China (traditional Chinese: ??; simplified
Chinese: ??; Hanyu Pinyin: Zhongguó (help·info); Tongyong
Pinyin: Jhongguó; Wade-Giles (Mandarin): Chung¹kuo²)
is a cultural region, an ancient civilization, and a national or
multinational entity in East Asia. The civilization is one of the
world's oldest, consisting of states and cultures dating back more
than six millennia.
Chinese civilization is one of the world's oldest continuous civilizations.
It has the world's longest continuously used written language system,
and the source of such major inventions as what the British scholar
and biochemist Joseph Needham called the Four Great Inventions of
Ancient China: paper, the compass, gunpowder, and printing.
The stalemate of the last Chinese Civil War has resulted in two
political states using the name China: the People's Republic of
China (PRC), commonly known as China, which controls mainland China,
Hong Kong, and Macau; and the Republic of China (ROC), commonly
known as Taiwan, which controls the island of Taiwan and its surrounding
2.2 Dynastic rule
2.3 Republic of China (1912–1949)
2.4 The People's Republic of China and the Republic of China (1949–present)
3 Territory and environment
3.1 Historical political divisions
3.2 Geography and climate
5.1.1 Arts, scholarship, and literature
5.5 Sports and recreation
5.6 Science and technology
6 See also
8 External links
Main article: Names of China
China is called Zhongguo (?? or ??) in Chinese. The character zhong
(?) means "middle" or "central," while guó
(? or ?) means "state". The term is commonly translated
into English as "Middle Kingdom", but is also sometimes
translated as "Central Kingdom".
The name "Zhongguo" appeared first in the Classic of
History (6th Century BC), and was used to refer to the late Zhou
Dynasty, as they believe that they were the "center of civilization"
, while peoples in the four cardinals were called Eastern Yi,
Southern Man, Western Rong and Northern Di respectively. Some texts
imply that "Zhongguo" was originally meant to refer to
the capital of the sovereign, to differ from the capital of his
vassals. The use "Zhongguo" implied a claim of political
legitimacy. "Zhongguo" was often used by states who see
themselves as the sole legitimate successor to previous Chinese
dynasties; for example, in the era of the Southern Song Dynasty,
both the Jin Dynasty and the Southern Song state claimed to be "Zhongguo".
"Zhongguo" came to official use as an abbreviation for
the Republic of China (Zhonghua Minguo) after the government's establishment
in 1912. The People's Republic of China, established in 1949, is
identified with the abbreviated name "Zhongguo". 
English and many other languages use various forms of the name
"China" and the prefix "Sino-" or "Sin-".
These forms are thought to derive from the name of the Qin Dynasty
that first unified the country (221–206 BCE). The pronunciation
of "Qin" is similar to "Chin", which is considered
the possible root of the word "China".
Main articles: History of China and Timeline of Chinese history
History of China
3 Sovereigns and 5 Emperors
Xia Dynasty 2100–1600 BCE
Shang Dynasty 1600–1046 BCE
Zhou Dynasty 1122–256 BCE
Spring and Autumn Period
Warring States Period
Qin Dynasty 221 BCE–206 BCE
Han Dynasty 206 BCE–220 CE
Three Kingdoms 220–280
Wei, Shu & Wu
Jin Dynasty 265–420
Eastern Jin 16 Kingdoms
Southern & Northern Dynasties 420–589
Sui Dynasty 581–619
Tang Dynasty 618–690
Second Zhou 690–705
Tang Dynasty 705–907 (resumed)
5 Dynasties &
907–960 Liao Dynasty
Northern Song W. Xia Dyn.
Southern Song Jin Dyn.
Yuan Dynasty 1271–1368
Ming Dynasty 1368–1644
Qing Dynasty 1644–1911
Republic of China 1912–1949
of China 1949–present
Republic of China
(on Taiwan) 1945-present
Dynasties in Chinese History
Economic History of China
Historiography of China
History of Chinese Art
History of Education in China
History of Science and Technology in China
Legal History of China
Linguistic History of China
Military History of China
Naval History of China
Timeline of Chinese History
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Ancient China was one of the earliest centers of human civilization.
