Known today as the People's Republic of China, this large country is referred to in Chinese as the "Middle Kingdom." As evidenced by this name, China has long considered itself the center of the world. With a rich and complex history, this unique Asian civilization stretches back thousands of years to ruling dynasties that are responsible for accomplishments such as the Great Wall and the Terra Cotta Warriors. China is one of the four oldest civilizations in the world.
The Qin Emperor unified China around 221 BC during what is known as the Qin Dynasty. Prior to this, feudal warlords ruled the land. October 1,1949 is the official birthday of the People's Republic of China, which was brought about by Chairman Mao Zedong and the Communist Party. The Communist Party is still the ruling power today.
With an official count of 1.3 billion people, China is the most populated country in the world and accounts for about 22 percent of the world's population. Roughly the size of the United States, much of the land in the western section is actually uninhabitable. Most of the people live on one third of the land. Urbanization is a current and increasing trend in China especially as the number of educated young professionals increases. China is divided up into 23 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, and 4 municipalities. Beijing, the capital city, is one of these municipalities.
There are 56 officially recognized people groups in China. The majority group is referred to as Han and makes up over 90 percent of the population. Mandarin is the national language with Cantonese being one of the many dialects spoken by the various ethnic groups.
The landscape of China is varied with gorgeous mountain vistas, the vast Gobi desert, picturesque rice paddies, stunning lakes, and over 50,000 rivers. China boasts World Heritage Site, Zhu Zhai Gou in Sichuan province, which attracts both local and foreign tourists throughout the year. At one time the center of trade between China and the West, Dunhuang, in the northwest, has a series of caves with ancient Buddhist carvings.
China has captivated the world with its arts, philosophy, medicine, and culture. Not only did China bring inventions such as gunpowder, paper, and the compass to the world, but it has also contributed tai chi, gong fu, acupuncture, and a rich variety of delicious cuisine. Each major region in China is famous for its own unique style of cooking. Sichuan is one of the most renowned for its la jiao, or spicy chili pepper.
China has it all, from the rural farming towns with every inch of land cultivated by the local dwellers to the ultra modern high rises in the bustling cities. Within China exists a unique marriage of ancient traditions and technological advancements.
China still clings to its past while trying to move forward into the future. Tourists flock to the hutongs, or alleyways, of Beijing to catch a glimpse of life in past times before they are demolished to make room for shopping malls and skyscrapers. China is a land where East meets West in a rare cultural blend.
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