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China

Some Facts China | Practical Tips | Intellectual Property | Basic Mandarin Phrases | Business & Culture in China | A Brief Chinese Chronology (Source: China Yearbook 2004) | Meet the Country China | Useful links

Meet the Country China

CHINA THE BEAUTIFUL!

Nature is varied and colorful, hence full of vigor and vitality. So are the cultures of different countries. For, as the fruit of a nation’s mental efforts, a nation’s culture is shaped by its history, geography, customs, economic development, aesthetic standards and other factors. 

“Those who do not forget the past are the masters of the future”
“Book of Records” by Sima Qian (145-85 BC), China’s first great historian

THE KEEN AWARENESS OF THE PAST goes hand in hand with openness to innovation. In the world today, the Chinese culture distinguishes itself as the sole one that has lasted over 5,000 years without breaks. In ancient times, the civilization of China was far from homogeneous. Ancient China had different cultures in different regions, and it was the people of the different ethnic groups that build up the splendid Chinese culture. Open-minded, it absorbed healthy elements from other cultures, so as to enrich and develop. The Chinese learning and absorbing of Buddhism bears evidence of the readiness of Chinese culture to adapt and assimilate alien cultures.

The Orient will no longer be so mysterious, thanks to the process of globalization. In the process of opening up to the outside world, the common cultural exchanges serve the interests of all parties concerned. Travelling around the country itself is seldom problematic, but it would be wrong to pretend that it is an entirely easy matter to penetrate modern China, because China is not just a big country – it is another world! From shop-till-you-drop metropolises to the epic grasslands of Inner Mongolia - with deserts, sacred peaks, astounding caves, and imperial ruins - it's a land of cultural and geographic schisms.

China has very rich cultural heritages from their minority groups, of which each one has its own form of visual arts, performing arts and music. Chinese; Hen and minority groups are living together peacefully in a nation with colourful culture of different varieties. China is the home of the world's richest and oldest heritage of art and literature. Some of the famous works have been translated into foreign languages, but most of them are not translated or non-translatable. Thus they are unknown to the outside world.

TOURISM

Thanks to China's high mountains, elegant rivers, springs and waterfalls, rich and varied folk customs and styles, rare animals and plants, numerous spots and historical sites, distinctive operas, music and dances, and its world-renowned cousine, this fascinating country attracts a large number of domestic and foreign tourists. China has made great efforts in meeting the demands of tourists by building, expanding and renovating many hotels and restaurants. There are more than 11,000 hotels, which of some 7,500 are star-rated hotels. Rapid progress are also been made in civil aviation, railways, inland and marine transport, and highways, providing guarantee and convenience for both Chinese and foreign tourists travelling in China. Chinese tourist agencies are well equipped to host group tours of major tourist destinations; Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Gulian and Guangzhou. Not only theme tours to cultural and historical sites are popular, but also tours with activities as cycling, hiking, exploring the deserts, mountain climbing, skiing and golfing, as well as martial arts and fitness tours. Ecotourism combines activities of bird watching, boating, and enjoying traditional ethnic food, customs and culture.

If we should pick out two of our own favourite cities in China, even though it is a difficult choice, we would choose Beijing and Hangzhou;

BEIJING

The capital of the People's Republic of China, Beijing, is the nation's political, cultural, scientific and educational heart as well as a key transportation hub. Beijing has served as the capital of the country for more than 800 years dating back to the Yuan Dynasty. Beijing is a prominent historical and cultural city, abundant in treasured historical heritage and cultural relics. The city will host the 2008 Summer Olympic next year and people from all around the world are more than welcomed to travel to Beijing for the grand celebration.

Over the past 5 years, Beijing has transformed into a modern and world-class capital city. Many of the traditional houses are replaced with huge office buildings, fashionable residents and apartment complexes, and the streets are widened to be able to handle the heavy traffic of Beijing’s 3 million cars. For the average Beijing resident, it may be a loss of historic significant to experience the rapid changes of the city. For us foreigners, Beijing is an adventure.

The Great Wall is one of the greatest wonders of the world, and was enlisted in the World Heritage by UNESCO in 1987. Like a gigantic dragon, the Great Wall winds up and down across deserts, grasslands, mountains and plateaus, stretching approximately 6,700 km from east to west of China. It has a history of more 2,000 years, and some of the sections of the great wall are now in ruins or even entirely disappeared. However, it is still one of the most appealing attractions all around the world owing to its architectural grandeur and historical significance.

