Home » China Travel Guide » China Facts

China Facts

China is referred to as "Zhong Guo" in Chinese, which means the "Middle Kingdom". China was believed to be the center of the universe in ancient times. In general terms, China refers to a country in Eastern Asia where a diverse group of people share the same Chinese civilization that originated in the Central Plains (an area consisting of the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River). The overwhelming majority of the population of China is made up of the Han Chinese and Mandarin is the most frequently used language. The Han Chinese and other ethnic groups living in the vast expanse of the Chinese territory make up the Chinese nation, collectively known as the Chinese.

China is the only country that has an officially-recorded history. About 4000 years ago the tribes who dominated in the Central Plains later evolved into countries and dynasties. The following centuries saw the rise and fall of various dynasties, among which the Xia, Shang, Zhou, Han, Jin, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties lasted for significant spans of time. Over the long course of Chinese history the rulers of the Central Plains had been incessantly at war and otherwise interacting with the northern nomads, which led to the unification of the Chinese nation.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Revolution of 1911 ended the feudal imperial regime in China and established the republican regime. After the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, the system of the People's Congress was established on the mainland.

China boasts a splendid history and culture. Traditional Chinese art forms include opera, calligraphy and traditional Chinese painting. Major traditional Chinese festivals include the Spring Festival, the Lantern Festival, the Tomb Sweeping Day Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival and the Double Ninth Festival.

Plains

China's terrain descends in terraces from the west to the east, step by step. Such "steps" are referred to as the first terrace, the second terrace and the third terrace.

China's three major plains are on the third terrace in the south-eastern region. These have their own particular features as a result of different locations, the way they were formed, and their weather conditions.

These three major plains, ranging from the north to the south of the Chinese territory, are very fertile and constitute China's major farming areas. Other plains also include important farming areas, such as the Chengdu Plain, the Fenhe River Plain, the Weihe River Plain, the Pearl River Delta and the West Taiwan Plain.

Location, Constituents and Features of the Three Major Plains

 

Location

Features

Formation

The Northeast Plain

North-eastern China

1. The largest plain in China
2. Altitude: less than 200 meters

Sanjiang Plain
Songnen Plain
Liaohe Plain

The North Plain

Northern China

1. The second largest plain in China
2. Flat

Haihe River Plain
Huanghuai Plain

The Middle-Lower Yangtze River Plain

Eastern and central China regions

1. Low and flat
2. Crisscrossed by a network of rivers and lakes

Jianghan Plain
Dongting Lake Plain
Boyang Lake Plain
Jianghuai Plain
Yangtze River Delta

Basins

China's four major basins are distributed through the second terrace. Their features vary according to their location. The famous Turpan Basin, the lowest basin in China (-155m), is also situated in the second terrace.

Location and Features of the Four Major Basins

 

Location

Features

The Tarim Basin

Southern Xinjiang

1. Covers a large area
2. Vast desert  
3. The terrain descends from the west to the east

The Junggar Basin

Northern Xinjiang

1. The second largest basin in China
2. Aeolian landform
3. The terrain descends from the east to the west

The Qaidam Basin

North western Qinghai Province

1. High altitude
2. Saline lakes and marshes in the southeast

The Sichuan Basin

Eastern Sichuan Province

1.The terrain descends from north to south, dotted with plains, hills and low mountains
2. Crisscrossed by a network of rivers

Plateaus

China's four major plateaus are to be found in the first and second terraces. The shapes are defined by altitude, location, the way they were formed and external erosion.

Location and Features of the Four Major Plateaus

 

Location

Features

The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

South-western China

1. High altitude; many snow-covered mountains and glaciers
2. Cover a large area
3. Big mountains on the plateau

The Inner Mongolia Plateau

Northern China

1. Few mountain ranges
2. High altitude
3. A lot of grasslands and Gobi desert

The Loess Plateau

Central China

1. Covered with thick, porous loess
2. Fragmented landforms
3. Little vegetation as a result of long-term scouring by rainfall and streams

The Yunnan-Guizhou
Plateau

South-western China

1. Rugged landforms
2. Dotted with canyons and basins
3. Covered with limestone

Mountain Ranges

A mountain range is geographic area that contains numerous geologically related mountains. The mountain ranges constitute the framework of China's topography and serve as the boundaries that distinguish different geographic areas. In general, there are five directions in which China's mountains ranges extend.