Chinese civilization was also one of the few to invent writing independently,
the others being Mesopotamia, Indus Valley Civilization, Maya Civilization,
Ancient Greece (Minoan Civilization), and Ancient Egypt.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest humans in China
date to 2.24 million to 250,000 years ago. A cave in Zhoukoudian
(near present-day Beijing) has fossils dated at somewhere between
300,000 to 550,000 years.
The earliest evidence of a fully modern human in China comes from
Liujiang County, Guangxi, where a cranium has been found and dated
to approximately 67,000 years ago. Although much controversy persists
over the dating of the Liujiang remains, a partial skeleton
from Minatogawa in Okinawa, Japan has been dated to 18,250 ±
650 to 16,600 ± 300 years ago, so modern humans must have
reached China before that time.
Main articles: Dynasties in Chinese history and Chinese sovereign
Chinese tradition names the first dynasty Xia, but it was considered
mythical until scientific excavations found early bronze-age sites
at Erlitou in Henan Province. Archaeologists have since uncovered
urban sites, bronze implements, and tombs in locations cited as
Xia's in ancient historical texts, but it is impossible to verify
that these remains are of the Xia without written records from the
Some of the thousands of life-size Terracotta Warriors of the Qin
Dynasty, ca. 210 BC.The second dynasty, the loosely feudal Shang,
definitely settled along the Yellow River in eastern China from
the 18th to the 12th century BCE. They were invaded from the west
by the Zhou, who ruled from the 12th to the 5th century BCE. The
centralized authority of the Zhou was slowly eroded by warlords.
Many strong, independent states continually waged war with each
other in the Spring and Autumn period, only occasionally deferring
to the Zhou king.
The first unified Chinese state was established by the Qin Dynasty
in 221 BCE, when the office of the Emperor was set up and the Chinese
language was forcibly standardized. This state did not last long,
as its legalist policies soon led to widespread rebellion.
The subsequent Han Dynasty ruled China between 206 BCE and 220
CE, and created a lasting Han cultural identity among its populace
that would last to the present day. The Han Dynasty expanded China's
territory considerably with military campaigns reaching Korea, Vietnam,
Mongolia and Central Asia, and also helped establish the Silk Road
in Central Asia.
After Han's collapse, another period of disunion followed, including
the highly chivalric period of the Three Kingdoms. Independent Chinese
states of this period also opened diplomatic relations with Japan,
introducing the Chinese writing system there. In 580 CE, China was
reunited under the Sui. However, the Sui Dynasty was short-lived
after a failure in the Goguryeo-Sui Wars (598–614) weakened
A 10th-11th century Longquan stoneware vase from Zhejiang province,
during the Song Dynasty.Under the succeeding Tang and Song dynasties,
Chinese technology and culture reached its zenith. The Song dynasty
was the first government in world history to issue paper money and
the first Chinese polity to establish a permanent standing navy.
Between the 10th and 11th centuries, the population of China doubled
in size. This growth came about through expanded rice cultivation
in central and southern China, along with the production of abundant
food surpluses. Within its borders, the Northern Song Dynasty had
a population of some 100 million people. The Song Dynasty was a
culturally rich period in China for the arts, philosophy, and social
life. Landscape art and portrait paintings were brought to new levels
of maturity and complexity since the Tang Dynasty, and social elites
gathered to view art, share their own, and make trades of precious
artworks. Philosophers such as Cheng Yi and Chu Hsi reinvigorated
Confucianism with new commentary, infused Buddhist ideals, and emphasis
on new organization of classic texts that brought about the core
doctrine of Neo-Confucianism.
In 1271, the Mongol leader and the fifth Khagan of the Mongol Empire
Kublai Khan established the Yuan Dynasty, with the last remnant
of the Song Dynasty falling to the Yuan in 1279. A peasant named
Zhu Yuanzhang overthrew the Mongols in 1368 and founded the Ming
Dynasty. Ming Dynasty thinkers such as Wang Yangming would further
critique and expand Neo-Confucianism with ideas of individualism
and innate morality that would have tremendous impact on later Japanese
thought. Chosun Korea also became a nominal vassal state of Ming
China and adopted much of its Neo-Confucian bureaucratic structure.
China's capital was moved from Nanjing to Beijing during the early
Ming Dynasty. The Ming fell to the Manchus in 1644, who then established
the Qing Dynasty. An estimated 25 million people died during the
Manchu conquest of Ming Dynasty (1616–1644).
