese Civilisation as it is thought that Chinese civilisation originated on the banks of the river. China's early history is dominated by periods of dynastic rule, fragmentation and imperialistic expansion, with each dynasty contributing something different to the annals of history. Construction of the Great Wall of China was thought to have started during the Qin Dynasty, with the Ming Dynasty enhancing the wall at a later stage. The Tang Dynasty is known as a time of prosperity and artistic expression, the Song Dynasty is famed for being a time of scientific and technological discovery, and Kublai Khan's Yuan Dynasty saw an overall population decline that has been attributed to everything from an administration error to the arrival of the Bubonic Plague. With the Yuan Dynasty being overthrown by the Ming Dynasty in 1368, population numbers began to increase again and urbanisation grew quite rapidly. During this time, private enterprise flourished, with small-scale paper, silk and cotton trading providing trade income to the masses. The following period of rule known as the Qing Dynasty stretched from 1644 to 1911. This is generally seen as a time of rebellion and upheaval with the Taiping Rebellion, Nien Rebellion, Panthay Rebellion and Boxer Rebellion all testing the Qing's ability to rule. Thankfully, remnants of most of these periods of history can be found in China today.
The Republic of China was formed in Nanjing in 1912 after a military uprising. During the following years, leadership changed hands many times until the People's Liberation Army succeeded in ousting the US backed Chiang Kai-Shek after a long and bloody battle. Mao Zedong became Chairman (leader) of the People's Republic of China, which was declared in 1949, and China's society was systematically converted to communism, with land reforms and collectivisation of agriculture changing the structure of society and daily life dramatically. Mao's death in 1976 triggered leadership changes and economic reforms which had impacts that have rippled out into the future. More recently, China has seen Hong Kong and Macau returned from foreign rule, has enjoyed a period of increased economic growth and basked in the international spotlight as the host city of the 2008 Summer Olympics.
China at a glance
- Beijing (population 13 million)
- 1.3 billion
- Mandarin, Cantonese and many dialects
- (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Urumqi
- Type A (North American/Japanese 2-pin), Type C (European 2-pin), Type I (Australian/New Zealand & Chinese/Argentine 2/3-pin)
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