OFFICIAL NAME: People”s Republic of China
FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Communist state
CAPITAL: Beijing (Peking)
OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: Chinese, Mandarin
MONEY: Yuan (or Renminbi)
AREA: 9,596,960 square kilometres
MAJOR MOUNTAIN RANGES: Himalayas
MAJOR RIVERS: Yangtze, Yellow
Stretching 5,000 kilometres from east to west and 5,500 kilometres from north to south, China is one seriously huge country! It has lots of different landscapes, too, including mountains, high plateaus (areas of level high ground), sandy deserts and dense forests.
One-third of China’s land area is made up of mountains. The tallest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest, sits on the border between China and Nepal.
China has thousands of rivers. The two main rivers are the Yellow River and the Yangtze River, which both flow from west to east. At 6,300 kilometres long, the Yangtze is the longest river in Asia and the third longest in the world.
With a population of over 1.3 billion, China has more people than any other country on Earth. About a third of the population lives in cities, and the rest of the people live in the countryside.
Arts and crafts have a long history in China. Thousands of years ago, the Chinese were some of the first people to use silk, jade, bronze, wood and paper to make art. The artistic writing called calligraphy was invented in China.
Much of China’s modern beliefs and philosophies are based on the teachings of a government official who lived nearly 3,000 years ago – Kongfuzi, also known as Confucius. He taught people the value of things such as morality, kindness and education.
China’s diverse habitats are home to hundreds of species of animals and plants. More than 3,800 species of fish and hundreds of amphibians and reptile species live in the rivers, lakes and coastal waters.
China’s forest wildlife is threatened by logging and clear-cutting (clearing the land of all trees) for farmland. Expanding deserts in the north are also reducing animal habitats. The good news is that the Chinese government has created more than 1,200 reserves to protect plant and animal species.
The giant panda lives in the misty mountains of central China and nowhere else on Earth. They can usually be found in thick bamboo forests, where they feast on the leaves of this woody evergreen plant. Sadly, due to habitat loss and hunting, these beautiful bears are on the endangered species list, and it’s estimated that only around 1,800 remain in the wild. Although that doesn’t sound like many, panda numbers have actually grown by 17% since the 1970s
China is ruled by a very powerful central government. A huge workforce and lots of natural resources have driven economic change. This has forced the communist* government to allow more economic and personal freedoms, but it has come at a huge cost to the environment, too.
Many experts predict that the 21st century will be the ‘Chinese century.’ Whether or not that proves to be true, there is no doubt that what happens in China will affect many other nations.
China is the home of one of the world’s oldest civilisations, but it has only recently become a ‘modern’ nation. In the last 20 years, China has changed faster than any other country in the world.
Chinese history is divided into dynasties, each of which marks the period when a line of emperors ruled. The first empire was the Qin dynasty and began in 221 B.C. The last emperor was overthrown in 1912, and China became a republic. The communist government began its rule in 1949 following a civil war with the Chinese Nationalists.
Ancient China was a land of invention. For centuries, China was much more advanced than most other countries in science and technology, astronomy and maths. The Chinese invented paper, the magnetic compass, printing, tea porcelain, silk and gunpowder, among other things.
* Communism is a system which aims to create a society where everything is shared equally among the people.
* A republic is a form of government where the people elect their leaders to run the country.
(Words adapted from kids.nationalgeographic.com. Photos: Getty Images UK.)