The Middle Kingdom

Geography of China

The geographical coordinates for China are 35'00 N, 105'00 E.

China stretches about 3,200 miles from east to west and 3,400 miles from north to south. Its land frontier is about 12,400 miles in length, and its land coast line extends for some 8,700 miles.

China is bounded by Mongolia to the north; Russia and North Korea to the northeast; the Yellow Sea and East China Sea to the east; Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), India, Bhutan, and Nepal to the south; Pakistan to the southwest; and Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan to the west.

The relief of China is high in the west and low in the east, consequently, the direction of flow of the major rivers is generally eastward.

The surface of China can be divided into three steps, or levels. The first level is represented by the Plateau of Tibet.
Plateau of Tibet has an average elevation of well over 13,000 feet above sea level, which makes it the loftiest highland area in the world. (above: South of Plateau of Tibet)
The second step lies to the north of the Kunlun and Quilian mountains and to the west of Qionglai and Daliang ranges.
There the mountains descend sharply to heights of between 6,000 and 3,000 feet. Including the Mongolian Plateau, the Tarim Basin (above), the Loess Plateau, the Sichuan Basin, and the Yunnan-Guizhou (Yungui) Plateau.
The third step extends from the east of the Dalou, Tai hang, and Wu mountain ranges and from the eastern perimeter of the Yunna-Guizhou Plateau to the China Sea.
About one third of the total area of China consists of mountains. China has the world’s tallest mountain and the world’s highest and largest plateau, in addition to possessing extensive coastal plains. The five major landforms—mountain, plateau, hill, plain, and basin—are all well represented. China’s complex natural environment and rich natural resources are closely connected with the varied nature of its relief.
Mount Everest (above), situated on the border between China and Nepal, is the highest peak in the world, at an elevation of 29,035 feet.
China is prone to intense seismic activity throughout much of the country. The main source of this geologic instability is the result of the constant northward movement of the Indian tectonic plate beneath Southern Asia, which has thrust up the towering mountains and high plateaus of the Chinese southwest.
In April the mean temperature is above freezing for the whole China, with the exception of extreme northern Heilongjiang. The hottest places in China are found along the valleys of the middle and lower Yangtze.
Rain falls mostly in summer months, when plants need water most. This is an important asset for farmers, but summer rainfall is too intense.
China may be divided into two sharply different vegetation zones: the dry northwest and the humid southeast.
China is slightly smaller than the United States

Culture of China

Forms of Government

China is a single-party people's republic with one legislative house.
The head of state currently is President Xi Jinping.


Freedom of religion is guaranteed by China's constitution.
A 2007 survey by the Horizon Research Consunltancy Gtoup found out that Buddhists make up to 11-16% of while Christians make up to 3-4 % and Musims make up to only 1% of China's population.
China's San Jiao ("tree doctrines" or "tree religions") include Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism.

Economic Systems

China is the world leader in gross value of agricultural output; rice, wheat, potatoes, corn, peanuts, tea millet, barley, apples, cotton, oilseed;pork; fish.

Rice is a major staple food for people from rice farming areas in southern China. Steamed rice, usually white rice (above), is the most commonly eaten form. Rice is also used to produce beers, wines and vinegars. Rice is one of the most popular foods in China and is used in many dishes.
World leader in gross value of industrial output; mining and ore processing, iron, steel, aluminum, and other metals, coal; petroleum; cement; chemicals; fertilizers; consumer products (like footwear, toys, electronics, etc.); food processing; transportation; equipment (cars, trains, ships, air crafts); telecommunications equipment, commercial space launch vehicles and satellites.

Social Organization

In the first decades of its rule, the Chinese Communist Party sought to replace traditional Chinese social structures with class-based categories grouping people together as workers, peasants, intellectuals or technicians. Ths form of labelling has largely been abandoned as China's economy has diversified.
Confucius sought to promote harmony by giving every person a particular role in society, with every role having a position within a fixed hierarchy. The male was above the female, the old above the young, certain occupations carried more honour and merit than others - with the merchant or businessman at the bottom of the pile, below the farmer! A person could rise in rank through professions by the exercise of his talent and could accumulate seniority simply by growing old.

It would be wrong to say that modern Chinese society is Confucian - Confucius' ideas were never applied fully even in his own lifetime - but his ideas still inform the way in which people behave within Chinese organisations and how they relate to people outside those organisations.

