China

A Land of Many People

The People’s Republic of China, or China, is the second largest country on the continent of Asia. It is home to over 1.3 billion people. This is the largest population of any country. China’s population is composed of 55 ethnic minorities and one majority, the Han culture. China’s landscape and wildlife are diverse, ranging from forests and mountains to rugged coastlines. China’s rare and endangered wildlife includes the giant panda, snow leopard, and tiger.

An Ancient Civilization

China is one of the four oldest civilizations in the world. It has one of the longest recorded histories of any country, stretching back over 4,000 years. China’s history is divided into 19 Dynasties. In that long history, the Chinese people invented papermaking, printing, and irrigation systems. The compass, explosive powder, and fireworks are also Chinese inventions.

The Great Wall was built over 2,000 years ago and stretches for an amazing 1,600km.

The Great Wall was built over 2,000 years ago and stretches for an amazing 1,600km.

©K.Feng/GLOBIO.org

The Great Wall and Other Great Feats

The Chinese have created some of the great engineering wonders of the world. The Great Wall is the most famous. It stretches over 1,600 km long and was built more than 2,000 years ago. The Grand Canal from Hangzhou to Beijing was a great water project in ancient China. It is 1,794 km long. This makes it the longest canal in the world. Even today, the Chinese build on a grand scale. The new Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River is the largest dam in the world – over 5 km across the top.

China's Big Cities

About one-third of all Chinese live in large modern cities. More than 14 million people live in Beijing, the capital. Shanghai is the largest and tallest city in the world. More than 16 million people live there. These are cities filled with tall skyscrapers, cars, and people. Most people in Chinese cities travel by bicycle (China has more bicycles than any other country) or in public buses and taxis.

The majority of China’s citizens travel by buses, taxis, and bicycles. China has more bicycles than any other country in the world.

The majority of China’s citizens travel by buses, taxis, and bicycles. China has more bicycles than any other country in the world.

©K.Feng/GLOBIO.org

Many Languages and Religions

China is a country with many religions. The majority Han follows Buddhism, Christianity, or Taoism. There are also local myths and beliefs that smaller groups of people throughout the country follow.

The majority of Chinese speak Mandarin (Putonghua) based on the Beijing dialect. In southeastern China, near Hong Kong, the Cantonese dialect is most common. English is becoming a popular language, especially in cities, where many younger Chinese people are taking it up.

Tall Mountains and Flat Plains

China is located on the eastern edge of the continent of Asia. It is the fourth-largest country in the world, after Canada, the United States, and Russia. It has an area of 9.6 million km2 or one-fifteenth of the world's land mass. China’s topography, moving from west to east, looks like a series of three steps. High mountains drop down to low hills and plateaus in the central region and then to lowlands and plains near the coast.

A Land Rich in Natural Resources

China’s diverse landscape provides many natural resources. Underground, are large deposits of two important resources, coal and iron ore. Water is another major natural resource. China has more than 500 rivers. Many of these rivers flow swiftly from sources high in the mountains. This makes China’s potential for hydropower one of the greatest in the world. Timber from mountainous forests has been harvested for centuries. Bamboo is one of the most widely used forest products.

Bountiful Farmland

In China’s central and southern plains and valleys, many different crops are grown to provide food for the people of China.

In China’s central and southern plains and valleys, many different crops are grown to provide food for the people of China.

©K.Feng/GLOBIO.org

China’s central and southern plains and valleys are rich agricultural areas. They supply much of the food for China’s people. China has a variety of climates. This means that many different crops can grow in China. Chinese farmers grow rice, vegetables, fruits, wheat, corn, and even tropical fruits like oranges and bananas.

Different Habitats for Many Creatures

Siberian tigers still roam the remote, cold, northern regions of China and into Russia. This big cat is an endangered species but is still hunted illegally and traded on the black market.

Siberian tigers still roam the remote, cold, northern regions of China and into Russia. This big cat is an endangered species but is still hunted illegally and traded on the black market.

©G.Ellis/GLOBIO.org

China has many different kinds of land that provide wildlife habitat: wetlands, alpine mountains, mixed deciduous-conifer forests, coastlines, tropical forests, deserts, and river systems. China’s diverse habitats support many rare and endangered species. Mountains are home to snow leopards and yaks. Temperate forests have giant pandas, red pandas, and golden snub-nosed monkeys. Tigers still roam colder regions in the north. The tropical southeastern region has clouded leopards and many primates and birds. The Yangtze River even has a species of freshwater dolphin but there are very few left and scientists even believed it to be extinct for a time.

Conservation in China

Many people live in eastern China. In this part of China much of the original vegetation and forests have been lost as the result of farming and the growth of cities. Environmental damage, such as pollution and habitat destruction, has become a major concern in China. The government is working to create new laws to protect the environment and wildlife. Kids in China are also learning more about conservation of wildlife and how to protect the environment in their school studies.