The Temple of Heaven was built in 1420 AD, during the Ming Dynasty to offer sacrifice to Heaven. As Chinese emperors called themselves »The Son of Heaven« they dared not build their own dwelling, the »Forbidden City« bigger than a dwelling for Heaven. Temple of Heaven is located in the southern part of Beijing, and is China's largest existing complex of ancient sacrificial buildings. Photo: Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, Temple of Heaven.

The Forbidden City, at the centre of the ancient city of Beijing, was the Chinese imperial palace from the mid-Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty, and the home of 24 emperors during these dynasties. Today, the Forbidden City is a public museum and World Heritage site, attracting millions of tourists from around the world.

The Tiananmen Square is the “must” place to visit in Beijing. It is located at the centre of Beijing City is Tiananmen Square, where you can visit Tiananmen Tower, Monument to the People's Heroes, Great Hall of the People, Mao Zedong Memorial Hall and see the national flag raising ceremony.

The Ming Tomb. Among the many Sacred Ways, the one of Ming Tombs is best preserved and complete. Approximately 50 km northwest from Beijing City lays the Ming Tombs - the general name given to the mausoleums of 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The mausoleums have been perfectly preserved, as has the necropolis of each of the many emperors.

The Sacred Way is part of the Ming Tombs complex, and starts with a huge stone memorial archway lying at the front of the area. It is a long, straight path flanked by statues first of ancient government officials and then by animals. The Sacred Way ends at a pavilion sheltering a stone tablet.

The Summer Palace was constructed in the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234). It is situated in the western outskirts of Haidian District, 15 km from central Beijing. The Summer Palace is the archetypal Chinese garden, and is ranked amongst the most noted and classical gardens of the world. In 1998, it was listed as one of the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

The Peking Opera is a national treasure with a history of 200 years. In the 55th year of the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1790), the four big Huiban opera Troupes entered the capital and combined with Kunqu opera, Yiyang opera, Hanju opera and Luantan in Beijing's theatrical circle of the time. Through a period of more than half a century of combination and integration of various kinds of opera there evolved the present Peking opera, whose richness of repertoire and artistic performance are incomparable in China.

Silk Market (on Jianguomen Wai) and Pearl Market (Hongqiao Market) are two of the most popular local markets for foreigners to do shopping, and you will not go empty handed after enjoying the excitement of bargaining. And you should bargain, because you ought to make the seller satisfied. Are you satisfied with the product and price after bargaining, the seller will be as happy as you are! Silk Market has a wide variety of clothing, including cashmere and silk, often sold as seconds or surplus goods from export market. Fakes abound, as do pickpockets. At these markets you will also find electronic equipment, watches, clothes, shoes, leatherware and travel accessories. Pearl Market, also known as Hongqiao Market, has one of the largest and best selections of inexpensive fresh-water pearls in Beijing, as well as antiques and reproductions. It is located across the North gate of the Temple of Heaven.

The most time-saving way of getting around is to take a taxi or book a private tour through a reliable travel company which often includes private transport with an English speaking guide. If you have not booked a Beijing sightseeing in forehand, ask the hotel reception to assist you. Do not accept a sightseeing tour by strangers or pirate taxies. One thing is that pirate sightseeing is an illegal business, and the other thing is that it is not worth the money you will have to pay for it.

Chinese Cuisine is excellent, with a variety in taste and definitively one of the finest pleasures a visitor will experience in China. You have not really visited Beijing without having eaten the famous Beijing Duck! The restaurant we can recommend you for a Beijing Duck meal is Quanjude Restaurant.

Nightlife entertainment will not disappoint you, as bars, Karaoke and night clubs are open all night. In Karaoke bars you can rent a room for a couple of hours with friends, order a good dinner while you and your friends entertain each other.

If you wish a more cultural evening, visit a Chinese Acrobatic & Magic Show at Chaoyang Theater (36 Dongsanhuan Beilu, North Eastern Third Ring Road, Chaoyang District) or the Peking Opera at Zhengyici Theater (220 Xiheyan Dajie, Xuanwu District). The Peking Opera is regarded as the highest expression of the Chinese culture. Artistically, Peking Opera is perhaps the most refined form of opera in the world. It has deeply influenced the hearts of the Chinese people.