A corner tower of the Forbidden City at night; the palace served
as the residence for the imperial family since the reign of the
Yongle Emperor of the Ming Dynasty in the 15th century, up until
the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912.The Qing Dynasty, which lasted
until 1912, was the last dynasty in China. In the 19th century the
Qing Dynasty adopted a defensive posture towards European imperialism,
even though it engaged in imperialistic expansion into Central Asia
itself. At this time China awoke to the significance of the rest
of the world, in particular the West. As China opened up to foreign
trade and missionary activity, opium produced by British India was
forced onto Qing China. Two Opium Wars with Britain weakened the
One result was the Taiping Civil War which lasted from 1851 to
1862. It was led by Hong Xiuquan, who was partly influenced by a
misinterpretation of Christianity. Hong believed himself to be the
son of God and the younger brother of Jesus. Although the Qing forces
were eventually victorious, the civil war was one of the bloodiest
in human history, costing at least twenty million lives (more than
the total number of fatalities in the First World War), with some
estimates up to two-hundred million. In addition, more costly rebellions
in terms of human lives and economics followed the Taiping Rebellion
such as the Punti-Hakka Clan Wars (1855–1867), Nien Rebellion
(1851–1868), Muslim Rebellion (1862–1877), Panthay Rebellion
(1856–1873) and the Miao Rebellion (1854–1873).
 These rebellions resulted in an estimated loss of several million
lives for each rebellion and in disastrous results for the economy
and the countryside.  The flow of British opium led
to more decline.
While China was torn by continuous war, Meiji Japan succeeded in
rapidly modernizing its military with its sights on Korea and Manchuria.
Maneuvered by Japan, Korea declared independence from Qing China's
suzerainty in 1894, leading to the First Sino-Japanese War, which
resulted in China's humiliating cession of both Korea and Taiwan
to Japan. Following these series of defeats, a reform plan for Qing
China to become a modern Meiji-style constitutional monarchy was
drafted by the Emperor Guangxu in 1898, but was opposed and stopped
by the Empress Dowager Cixi, who placed Emperor Guangxu under house
arrest in a coup d'état. Further destruction followed the
ill-fated 1900 Boxer Rebellion against westerners in Beijing. By
the early 20th century, mass civil disorder had begun, and calls
for reform and revolution were heard across the country. The 38
year old Emperor Guangxu died under house arrest on November 14,
1908, suspiciously just a day before Cixi. With the throne empty,
he was succeeded by Cixi's handpicked heir, his two year old nephew
Puyi, who became the Xuantong Emperor, the last Chinese emperor.
Guangxu's consort, who became the Empress Dowager Longyu, signed
the abdication decree as regent in 1912, ending two thousand years
of imperial rule in China. She died, childless, in 1913.
Republic of China (1912–1949)
Map of Republic of China printed by Rand McNally & Co. in the
year 1914.Main article: History of the Republic of China
See also: History of Taiwan
On January 1, 1912, the Republic of China was established, heralding
the end of the Qing Dynasty. Sun Yat-sen of the Kuomintang (KMT
or Nationalist Party), was proclaimed provisional president of the
republic. However, the presidency was latter given to Yuan Shikai,
a former Qing general, who had ensured the defection of the entire
Beiyang Army from the Qing Empire to the revolution. In 1915, Yuan
proclaim himself Emperor of China, but was forced to abdicate, and
return the state to a republic, when he realized it was an unpopular
move, not only with the population, but also his own Beiyang Army
and its commanders.
After Yuan Shikai's death in 1916, China was politically fragmented,
with an internationally recognized, but virtually powerless, national
government seated in Peking (modern day Beijing). Warlords in various
regions exercised actual control over their respective territories.
In the late 1920s, the Kuomintang, under Chiang Kai-shek, was able
to reunify the country under its own control, moving the nation's
capital to Nanking (modern day Nanjing) and implementing "political
tutelage", an intermediate stage of political development outlined
in Sun Yat-sen's program for transforming China into a modern, democratic
state. Effectively, political tutelage meant one-party rule by the
The Sino-Japanese War of 1937–1945 (part of World War II)
forced an uneasy alliance between the Nationalists and the Communists
as well as causing around 10 million Chinese civilian deaths. With
the surrender of Japan in 1945, China emerged victorious but financially
drained. The continued distrust between the Nationalists and the
Communists led to the resumption of the Chinese Civil War. In 1947,
constitutional rule was established, but because of the ongoing
Civil War many provisions of the ROC constitution were never implemented
on the mainland.
