A Brief Introduction of China
China is one of the world's oldest human civilizations and has a recorded history of nearly 4, 000 years. The fossils of "Yuanmou Man" unearthed in Yuanmou of Yunnan Province show that "Yuanmou Men" lived in this area approximately 1.7 million years ago and are known to be China's earliest hominid. "Peking Men" lived in Zhoukoudian of Beijing some 400,000 to 500,000 years ago, and already had the basic characteristics of Homo-Sapiens as they were able to walk upright, make and use simple tools, and knew how to make fire, proving that they had acquired the basic characteristics of Homo sapiens. After the long period of the primitive society, China entered the slave society in the 21st century BC, when China's first dynasty, the Xia, emerged. The subsequent dynasties, the Shang and the Western Zhou saw further development of the slave system. This era was followed by the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, marking the transition from the slave society to the feudal society.
In 221 BC, Ying Zheng, a man of great talent and bold vision, ended the rivalry among the princes in the Warring States Period and established the Qin Dynasty, the first centralized, unified and multi-ethnic state in Chinese history under the Qin Dynasty. He called himself Shi Huang Di, or the First Emperor of the Qin. During his reign, Qin Shi Huang standardized the writing system, currencies, and weights and measures, established the system of prefectures and counties, and constructed the world-renowned Great Wall as well as massive palaces, mausoleums and temporary regal lodges in Xianyang, Lishan and other places. The structures of these constructions above the ground had long been destroyed by wars and fires, but the objects hidden underground are still there. Take part of the archeological discovery as an example, the life-size terra-cotta horses and armored warriors excavated from the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, full of power and grandeur, are known as the Eighth Wonder of the World. It attracts swarms of Chinese and foreign visitors every day who acclaim it as a marvel. At the end of the Qin Dynasty, Liu Bang with an ordinary family background overthrew the Qin regime in cooperation with Xiang Yu, an aristocratic general. A few years later, Liu Bang defeated Xiang Yu and established the powerful Han Dynasty in 206 BC.
The Han Dynasty witnessed vigorous development of agriculture, handicrafts and commerce. During the reign of Emperor Wudi, Zhang Qian, a court official was sent as an envoy to the Western Regions (the Central Asia), and in the process pioneered the route known as the "Silk Road" from the Han capital Chang'an (today's Xi'an, Shaanxi Province), through Xinjiang and the Central Asia, finally reaching the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Along the Silk Road, beautiful silk products made in China were transported to the West in a steady stream. The Han regime existed for a total of 426 years. It was followed by the Three Kingdoms Period starting from the year 220 of the Wei, the Shu and the Wu.
The most famous statesmen during the Three-Kingdom Period were Cao Cao, Zhuge Liang and Sun Quan. Cao Cao was the founder of the State of Wei. Zhuge Liang was the prime minister of State of Shu, and a symbol of wisdom in ancient China. Sun Quan was the founder of the State of Wu. He once allied with Liu Bei to defeat Cao Cao at the Chibi, or the Red Cliff. Stories about them can be found in a novel called The Legend of the Three Kingdoms.
The Three Kingdoms Period was followed by the Jin, the Southern and Northern Dynasties, and the Sui Dynasty. In the Tang Dynasty that followed, agriculture, handicrafts and commerce flourished and technologies for textile manufacturing, dyeing, porcelain making, smelting, metal casting and shipbuilding made further progress. During this time, land and water transportation was also fairly well developed, and economic and cultural relations with Japan, Korea, India, Persia, Arabia and many other countries were extensive. After the Tang Dynasty perished came the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. In 960, General Zhao Kuangyin rose in mutiny and founded the Song Dynasty. In 1206, Genghis Khan unified all the tribes in Mongolia and founded the Mongol Khanate. In 1271, his grandson, Kublai Khan, conquered the Central Plain and founded the Yuan Dynasty and made Dadu (today's Beijing) the capital. During the Song and Yuan dynasties, industry, commerce and foreign trade boomed. Many merchants and travellers from abroad came to China. Marco Polo came from Venice and travelled extensively in China, later describing the country's prosperity and advanced industry and commerce in his Travels. The "four great inventions" of the Chinese people in ancient times — paper making, printing, compass and gunpowder—were further developed in the Song and Yuan dynasties, and introduced to foreign countries during this time, making great contributions to world civilization.
In 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang founded the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in Nanjing, and reigned as Emperor Taizu. When his son and successor, Zhu Di, ascended the throne, he moved the capital to Beijing in 1421. In the Ming Dynasty, remarkable progress was made in agriculture and handicrafts, and toward the end of the dynasty, capitalism was budding. In addition, there were more friendly relationships established between China and other countries in Asia and Africa.