HANGZHOU

Do you know that Hangzhou, by Yangtze River, was Marco Polo’s favourite city? Marco Polo was not only interested in battles. He was fascinated by the Chinese civilization, and when travelling in China he had the unique opportunity to get acquainted with it at the peak of its glory. Hangzhou, which he was especially impressed with, he called The Heavenly City, Coromoran – “the finest and most splendid city of the world”.

"In Heaven, there is Paradise
On Earth, Suzhou and Hangzhou", by Marco Polo

Hangzhou’s history can be traced back more than 50,000 years to the Upper Palaeolithic Period. It gained great importance when the Grand Canal was built (581-618 AD) with Hangzhou as the southern terminus and Beijing as the northern terminus, and Hangzhou began to flourish as a major trade, political and cultural centre.

Hangzhou today is the capital city of Zhejiang Province and one of the richest cities in China. One of its attractions is West Lake, a lake of stunning beauty framed by low mountains on three sides. You can hire a boat and rest comfortably; admire how the sun sparkles in the calm water, while the boatman rows you around for an hour or two. The mountains around West Lake almost drip with ancient Chinese culture. You can see the Leifeng Pagoda on one of the hills, and the “Broken Bridge” below – where the legendary tale of “White Snake” took place. The best view of West Lake is the »Spring Dawn Round the Su Causeway«.

The causeway was built during the Northern Song Dynasty by Su Dongpo, a great scholar in ancient time. Stretching 2.8 km long, it is spanned by six bridges and heavily sheltered by green vegetation. In springtime, the whole causeway is covered by peach blossoms and weeping willows. And there are »the three stone pagodas«, built more than 800 years ago, 2 meters high, which are the main scenic spot the Chinese call "Three Pools Mirroring the Moon". To the west of the isle stand three ball-shaped hollow-stone pagodas with five round holes around. At the night of the Mid-Autumn festival when the moon shines full and bright, a candle is lit inside each of the pagodas. The light and the moon cast their reflections through the holes on the water, hence the name. Very romantic!

Hangzhou life is good for a foreigner, and it is a very liveable city from a Western perspective. The infrastructure, its roads and transportation systems are good. Railway lines from north and south and east to west run through Hangzhou. Hangzhou Airport is located three quarter of an hour outside the city, and has several direct roads leading to Hangzhou. Flights to and from Europe every day. Shanghai is only 3 hours away with train (2 hours with car) and from Shanghai's Pudong Airport a maglev train is being planned to shorten the travel time between the cities down to approximately 30 minutes.

Hangzhou is a modern city, and people enjoy the technical development of today at home as well as in work. The cuisine of Hangzhou is excellent, and you can choose among Chinese restaurants serving traditional Chinese food, self-service hot-pot, noodles specialities, sea food, goat, and flavours of local dishes. You do not have to walk far between the signs of McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut. Some foreign restaurants, among the Italian Restaurants serving Italian food and wine are becoming quite popular, and at western Barbeque Restaurants you will be served grilled specialities by servants walking from table to table, while you are listening to live music, often Greenfield and popular music.

The Silk Market is worth a visit, as Hangzhou has a long tradition as the silk centre of China. Some prices are given, some prices can be bargained, and the quality of the silk is high. Hangzhou fresh water pearls – which you can buy at the Pearl Market in Beijing – you better buy them in Beijing, as they are cheaper there than in Hangzhou.

Four Seasons is another market area, it is huge, where you can find all kinds of textiles, clothes and travel accessories.

Hefang Old Street - Night market of Hangzhou is a special experience. Copies of ancient buildings is a well-designed frame around the market street, where you can find not only modern products, textiles and electronic equipment, but also traditional Chinese handcrafts of wood and pottery, silk products, sculptures of jade and gemstones, and art. There are tea houses, coffee bars and restaurants along these streets, and a nice and relaxed atmosphere.

Not far from West Lake you will find the Longjin Village (Dragon Well Village) famous for its Longjin Tea plantations. Longjin Tea – green tea -originates from Hangzhou, is regarded as the elixir for health and is widely sold and accepted all over the world.  

From West Lake by foot or bike, it is not far to Lingyin Temple / Monastery of the Hidden Souls. The Lingyin Temple is one of the ten most famous ancient Buddhist temples in China. In front of the temple are various Buddhist literature and treasures situated. Lingyin Temple is also famous for its more than 470 stone carvings of Buddhist figures, which are dated back to the 10th -14th centuries.