The People's Republic of China and the Republic of China (1949–present)
Territories currently administered by two states that formally use
the name China:
the PRC (in purple) and the ROC (in orange).Main article: History
of the People's Republic of China
See also: History of Hong Kong and History of Macau
After its victory in the Chinese Civil War, the Communist Party
of China, led by Mao Zedong, gained control of most of the Mainland
China. On October 1, 1949, they established the People's Republic
of China, laying claim as the successor state of the ROC. The central
government of the Chinese Nationalist Party led by Chiang Kai-shek
was forced to retreat to the island of Taiwan that it had occupied
at the end of World War II and moved the ROC government there. Major
armed hostilities ceased in 1950 but no peace treaty has been signed.
Beginning in the late 1970s, the Republic of China began the implementation
of full, multi-party, representative democracy in the territories
still under its control (Taiwan, and a number of smaller islands
including Quemoy and Matsu). Today, the ROC has active political
participation by all sectors of society. The main cleavage in ROC
politics is the issue of eventual unification with China vs. formal
After the Chinese Civil War, mainland China underwent a series
of disruptive socioeconomic movements starting in the late 1950s
with the Great Leap Forward and continued in the 1960s with the
Cultural Revolution that left much of its education system and economy
in shambles. With the death of its first generation Communist Party
leaders such as Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, the PRC began implementing
a series of political and economic reforms advocated by Deng Xiaoping
that eventually formed the foundation for mainland China's rapid
economic development starting in the 1990s.
Post-1978 reforms on the mainland have led to some relaxation of
control over many areas of society. However, the PRC government
still has almost absolute control over politics, and it continually
seeks to eradicate threats to the social, political and economic
stability of the country. Examples include the fight against terrorism,
jailing of political opponents and journalists, custody regulation
of the press, regulation of religion, and suppression of independence/secessionist
movements. In 1989, the student protests at Tiananmen Square were
violently put to an end by the Chinese military after 15 days of
martial law. In 1997 Hong Kong was returned to the PRC by the United
Kingdom and in 1999 Macau was returned by Portugal.
Today, mainland China is administered by the People's Republic
of China—a one-party state under the leadership of the Chinese
Communist Party; while the island of Taiwan and surrounding islands
are administered by the Republic of China—a democratic multi-party
state. After the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, both
states claimed to be the sole legitimate ruler of all of "China".
After the Kuomintang retreat to Taiwan in 1949, the Republic of
China had maintained official diplomatic relations with most states
around the world, but by the 1970s, there was a shift in the international
diplomatic circles and the People's Republic of China gained the
upper hand in international diplomatic relations and recognition.
In 1971, under resolution 2758, the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek
to the United Nations were expelled from the intergovernmental organization.
With the expulsion of the Chiang Kai-shek's representatives, and
effectively the Republic of China, the representatives of the People's
Republic of China were invited to assume China's seat on the UN
Security Council, the UN General Assembly and other United Nations
councils and agencies. Later attempts by the Republic of China to
rejoin the UN have either been blocked by the People's Republic
of China, who has veto power on UN Security Council, or rejected
by the United Nations Secretariat or a United Nations General Assembly
committee responsible for the General Assembly's agenda.
Since its retreat to Taiwan, the Republic of China has not formally
renounced its claim to all of China, nor has it changed its official
maps, which includes the mainland and Mongolia. Following the introduction
to full democracy and the electoral victory of DPP's Chen Shui-bian
in the presidential elections, the Republic of China has not pursued
its claims on the mainland and in Mongolia. The current DPP Administration
has adopted a policy of separating the state's identity from "China",
while moving towards identifying the state as "Taiwan".