  • West to east (three series of mountain ranges): the Tianshan-Yinshan Mountain Ranges in the north, the Kunlunshan-Qinling Ranges in the middle and the Nanling Mountain Range in the south (altogether five actual mountain ranges)
  • North-east to south-west (three series of mountain ranges, mostly in Eastern China): the Greater Khingan-Taihangshan-Wushan-Xuefengshan Mountain Ranges in the west, the Changbaishan-Wuyishan Mountain Ranges in the middle, Taiwan Mountain Range in the east
  • North-west to south-east (mostly in western China): the Altai Mountain Range, the Qilianshan Mountain Range
  • South to north: Hengduanshan Mountain Range in south-western China, Helanshan Mountain Range in north-western China Two other systems of arch mountain ranges consist of interlinked mountain ranges that extend in different directions. The most famous is the Himalayan Mountain Range, which extends 2400 kilometers along the Chinese-Indian and Chinese-Nepalese borders with an average altitude of 6000 meters. Its main peak, Qomolongma, rises 8,848.13 meters above sea level and is known as the highest peak in the world.

Two other systems of arch mountain ranges consist of interlinked mountain ranges that extend in different directions. The most famous is the Himalayan Mountain Range, which extends 2400 kilometers along the Chinese-Indian and Chinese-Nepalese borders with an average altitude of 6000 meters. Its main peak, Qomolongma, rises 8,848.13 meters above sea level and is known as the highest peak in the world.

Society

The structure of traditional Chinese society was characterized by its social stratification of four hierarchies:

scholar-bureaucrats at the top, because they had the knowledge and wisdom to assist the emperors in governing the country; followed by farmers, because they produced the necessary goods (the son inherited the farm from his father); and artisans, because they possessed necessary skills of making pottery, swords, knives and other utensils for daily use; and at the bottom were merchants. Though rich, merchants were deemed greedy speculators. It was believed that their souls were eroded by money and they were therefore despised by society. That was why they were ranked in the lowest social stratum. Most of the soldiers were made up of farmers for interim needs (such as war). It was believed that good men shall not join the army. Professional soldiers did not belong to the social stratification mentioned above.

    Traditional Chinese society was bound by human relationships. The stress was laid on family, biological relations and interpersonal relationships. Ancient Chinese society was hierarchical. Members of the royal family assumed the most power, followed by officials and intellectuals at all levels of administration, and the last were the ordinary people. Social ranks were ingrained in people's minds as a result of the reinforced feudal imperial regime, and the most highly valued and coveted position was to be an official. Excellent intellectuals were also considered suitable to assume government post. So intellectuals spent most of their time studying the classics of Confucianism and sat for imperial examinations in the hope of attaining a government post. Feudal rulers upheld the three cardinal guides and the five constant virtues as specified in the feudal ethical code, which to some extent played a positive role in maintaining social order and stability, but also narrowed people's minds. Apart from Confucianism, traditional Chinese society was also governed by many other hidden rules.

    Women in traditional Chinese society were at the bottom of the social strata. Received opinion held that an ungifted woman was a virtuous woman. People tended to favor men over women. Traditional values held that to have no children was the worst of the three ways to fail in filial duty to parents, and that only males could carry the family name. There was only one female ruler, Wu Zetian, in Chinese history, all the others were male. Male rulers had a large number of concubines. Males from a rich family would marry more than one female. In a society dominated by feudal ethics, young men and women had no freedom to choose their spouses, but had to obey the arrangements of their parents and matchmakers. Foot binding had been fashionable during the Ming and Qing dynasties, which was an abuse to females. The years following the 1911Revolution saw improvements in the situation of foot binding, and after 1950 the practice was abolished in the territory of the People's Republic of China. The ideas of modern democracy and republicanism were introduced to China at the end of the 19th century, resulting in a new wave of democratic constitutionalism.

Food

Tea is native to China. Chinese tea culture enjoys a long history and rich cultural implications. Over thousands of years, China has developed a wealth of precious experience regarding tree planting and production and accumulated a depth of knowledge that has shaped its unique tea culture.