Six Harmonies Pagoda (The Liuhe Pagoda), is located on the north bank of the Qiantang River in the south of Hangzhou City. The Liuhe Pagoda is one of the famous ancient pagodas in China and forms the wonderful sceneries of Hangzhou together with "the ten sceneries of the West Lake". Highly erected by the Qiantang River (to the south of West Lake), it is a perfect symbol of brick-and-wood structure built in the ancient China. It was first built in 970 AD in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127 AD). The name "six harmonies" comes from the six Buddhist ordinances; "harmonies of the heaven, earth, east, west, south and north".

Bao Chu Pagoda. Despite its crumbling appearance, this beautiful pagoda standing on a hill north of West Lake was last rebuilt in 1933. The pagoda's original structure dates from 968 AD, when local courtiers built a pagoda in an effort to ensure the safe return of their local ruler from the Song Dynasty court in Kaifeng.

West Lake Night. Spectacular performances of song, dance, operas, and acrobatics.

The Grand Canal. A boat trip along the canal with the view of the Chinese country side, typical water villages, arched stone bridges and ancient buildings by the riverside.

Song Dynasty Town. Located not far from West Lake, The town is arranged in an original Song style, and the streets are lined with colourful shops, stores, restaurants. It is divided into six parts, Reappearance of the Painting "Riverside Scene on Qingming Festival", Jiulong Square, Song Dynasty Town Square, Fairy Hills with Wonderful Towers, Song Palaces and the Romance of the Song Dynasty. Daily plays and shows featuring Song culture are performed here.

Tomb and Temple of General Yuefei Mu. Located on the West Lake Bank, and is a nice historical place. General Yuefei became well-known in the war against the Jin invasion in the South Song Dynasty. Yuefei proved to be a brilliant general, repeatedly defeating northern incursions.

If you have the possibility to travel out of Hangzhou for a few days, I will recommend that you visit Thousand Islets Lake (160 km west of Hangzhou) and Wuzhen Ancient Town (north of Hangzhou) either by bus or by a rented car with driver.

Thousand Islets Lake is the largest man-made lake in China; it covers an area of 573 sq km, and is famous for its clear water and beautiful scenery. Two ancient towns were located under the lake in 2002, dated back more than 1,800 years.

Wuzhen Ancient Town. Embraced by the Grand Canal, this ancient city has rivers and canals crossing the whole town. Attractions of Wuzhen, is the former residence of Mao Dun – the famous Chinese writer (»Midnight«, among other works). The Taoist Temple, Xiu Zhen Guan, which is built in the Xian Ping Yuan period of Bei Song Dynasty. It is one of three famous Taoist temples in South Bank in Yangtze River.

CHINA’S HISTORIC PRESERVATION EFFORTS

China's historic preservation efforts have received international recognition, most notably through the list of UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage Sites. By the end of 2006, China had 35 World Cultural and Natural Heritage Sites, all imbued with deep historical significance; 

WORLD HERITAGE LIST

CATEGORY

The Great Wall (Beijing Municipality)

Cultural

Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang (Beijing Municipality)

Cultural

The Peking Man (Ruins at Zhoukudian, Beijing Municipality)

Cultural

The Magao Caves at Dunhuang (Gangsu Province)

Cultural

The Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum and the Qin Terracotta Warriors (Shaanxi Province)

Cultural

The Mount Taishan (Shandong Province)

Natural & Cultural

Mount Huangshan (Anhui Province)

Natural & Cultural

Jiuzhaiguo Scenic Area (Sichuan Province)

Natural

Huanglongsi Scenic Spot (Sichuan Province)

Natural

Wulingyuan Scenic Spot (Hunan Province)

Natural

The Chengde Mountain Summer Resort and Eight Outer Temples (Hebei Province)

Cultural

Potala Palace (Tibet Autonomous Region)

Cultural

Confucius Temple, Confusius Family Mansion and Confusius Woods at Qufu (Shandong Province)

Cultural

Ancient Taoist Buildings on Mount Wudang (Hubei Province)

Cultural

The Mount Lushan  (Jianxi Province)

Cultural

The Mount Emei and the Leshan Giant Buddha (Sichuan Province)

Natural & Cultural

Ancient City of Pingyao (Shangxi Province)

Cultural

The Suzhou Classical Gardens (Jiangsu Province)

Cultural

Acient City of Lijiang (Yunnan Province)