The ROC has not made formal moves to change the name, flag, or national
anthem of the state to reflect a Taiwan identity due to pressure
from the United States and the fear of invasion or military action
from the People's Republic of China against the island. The People's
Republic of China claims to have succeeded the Republic of China
as the sole legitimate governing authority of all of China, which,
from the official viewpoint of People's Republic of China, includes
the island of Taiwan. Over the last 50 years, both the Republic
of China and the People's Republic of China have used diplomatic
and economic means to compete for recognition in the international
arena. Due to the fact that most international, intergovernmental
organizations observe the One-China policy of the People's Republic
of China, the PRC has been able to pressure organizations, such
as the World Health Organization and the International Olympic Committee,
to refuse official recognition of the Republic of China. Due to
the One-China policy, states around the world are pressured to refuse
or to cut off diplomatic relations with the Republic of China. As
a result, 24 U.N. member states currently maintain official diplomatic
relations with the Republic of China while the majority of the U.N.
member states maintain official diplomatic relations with the People's
Republic of China.
Territory and environment
Historical political divisions
Main article: History of the political divisions of China
Territories occupied by different dynasties as well as modern political
states throughout the history of China.Top-level political divisions
of China have altered as administrations changed. Top levels included
circuits and provinces. Below that, there have been prefectures,
subprefectures, departments, commanderies, districts, and counties.
Recent divisions also include prefecture-level cities, county-level
cities, towns and townships.
Most Chinese dynasties were based in the historical heartlands
of China, known as China proper. Various dynasties also expanded
into peripheral territories like Inner Mongolia, Manchuria, Xinjiang,
and Tibet. The Manchu-established Qing Dynasty and its successors,
the ROC and the PRC, incorporated these territories into China.
China proper is generally thought to be bounded by the Great Wall
and the edge of the Tibetan Plateau. Manchuria and Inner Mongolia
are found to the north of the Great Wall of China, and the boundary
between them can either be taken as the present border between Inner
Mongolia and the northeast Chinese provinces, or the more historic
border of the World War II-era puppet state of Manchukuo. Xinjiang's
borders correspond to today's administrative Xinjiang. Historic
Tibet occupies all of the Tibetan Plateau. China is traditionally
divided into north and south, the boundary being the Huai River
and Qinling Mountains.
Geography and climate
Main article: Geography of China
See also: Environment of China
Main geographic features and regions of China.
Composite satellite photoChina ranges from mostly plateaus and mountains
in the west to lower lands in the east. Principal rivers flow from
west to east, including the Yangtze (central), the Huang He (Yellow
river, north-central), and the Amur (northeast), and sometimes toward
the south (including the Pearl River, Mekong River, and Brahmaputra),
with most Chinese rivers emptying into the Pacific Ocean.
In the east, along the shores of the Yellow Sea and the East China
Sea there are extensive and densely populated alluvial plains. On
the edges of the Inner Mongolian plateau in the north, grasslands
can be seen. Southern China is dominated by hills and low mountain
ranges. In the central-east are the deltas of China's two major
rivers, the Huang He and Yangtze River. Most of China's arable lands
lie along these rivers; they were the centers of China's major ancient
civilizations. Other major rivers include the Pearl River, Mekong,
Brahmaputra and Amur. Yunnan Province is considered a part of the
Greater Mekong Subregion, which also includes Myanmar, Laos, Thailand,
Cambodia, and Vietnam.
In the west, the north has a great alluvial plain, and the south
has a vast calcareous tableland traversed by hill ranges of moderate
elevation, and the Himalayas, containing Earth's highest point,
Mount Everest. The northwest also has high plateaus with more arid
desert landscapes such as the Takla-Makan and the Gobi Desert, which
has been expanding. During many dynasties, the southwestern border
of China has been the high mountains and deep valleys of Yunnan,
which separate modern China from Burma, Laos and Vietnam.
The Paleozoic formations of China, excepting only the upper part
of the Carboniferous system, are marine, while the Mesozoic and
Tertiary deposits are estuarine and freshwater or else of terrestrial
origin. Groups of volcanic cones occur in the Great Plain of north
China. In the Liaodong and Shandong Peninsulas, there are basaltic
The climate of China varies greatly. The northern zone (containing
Beijing) has summer daytime temperatures of more than 30 degrees
Celsius and winters of Arctic severity. The central zone (containing
Shanghai) has a temperate continental climate with very hot summers
and cold winters. The southern zone (containing Guangzhou) has a
subtropical climate with very hot summers and mild winters.