Customs and Traditions

China has one of the oldest sporting cultures in the world. There is evidence that a form of association football called cuju was played in China during the Han Dynasty. Today, some of the most popular sports in the country include martial arts, basketball, football, table tennis, badminton, swimming and snooker. Board games such as go (known as weiqi in China), xiangqi, and more recently chess, are also played at a professional level.
Physical fitness is widely emphasized in Chinese culture, with morning exercises such as qigong and t'ai chi ch'uan widely practiced, and commercial gyms and fitness clubs gaining popularity in the country.

The traditional Chinese holidays are an essential part of harvests or prayer offerings. The most important Chinese holiday is the Chinese New Year (Spring Festival), which is also celebrated in Korea, Vietnam, and other Asian countries. All traditional holidays are scheduled according to the Chinese calendar (except the Qing Ming and Winter Solstice days, falling on the respective Jie qi in the Agricultural calendar).
Traditional Chinese food in Tianjin, including dumpling, baozi and guobacai (above).

Spices are central to Chinese cuisine. Numerous foreign offshoots of Chinese food, such as Hong Kong cuisine and American Chinese food, have emerged in the various nations that play host to the Chinese diaspora.


Standard Mandarin is the official national language of China and is used as a lingua franca in the country between people of different linguistic backgrounds.
Sino-Tibetian language family- Mandarin (70% of the population), Wu (Shanghainese), Yue (Cantonese and Taishanese), Min (Hokkien and Techew), Xiang, Gan, and Hakka.
Non-Sinitic languages spoken widely by ethnic minorities include Zhuang, Mongolian, Tibetian, Uyghur, Hmong, and Korean.

Arts and Literature

It is generally agreed that there are six types of classical arts: poetry, dance, music, painting, architecture and sculpture. China has a long history, so all six classical arts flowered in ancient China.

As early as 7,000 or 8,000 years ago, Chinese ancestors had already started to dancing, and use it as part of their community activity. In the Shang period, dance became a main component of ceremonies involving prayer and worship. Court dance started during that period. Chinese dancing includes both martial and civil dances, dancing with empty hands and dancing with weapons. In the more simple folk art, dancers would wield various instruments while dancing, including sickles, axes, umbrellas, straw hats and scarves. The use of sleeves and their extensions, long scarves, also contributed to unique forms of dancing.
Shen Yun Performing Arts is a performing-arts and entertainment company which performs classical Chinese dance, ethnic and folk dance, and story-based dance, with orchestral accompaniment and solo performers. The picture above demonstrates one of the dancers.
Ancient myths and legends, the earliest epics, were a great source of the literature of the country. Classic of Poetry was the first written collection of poems in China. It is said that Classic of Poetry was compiled by Confucius. After Classic of Poetry came Chu Ci (or The Poetry of Chu: The Songs of the South) a compilation of the works of Q Yuan and his followers. Qu Yuan's works significantly influenced Chinese poetry of later ages.

Chinese novels mostly derive from the scripts of street performers. Legends from the Tang Dynasty and storytellers' scripts in the Song Dynasty had already taken on an embryonic novel form. In the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Chinese classical novels became fully mature. Now, types of dramas from different places of China number over 300, from the "living fossils of the theater" such as the Nuo Opera of Guizhou Province (the Mask drama), the Tibetan Opera, and the Pu Xian Opera in Fujian Province, to the so-called state treasure, the Beijing Opera - the whole spectrum is treasures of the theater.

Data Based Questions

1. According to the line graphs above, about how many people were there in China in the year 1998?

2. Were the projections for China's future population on graph B for the year 2012 in high variant, medium variant, constant fertility variant or low variant?

Answers: 1) 1,242 billion; 2) Both in the medium and constant fertility variant projection.
1. Why are the Great Wall and Great Wallet of China close together and what is the connotative meaning of what Obama says?

2. How many times have they raised the ceiling of borrowing money?

Answers: 1) What Obama meant in this cartoon is that, just like the Great Wall is visible from a low earth orbit, now the debt is so large that he compares it to the Great Wall. Back in 1981, President Reagan once said that with a stack of $1,000 bills equivalent to the U.S. government’s debt, it would be about 67 miles or more than 107 kilometers high. Of course now that the debt now has reaches $15.93 trillion, it would be 900 miles or more than 1,448 kilometers tall or in $1 bills or notes, the current debt of $15.93 trillion will bring you to the moon and back – twice. 2) Since 1962, the ceiling of borrowing has been raised a whopping 74 times.

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