Cultural

The Summer Palace (Beijing Municipality)

Cultural

The Temple of Heaven (Beijing Municipality)

Cultural

The Mount Wuyi (Fujian Province)

Natural & Cultural

The Dazu Rock Carvings (Chingqing Municipality)

Cultural

The Ming and Qing Imperial Mausoleums (Hubei and Hebei Provinces)

Cultural

Longmen Grottoes (Henan Province)

Cultural

The Mount Qingcheng and Dujiang Dam (Sichuan Province)

Cultural

The Xidi and Hongcun – Acient Villages in South Anhui (Anhui Province)

Cultural

The Yungang Grottoes (Shanxi Province)

Cultural

Yin Ruins Museum of Anyang (Henan Province)

Cultural

Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries – Wolong, Mt Siguniang and Jiajin Mountains (Sichuan Province, between Chengdu Plateau and Qinghai-Tibet Plateau)

Natural

The Historic Center of Macau (Macau SAR)

Cultural

The Capital Cities and Tombs of Ancient Koguryo Kingdom (Ji'an City in Jilin Province, and Huanren County in Lialoning Province)

Cultural

Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan (Yunnan Province)

Natural

Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (the Xian Tomb of Ming Dynasty in Hubei Province, and the Dong Tombs of Qing Dynasty in Zunhua County, Hebei Province, 125 km east of Beijing)

Cultural

 World Heritage Preservation in China: http://www.china.org.cn/english/whp/71256.htm

MUSEUMS OF CULTURAL RELICS

The Qin Dynasty Terracotta Warriors (Xi'an, Shaanxi Province) is an example, have become internationally known tourist attraction. However, this museum is just one of some 1,395 museums nationwide in China. Beijing alone has 118 museums including museums of ancient coins, astronautics, animation art, natural history, Beijing opera, contemporary literature, Buddhist literature and heritage, sports, stamps, classical art, fine arts, military, ethnology as well as museums honouring famous writers, artists, scientists and political figures in Chinese history. Local non-governmental museums included, the number of various museums nationwide has reached some 2,000. These museums keep over 20 million items of cultural relics and art works and hold over 8,000 exhibitions annually. The government encourages exchanges of cultural relics between museums and promotes the display and exchanges of legal non-governmental collections.

Museums in China
; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Museums_in_China
The National Museum of Chinese History; http://www.nmch.gov.cn/en/index.asp

In the last several decades Chinese archaeologists have unearthed tens of thousands of cultural artefacts, many of sublime beauty. China has a recorded history of 4,000 years, but archaeologists have traced the beginnings of a human civilization to a much earlier time. China’s earliest primitive human discovered so far is known as “Yuanmou Man”, a fossil anthropoid unearthed in Yuanmou in Yunnan Province who lived approximately 1.7 million years ago. The better-known “Peking Man”, discovered in the Zhoukoudian area outside Beijing, lived 600,000 years ago. Peking Man was able to walk upright, make and use simple tools, and make fire. By the start of Neolithic Age in China about 10.000 years ago, people were cultivating rice and millet with farming tools, something reviled by relics found in the ruins of Hemidu in Yuyao, Zhejiang Province, and Banpo, near Xi’an City, Shaanxi Province. The relics date back some 6,000-7,000 years.

THE FIRST KNOWN CHINESE STATE

THE SHANG, the first known Chinese state, emerged 1600 BC (1600-1046 BC) out of a Neolithic world of ancestor-worshipping villagers, who lived on hilltops above their fields in river valleys. The creation of the Shang state entailed the introduction of writing, of building walled settlements, the appearance of an elite who extracted obedience and goods from common people, and the use of large-scale military forces. The earliest script in China forms a complete writing system that was used by the Shang kings and allies to communicate with ancestors or gods through “oracle bone” divination. All royal activities were predicted by divination, accompanied by specified sacrifices, offered chiefly to the Shang royal ancestors. In general, the thrown passed from brother to brother, but could also shift to the next generation, which may have been determined by the status of the candidates’ mothers, and when the king’s wife was deemed a higher status than the next brother. Women wielded considerable power in the Shang state, and some were even commanding armies. The Shang kings presided over a league of settlements, and not a state in the modern sense of a contiguous territory defined by boundaries. The state had no bureaucracy and was essentially and extension of the royal household.