China is an ancient civilization known for its superb liquor brewing techniques. Liquors were made through fermenting fruits as early as in the Longshan Period. Later, grains were saccharified (the process of turning starch to sugar) and then made into liquors. Before the Qin Dynasty, yeasts were used in brewing liquors, and after the Han Dynasty, yeast-making technologies were further developed. Wines were introduced to China during the Eastern Han Dynasty. Medicinal liquors came into being during the Song Dynasty. The method of distillation to produce liquors was introduced, so clearly the Chinese liquor culture enjoys a long history. Back in ancient China liquors not only played a crucial role in religious rituals, meetings and celebrations, but were also indispensable at funerals, ceremonies, gatherings and receptions. The Chinese liquor culture is also closely related to poetry and traditional opera.

The art of Chinese cooking has a history going back thousands of years. Regional cuisines were passed down and developed through successive dynasties. Chinese dishes fall into eight major categories, namely Shandong cuisine, Sichuan cuisine, Cantonese cuisine, south Fujian cuisine, Suzhou cuisine, Zhejiang cuisine, Hunan cuisine and Anhui cuisine, known as the eight principal cuisines in China. The many styles of cooking across China invariably emphasize the unity of color, aroma and taste, prepared with choice materials and fine craftsmanship. These cuisines embody the superb Chinese culinary arts and rich cultural implications. Ingredients in Chinese dishes are usually sliced into small pieces so that people can taste the food with ease. Chopsticks are often used as for eating with.

Festivals

Spring Festival (1st day of 1st lunar month)

Lantern Festival (15th day of the 1st lunar month)

First Tooth Festival (2nd day of 2nd lunar month)

Cold Food Festival (the day before the Qingming Festival)

Tomb Sweeping Day Festival (clear and bright)

Dragon Boat Festival (5th of 5th lunar month)

Chinese Valentine’s Day (7th day of 7th lunar month)

Ghost Festival (15th day of 7th lunar month)

Mid-Autumn Festival (15th day of 8th lunar month)

Double Ninth Festival (9th day of 9th lunar month)

Winter Solstice

Laba Festival (8th day of 12th lunar month)

Weiya Festival / End of the Year Banquet) (16th day of 12th lunar month)

Kitchen God Festival (24th day of 1st lunar month)

Chinese New Year’s Eve (30th day of 12th lunar month)

Economy

Ever since the founding of the People's Republic of China, targeted measures have been taken to build a socialist economy on a large scale. China has become one of the largest economies in the world with enormous development potential, and is delivering a prosperous life to its people. From 1953 to 2010, China has accomplished 11 Five-Year Plans, making remarkable achievements that have attracted worldwide attention, and laying a solid foundation for the development of the national economy. The implementation of reform and policy of opening to the world, which were introduced in 1979, gave a strong impetus to China's economy which has since embraced unprecedented growth. China's economy ushered in the new millennium at a stable pace and a high growth rate. The basic structure of a socialist market economy has been established, and meanwhile the market is playing an increasing role in resource allocation. The macro regulatory system has been perfected over time. The basic economic landscape in which the main public sector and other non-public sectors of the economy live side by side has taken shape. The model for economic growth has witnessed a shift from an extensive one to an intensive one. China is expected to build up a comparatively complete socialist market economy by 2010 and a mature one by 2020.

Education

Education in China has its root in classical works rather than religious groups. In early ancient China, well-educated officials were employed to assist the emperor in governing the country. The imperial examination system for selecting officials was officially established in the Sui Dynasty and later perfected by Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty. It was not until 1905 (the late Qing Dynasty) that this system was abolished and replaced by a Western educational model. The educational system of the People's Republic of China drew upon the merits of that of the United States.

As stipulated in The Law on Nine-Year Compulsory Education, children have been granted the right to receive at least nine years of education (six-year primary education and three years secondary education). As far as the law is concerned, students are not required to pay any tuition fees and sundry charges during their nine years of education. In fact, however, sundry charges (in addition to tuition fees) are commonly seen in urban schools. Most of the ordinary primary and secondary schools charge a small tuition fee, some as little as 20 RMB per semester, with others charging from 200 to 700 RMB each year. Those schools with excellent staff and facilities usually charge endowment fees, although this is against the law. In the rural area, the nine years of education have all been free since 2007, but there is a limited number of junior schools in the countryside. For example, in the mountainous areas of Guizhou, Sichuan and Shanxi provinces, students living in different areas have to walk over 10 miles to the nearest schools. Today, renewed attention is given to compulsory education. In urban areas anyone who deprives others of the right to compulsory education would be deemed illegal.