Due to a prolonged drought and poor agricultural practices, dust
storms have become usual in the spring in China. Dust has blown
to southern China and Taiwan, and has even reached the West Coast
of the United States. Water, erosion, and pollution control have
become important issues in China's relations with other countries.
Main article: Economic history of China
Main article: Culture of China
Confucianism was the official philosophy throughout most of Imperial
China's history, and mastery of Confucian texts was the primary
criterion for entry into the imperial bureaucracy. China's traditional
values were derived from various versions of Confucianism. A number
of more authoritarian strains of thought have also been influential,
such as Legalism. There was often conflict between the philosophies,
e.g. the Song Dynasty Neo-Confucians believed Legalism departed
from the original spirit of Confucianism. Examinations and a culture
of merit remain greatly valued in China today. In recent years,
a number of New Confucians (not to be confused with Neo-Confucianism)
have advocated that democratic ideals and human rights are quite
compatible with traditional Confucian "Asian values".
Wang Yangming, a highly influential Neo-Confucian.With the rise
of Western economic and military power beginning in the mid-19th
century, non-Chinese systems of social and political organization
gained adherents in China. Some of these would-be reformers totally
rejected China's cultural legacy, while others sought to combine
the strengths of Chinese and Western cultures. In essence, the history
of 20th century China is one of experimentation with new systems
of social, political, and economic organization that would allow
for the reintegration of the nation in the wake of dynastic collapse.
See also: Chinese law, Chinese philosophy, and Confucianism
Arts, scholarship, and literature
Main articles: Chinese art and History of Chinese art
Chinese calligraphy by Mifu, Song Dynasty, ca. 1100 CE
A bamboo book copy of Sun Tzu's The Art of War, a 20th century reprint
of a Qianlong imperial edition.Chinese characters have had many
variants and styles throughout Chinese history. Tens of thousands
of ancient written documents are still extant, from Oracle bones
to Qing edicts. This literary emphasis affected the general perception
of cultural refinement in China, e.g. the view that calligraphy
was a higher art form than painting or drama. Manuscripts of the
Classics and religious texts (mainly Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist)
were handwritten by ink brush. Calligraphy later became commercialized,
and works by famous artists became prized possessions.
Chinese literature has a long past; the earliest classic work in
Chinese, the I Ching or "Book of Changes" dates to around
1000 BCE. A flourishing of philosophy during the Warring States
Period produced such noteworthy works as Confucius's Analects and
Laozi's Tao Te Ching. (See also the Chinese classics.) Dynastic
histories were often written, beginning with Sima Qian's seminal
Records of the Historian written from 109 BCE to 91 BCE. The Tang
Dynasty witnessed a poetic flowering, while the Four Great Classical
Novels of Chinese literature were written during the Ming and Qing
Printmaking in the form of movable type was developed during the
Song Dynasty. Academies of scholars sponsored by the empire were
formed to comment on the classics in both printed and handwritten
form. Royalty frequently participated in these discussions as well.
The Song Dynasty was also a period of great scientific literature,
such as Su Song's Xin Yixiang Fayao and Shen Kuo's Dream Pool Essays.
There were also enormous works of historiography and large encyclopedias,
such as Sima Guang's Zizhi Tongjian of 1084 CE or the Four Great
Books of Song fully compiled and edited by the 11th century.
For centuries, economic and social advancement in China could be
provided by high performance on the imperial examinations. This
led to a meritocracy, although it was available only to males who
could afford test preparation. Imperial examinations required applicants
to write essays and demonstrate mastery of the Confucian classics.
Those who passed the highest level of the exam became elite scholar-officials
known as jinshi, a highly esteemed socio-economic position.
Chinese philosophers, writers and poets were highly respected and
played key roles in preserving and promoting the culture of the
empire. Some classical scholars, however, were noted for their daring
depictions of the lives of the common people, often to the displeasure
The Chinese invented numerous musical instruments, such as the
zheng (zither with movable bridges), qin (bridgeless zither), sheng
(free reed mouth organ), and xiao (vertical flute) and adopted and
developed others such the erhu (alto fiddle or bowed lute) and pipa
(pear-shaped plucked lute), many of which have later spread throughout
East Asia and Southeast Asia, particularly to Japan, Korea, and
See also: Chinese art, Chinese painting, Chinese paper art, Chinese
calligraphy, Chinese poetry, Cinema of China, and Music of China
Main articles: Ethnic groups in Chinese history, Ethnic minorities
in China, and Demography of the People's Republic of China
Ethnolinguistic map of areas claimed by the People's Republic of
ChinaHundreds of ethnic groups have existed in China throughout
its history. The largest ethnic group in China by far is the Han.