THE FIRST CHINESE DYNASTY

According to tradition, the Xia Dynasty (2070-160 BC) was the first Chinese dynasty that ruled a state. The centre of its activities was the western section of modern Henan Province and the southern section of modern Shanxi Province, and its sphere of influence reached the northern and southern areas of Yellow River. The Great Yu, King of Xia, was succeeded by his son Qi, and his descendants until the Xia Dynasty was overthrown by Shang. Written records of the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC) exist – some cast in bronze, some inscribed on tortoise shells or animal bones. These and other relics reveal that Chinese in the Shang Dynasty had magnificent abilities in bronze work, were involved in agriculture, and had formed a slave society. The Western Zhou Dynasty (1046-771 BC) saw further development, but Chinese historians differ on whether people then maintained a slave society or developed an incipient stage of feudalism. This era was followed by the Spring and Autumn (770-476 BC) and Warring States (475-221 BC) periods, when silk production advanced considerably and steel production started. Periods of economic and social upheaval when independent states vied for power, they are also known as dynamic cultural periods that produced several of the world’s greatest philosophers; Lao Zi, Confucius (551-479 BCE), Mencius, and Sun Zi, whose book The Art of War even in modern times is an international bestseller.

CHINESE PHILOSOPHY

“For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the highest skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill”  by Sun Zi, “The Art of War”

FOUR MAIN PHILOSOPHIES evolved prior to 221 BC; Confucianism, Daoism, Moism and Legalism. Although the first two were to have lasting importance in Chinese history, and especially Confucianism, the most heatedly debated philosophies before the Qin unification were the last two.

CONFUCIANISM constitutes China’s great contribution to the spiritual and moral history of humankind. Confucianism was the ideology of the imperial rule, reflected in sacred rites of the emperor to ensure harmony between human beings and the cosmos, and in the examinations that selected the administrators. Confucius based his social-mindness on a feudal ethic which expected the ruler to act with benevolence and sincerity, avoiding the use of forces at all costs. It underlies social and family ethics, cantered on a hierarchy of relationships propounded by Confucius, and on the rites of ancestor veneration.

For Confucius, the ceremony of ancestor worship was the meeting point of two worlds, the spiritual and the temporal, the past and the present, where good fortune was bestowed upon the dutiful descendant, the preserver of traditional values. “I am a transmitter, not a creator”, Confucius said. “I believe in things of old and love them”. For him tradition was embodied in the concept of li, which is translated usually as rites, etiquette, ritual, but really means propriety. It is the courtesy that is essential for a cultured person, and even today the Chinese regard good manners as a sign of moral character. Li is not only the rules of politeness, but rather the proper way of approaching every thought and deed. 

“The Gentleman studies literature extensively,
is tempered by its rites, and is unlikely to go astray”, by Confucius

Confucianism, the system of behaviours and ethics, is stressing the obligations of people towards one another based upon their relations, and is all about duty, sincerity, loyalty, honour, filial piety, respect for age and seniority. The basic tenets are based upon five different relations:

  1. Ruler - subject
  2. Husband - wife
  3. Parents - children
  4. Brother - sister
  5. Friend - friend 

Confucius’ attitude to religion was purely practical. “I stand in awe of the spirits, but keep them at distance”. Natural phenomena, like shooting stars, earth quakes and floods, was the will of Heaven. He had an abiding sense of faith in Heaven and in the mission which had entrusted him – to bring righteousness to the world. The reluctance of Confucius to pronounce on religion helped in introducing a sense of balance in the supernatural world as well as on the earthly level, so in Chinese history “holy wars” have been conspicuously by their absence. Disappointment marked the final years of Confucius’ life, because no ruler offered him an official appointment or heeded his teachings. However, the later influence of his thoughts was so immense that he has been rightly termed the “uncrowned emperor” of China.

If there be righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character. If there be beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there be harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there be order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.  by Confusius

Confucius’ ideas were expanded by Mencius (Mengzi) and by Xun Xi.

Mencius (372-289 BC), dealt with opposing philosophies, especially Moism, and he propounded the doctrine of mankind’s goodness. “A benevolent man extends his love from those he loves to those he does not love. A ruthless man extends his ruthlessness from those he does not love to those he love” Kindness was the sign of a true man, unkindness and cruelty being explained in the very modern terms of social deprivation. His assertion that a king ruled only with the “Mandate of Heaven” had literally, revolutionary implications; if a ruler did not benefit the people, it was their right to overthrow him. As a result, the rise and collapse of dynasties were interpreted in moral terms, something every Chinese emperor was keenly aware of.