The Manchus from northeast China founded the Qing Dynasty in 1644. The two most famous emperors of the Qing Dynasty were Kangxi and Qianlong. The Kangxi and Qianlong periods were known as the "times of prosperity." During the Qing rule, some novels of high artistic value were created, of which Cao Xueqin's Dream of the Red Mansions is the best-known. It describes the decline of a prosperous feudal aristocratic family.
Legal holidays in China include New Year' Day on January 1, Spring Festival, which is the Chinese's New Year by the lunar calendar, International Women's Day on March 8, Tree Planting Day on March 12, International Labor Day on May 1, Chinese Youth Day on May 4; International Children's Day on June 1; Army (PLA) Day on August 1; Teacher's Day on September 10, and National Day on October 1.
China's major traditional festivals include the Spring Festival, Lantern Festival, Tomb-sweeping Day, Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival and Double Ninth Festival. Besides, many ethnic minorities have also retained their own traditional festivals, including the Water Sprinkling/Splashing Festival of the Dai people, the Nadam Fair of the Mongolian people, the Torch Festival of the Yi people, the Danu (Never-Forget-the-Past) Festival of the Yao people, the Third Month Fair of the Bai people, the Antiphonal Singing Day of the Zhuang people, the Tibetan New Year and Onghor (Expecting-a-Good-Harvest) Festival of the Tibetan people, and the Jumping Flower Festival of the Miao people.
Each year, when cold winter is at its end and spring around the corner, people throughout China enthusiastically celebrate, as custom goes, the first and the most important traditional holiday of the year, the Spring Festival. The evening before the Spring Festival, the lunar New Year's Eve, is an important time for family reunion. The whole family gets together for a sumptuous dinner, followed by an evening of pleasant talk or games. Some families stay up all night, "seeing the year out". The next morning, people pay New Year calls on relatives and friends, wishing each other good luck. During the Spring Festival, various traditional recreational activities are conducted in many parts of China, with lion dances, dragon lantern dances, land-boat rowing and stilt-walking as the most popular.
The composition and distribution of China's land resources have three major characteristics: first, great variety, consisting of cultivated land, forests, grasslands, deserts and shoals; second, more mountains and plateaus than flatlands and basins; and third, unbalanced distribution, with farmland mainly concentrated in the east, grasslands largely in the west and north, and forests mostly in the far northeast and southwest.
China today has 94.97 million hectares of cultivated land, mainly in the Northeast Plain, the North China Plain, the Middle-Lower Yangtze Plain, the Pearl River Delta and the Sichuan Basin. Forests blanket 133.7 million hectares of China. The Greater Hinggan, the Lesser Hinggan and the Changbai mountain ranges in the northeast are China's largest natural forest areas. Second to this are the natural forests in the southwest. Xishuangbanna in southern Yunnan Province is a rarity in that it is a tropical broadleaf forest playing host to more than 5,000 plant species, earning itself the nickname of the "plant kingdom".
China has a marked continental monsoon climate characterized by great variety. Northerly winds prevail in winter, while southerly winds reign in summer. The four seasons are quite distinct, and the rainy season coincides with the hot season. From September to April the following year, the dry and cold winter monsoons from Siberia and the Mongolian Plateau to the north gradually become weak as they reach the southern part of the country, resulting in cold and dry winter and great differences in temperature. The summer monsoons last from April to September. The warm and moist summer monsoons from the oceans bring abundant rainfall and high temperatures, with little difference in temperature between the south and the north. China's complex and varied climates result in a great variety of temperature belts, and dry and moist zones. In terms of temperature, the nation can be sectored from south to north into equatorial, tropical, subtropical, warm-temperate, temperate, and cold-temperate zones; in terms of moisture, it can be sectored from southeast to northwest into humid, semi-humid, semi-arid and arid zones.
China's administrative units are currently based on a three-tier system dividing the nation into provinces, counties, and townships. The whole country is divided into provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the Central Government. A province or an autonomous region is subdivided into autonomous prefectures, counties, autonomous counties, and cities. A county or an autonomous county is subdivided into townships, ethnic minority townships, and towns. Municipalities directly under the Central Government and large cities are subdivided into districts and counties; autonomous prefectures are subdivided into counties, autonomous counties, and cities. Autonomous regions, autonomous prefectures, and autonomous counties are all areas for ethnic autonomy. The Constitution specifically empowers the state to establish special administrative regions when necessary. A special administrative region is a local administrative area directly under the Central Government. At present, China is divided into 23 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, 4 municipalities directly under the Central Government, and 2 special administrative regions.