This group is diverse in itself and can be divided into smaller
ethnic groups that share some traits.
Over the last three millennia, many previously distinct ethnic
groups in China have been Sinicized into a Han identity, which over
time dramatically expanded the size of the Han population. However,
these assimilations were usually incomplete and vestiges of indigenous
language and culture often are still retained in different regions
of China. Because of this, many within the Han identity have maintained
distinct linguistic and cultural traditions, though still identifying
as Han. Several ethnicities have also dramatically shaped Han culture,
e.g. the Manchurian clothing called the qipao became the new "Chinese"
fashion after the 17th century, replacing earlier Han styles of
clothing such as the Hanfu. The modern term Chinese nation (Zhonghua
Minzu) is now used to describe a notion of a Chinese nationality
that transcends ethnic divisions.
Main article: Languages of China
Most languages in China belong to the Sino-Tibetan language family,
spoken by 29 ethnicities. There are also several major dialects
within the Chinese language itself. The most spoken dialects are
Mandarin (spoken by over 70% of the population), Wu (Shanghainese),
Yue (Cantonese), Min, Xiang, Gan, and Hakka. Non-Sinitic languages
spoken widely by ethnic minorities include Zhuang (Thai), Mongolian,
Tibetan, Uyghur (Turkic), Hmong and Korean.
Classical Chinese was the written standard used for thousands of
years in China before the 20th century and allowed for written communication
between speakers of various unintelligible languages and dialects
in China. Vernacular Chinese or baihua is the written standard based
on the Mandarin dialect first popularized in Ming dynasty novels
and was adopted (with significant modifications) during the early
20th century as the national vernacular. Classical Chinese is still
part of the high school curriculum and is thus intelligible to some
degree to many Chinese.
A Chinese Tang Dynasty (618–907) sculpture of the Buddha seated
in meditation.Main article: Religion in China
The "official" orthodox faith system held by most dynasties
of China until the overthrow of the last dynasty is a panentheism
system, centering on the worship of "Heaven" as an omnipotent
force. This faith system pre-dated the development
of Confucianism and Taoism or the introduction of Buddhism and Christianity.
It has features of a monotheism in that Heaven is seen as an omnipotent
entity, endowed with personality but no corporeal form. "Heaven"
as a supernatural force was variously referred to as Shangdi (literally
"Emperor Above"). Worship of Heaven includes the erection
of shrines, the last and greatest being the Altar of Heaven in Beijing,
and the offering of prayers. Manifestation of the powers of Heaven
include weather and natural disasters. Although it gradually diminished
in popular belief after the advent of Taoism and Buddhism, among
others, some of its concepts remained in use throughout the pre-modern
period and have been incorporated in later religions of China.
Taoism is an indigenous religion of China and is traditionally
traced to the composition of Lao Zi's Tao Te Ching (The Book of
Tao and Its Virtues) or to seminal works by Zhang Daoling. The philosophy
of Taoism is centered on "the way"; an understanding of
which can be likened to recognizing the true nature of the universe.
Taoism in its unorganized form is also considered a folk religion
of China. More secular derivatives of Taoist ideas include Feng
Shui, Sun Tzu's Art of War, and acupuncture.
Buddhism was introduced from South and Central Asia during the
Han dynasty and became very popular among Chinese of all walks of
life, embraced particularly by commoners, and sponsored by emperors
in certain dynasties. Mahayana (??, Dacheng) is the predominant
form of Buddhism practiced in China, where it was largely Sinicized
and later exported to Korea, Japan and Vietnam. Some subsets of
Mahayana popular in China include Pure Land (Amidism) and Zen. Buddhism
is the largest organized faith in China and the country has the
most Buddhist adherents in the world, followed by Japan. Many Chinese,
however, identify themselves as both Taoist and Buddhist at the
Ancestor worship is a major religious theme shared among all Chinese
religions. Traditional Chinese culture, Taoism, Confucianism, and
Chinese Buddhism all value filial piety as a top virtue, and the
act is a continued display of piety and respect towards departed
ancestors. The Chinese generally offer prayers and food for the
ancestors, light incense and candles, and burn offerings of Joss
paper. These activities are typically conducted at the site of ancestral
graves or tombs, at an ancestral temple, or at a household shrine.
Islam, Judaism and Christianity first arrived in China after the
7th century CE during the Tang Dynasty. Islam was later spread by
merchants and craftsmen as trade routes improved along the Silk
Road, while Christianity began to make significant inroads in China
after the 16th century through Jesuit and later protestant missionaries.
Islam arrived in China during the 8th century, only a few years
after the Prophet Muhammad's death. The Emperor of China took Islam
highly, and the first mosque in China, the Huaisheng Mosque was
built in Canton, Guangzhou in 630 AD. In the first half of the 20th
century, many Jews arrived in Shanghai and Hong Kong during those
cities' periods of economic expansion and also sought refuge from
the Holocaust in Europe. Shanghai was particularly notable for its
volume of Jewish refugees, as it was the only port in the world
then to accept them without an entry visa.
Sports and recreation
Dragon boat racing, a popular traditional Chinese sport.Main article:
Sports in China
See also: Sport in Taiwan
Many historians believe that football (soccer) originated in China,
where a form of the sport may have appeared around 1000 CE.
Other popular sports include martial arts, table tennis, badminton,
and more recently, golf. Basketball is now popular among young people
in crowded urban centers.
There are also many traditional sports. Chinese dragon boat racing
occurs during the Duan Wu festival. In Inner Mongolia, Mongolian-style
wrestling and horse racing are popular. In Tibet, archery and equestrian
sports are part of traditional festivals.
China has become a sports power, especially in Asia. It has finished
first in medal counts in each of the Asian Games since 1982,
and in the top four in medal counts in each of the Summer Olympic
Games since 1992. The 2008 Summer Olympics, officially known
as the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, will be held in Beijing. Currently,
China is heavily preparing for the games.
Physical fitness is highly regarded. It is common for the elderly
to practice Tai Chi Chuan and qigong in parks.
Board games such as International Chess, Go (Weiqi), and Xiangqi
(Chinese chess) are also common and have organized formal competitions.
Science and technology
Remains of an ancient Chinese handheld crossbow, 2nd century BC.Main
articles: History of science and technology in China and List of
Among the scientific accomplishments of ancient China were paper
(not papyrus) and papermaking, woodblock printing and movable type
printing, the early lodestone and magnetic compass, gunpowder, toilet
paper, early seismological detectors, matches, dry docks, pound
locks, sliding calipers, the double-action piston pump, blast furnace
and cast iron, the iron plough, the multi-tube seed drill, the wheelbarrow,
the suspension bridge, the parachute, natural gas as fuel, the escapement
mechanism for clocks, the differential gear for the South Pointing
Chariot, the hydraulic-powered armillary sphere, the hydraulic-powered
trip hammer, the mechanical chain drive, the mechanical belt drive,
the raised-relief map, the propeller, the crossbow, the cannon,
the rocket, the multistage rocket, etc. Chinese astronomers were
among the first to record observations of a supernova. The work
of the astronomer Shen Kuo (1031–1095) alone was most impressive,
as he theorized that the sun and moon were spherical, corrected
the position of the polestar with his improved sighting tube, discovered
the concept of true north, wrote of planetary motions such as retrogradation,
and compared the orbital paths of the planets to points on the shape
of a rotating willow leaf. With evidence for them, he also postulated
geological theories for the processes of land formation in geomorphology
and climate change in paleoclimatology. Yet there were many other
astronomers than Shen Kuo, such as Gan De, Shi Shen, Zhang Heng,
Yi Xing, Zhang Sixun, Su Song, etc. Chinese mathematics evolved
independently of Greek mathematics and is therefore of great interest
in the history of mathematics. The Chinese were also keen on documenting
all of their technological achievements, such as in the Tiangong
Kaiwu encyclopedia written by Song Yingxing (1587–1666).
China's science and technology fell behind that of Europe by the
17th century. Political, social and cultural reasons have been given
for this, although recent historians focus more on economic causes,
such as the high level equilibrium trap. Since the PRC's market
reforms China has become better connected to the global economy
and is placing greater emphasis on science and technology.