Xu Xi (310-215 BC) is considered as the third of the great classical Confucians. In contrast to Mencius, he assumed that the nature of humans was basically evil, and advocated the need for rites, etiquettes, carefully defined laws and punishment to provide guidelines and encouragement for appropriate behaviour.

CONCEPTS FOR UNDERSTANDING THE CHINESE CULTURE

  • Guanxi - Relationship between people. Throughout much of the Chinese history, the fundamental glue that has held the society together is the concept of guanxi.
  • Mianxi - Face, losing face, saving face, giving face. Of great importance, and it should be take into consideration at all times
  • Li - Polite and Courteous. Originally li meant to sacrifice. Today it is translated as the art of being polite and courteous. Proper etiquette preserves harmony and face.
  • Keqi - Ke means Guest, and Qi means Behaviour. It means being considerate, polite and well mannered, and it represents humbleness and modesty.

THE IMPORTANCE OF “FACE”.
»Face« means »honour, respect and good reputation«. It is critical that you avoid “losing face” or causing “the loss of face of others”. The Chinese are in general a collective society with a need for group affiliation, whether to their family, school, work group, or country. In order to maintain a sense of harmony, they will act with decorum at all times, and they will cause someone else public embarrassment. The Chinese are willing to subjugate their own feelings for the good of the group or other persons, which often can be observed by the use of silence in very structured meetings. Even if someone disagrees with what another person says, rather than disagree publicly, they will remain quiet. This gives face to the other person, while speaking up would make both parties lose face.

There are four types of “face”:

  • Diu-mian-zi: when a person's actions or deeds have been exposed to people
  • Gei-mian-zi: involves giving face to others through showing respect
  • Liu-mian-zi: is developed by avoiding mistakes and showing wisdom in action
  • Jiang-mian-zi: when face is increased through others, i.e. someone complementing you to an associate

Chinese people are friendly and humble. When meeting foreigners, they not only feel that they have the duty to welcome us, in fact they will do their utmost to be good representatives for their country.

TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE

China and Taiwan today play a leading role in developing traditional Chinese medicine. In these countries there are some 232,000 traditional Chinese medical doctors and 50 institutes producing 30,000 traditional Chinese medical doctors annually.

Traditional Chinese medicine is a range of traditional medical practices. TCM, the modern compilation of traditional Chinese medicine, include theory, diagnose and treatment, such as herbal medicine, acupunture and massage. Qigong is also strongly affiliated with TCM. The TCM theory asserts that processes of the human body are interrelated and in constant interaction with the environment. Signs of disharmony help the TCM practitioner to understand, treat and prevent illness and disease.

There are more than 3,300 different styles and schools of qigong. Qigong relies on the traditional Chinese belief that the body has something that might be described as »vital life energy« generated and maintained by the natural respiration of the body, known as qi. Qi means breath or gas in, and by extension, the energy produced by breathing that keeps us alive; gong means work applied to a discipline or the resultant level of technique. Qigong is "breath work", the art of managing one's breathing in order to achieve and maintain good health, and to enhance the energy mobilization and stamina of the body in coordination with the physical process of respiration.

The TCM theory is based on a number of philosophical frameworks including the theory of Yin-Yang (balance between Yin and Yang), the Five Elements (metal, wood, water, fire, and earth) the human body Meridian system (the path of running Qi and blood through the body's interconnected »channels«),  Zang Fu theory (function of the organs and the interaction between them), and others. Diagnosis and treatment are conducted with reference to these concepts.

The Eight Guiding Principles, are employed by the TCM practioners (in addition to the theory of the five elements) to analyze and differentiate the energetic imbalances in the body. The eight guiding principles consist of four polar opposites:

  • Superficial or internal (li-biao). This principle describes symptoms in terms of the location of the patient’s problem. Superficial (or exterior) conditions are those caused by the invasion of the body by pathogens, and are usually acute and superficially located with a short duration. Superficial symptoms are those that affect the hair, skin, muscles, joints, peripheral nerves and blood vessels. Internal conditions result from pathogens that enter the interior of the body. Internal symptoms affect the organs, deep vessels and nerves, brain, spinal cord, and bones.
  • Cold or hot (han-re). This principle is used to determine the overall energy of the patient. A cold condition would be one marked by a slow metabolism, chills, pale skin, and a low-grade fever, while a hot condition would be characterized by a heightened metabolism, sensations of heat in the body, high fevers, and a flushed complexion.
  • Deficient or Replete (xu-shi). This principle describes the strength of an illness. In TCM, a deficient condition would be viewed as a lack of blood (such as in anemia), energy (Qi), heat, or fluids. Chronic illness would fall in this category. An excess condition, by contrast, means that the body has too much of something, such as Qi or blood. In TCM, an acute condition would be seen as an excess condition.
  • Yin or Yang (yin-yang). These principles are the generalization of the above principles, and a condition can be categorized in terms of the relative dominance of either yin and yang.  In Chinese medicine, all organisms have both yin and yang qualities and a balance of the two is necessary for good health. In general, yin energy is associated with cold, female energy, and represents the solid organs.  Yang is associated with hot, male energy, and represents the hollow organs. Chronic illness is seen as yin, while acute illness is seen as yang.

According to TCM, the combination of these principles determine the nature or quality of the three consituents of the body, which are energy (Qi), moisture, and blood.  As described above, Qi is vital life energy.  Moisture is the liquid medium which protects, nurtures, and lubricates tissue, and blood is the material foundation out of which we create bones, nerves, skin, muscles, and organs.

Chinese plants and medicine. Nearly 5,000 species of plants are used for medicine in China today, a fact that is of increasing interest to western medical researchers and pharmaceutical companies. Two examples: 1) Trichosanthes kirilowij (a member of the gourd family found only in China), is being studied by medical researchers for its strong activity against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.  2) The Chinese populations of Artemisia annua, (a member of the sunflower family), show great promise against drug-resistant Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Some 250 million people around the world contract malaria each year. Only the drug derived from Artemisia annua appears to be effective against all strains of the malaria parasite. 

Acupuncture is more 5,000 years old. It was not just practiced in China. Egyptians talked about vessels that resembled the 12 meridians in 1550 BC, in their medical treatises called the »Papyrus Ebera«. South African Bantu tribesman scratched parts of their bodies to cure disease. Arabs cauterized their ears with hot metal probes. Eskimos used sharp stones for simple acupuncture. Brazilian cannibals shot tiny arrows with blow pipes to diseased parts of their bodies to cure disease. Primitive sharp stones and bamboo were later replaced by fish bones, bamboo clips and later various shapes of needles made of metal. Today very fine hair thin needles are used. With advanced technology and precision instruments, these needles are placed at specific points of the body with little or no discomfort.

The first Chinese book of acupuncture was the »Nei Ching Su Wen«, written about 200 BC. It had two parts; »Su Wen« and »Ling Shu«. Therapies described Chinese medical thinking. It was geared to restore disturbed balances and harmonies of the body.

The »Shi Chi« was written 100 BC, about a doctor Pien Chiieh who lived around 500 BC. In this book the doctor describes pulse diagnosis.

The classic "Nei Ching« called »The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine« was written 300 BC.  It was a collection of books on medicine and medical writings; in which the emperor talks with Chi Poa, a court doctor, about the relationship between man and nature, the elements, causes and cures for disease,.the importance of yin yang balance, acupuncture and moxibustion (the burning of wool at the tip of a needle to increase the heat effect to the injured part of the body).

Also during the third century BC, two famous medical books were written by Chang Chi;  »Various Kinds Of Fevers« (Shang Han Lun) and a short version of the »Golden Shrine« (Chin Kui Yao Liieh). Around 700 AD, the first medical school was set up in Salermo and some 300 doctors were instructed in acupuncture and massage.

Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves the burning of mugwort, a small, spongy herb, to facilitate healing. Moxibustion has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years; in fact, the actual Chinese character for acupuncture, translated literally, means »acupuncture-moxibustion«. The purpose of moxibustion, as with most forms of traditional Chinese medicine, is to strengthen the blood, stimulate the flow of qi, and maintain general health..

CHINESE ASTROLOGY

Chinese astrology is believed to have originated in China approximately the 3rd millennium BC. The Chinese gave the five major planets names after the elements they were associated with: Venus correspond with Metal, Mars to Fire, Jupiter to Wood, Saturn to Earth, and Mercury to Water. The Chinese astrology uses the balance theory of Yin-Yang Five Elements (Metal, Fire, Wood, Earth and Water) to predict peoples' future.

»Heaven sends down its good or evil symbols and wise men act accordingly« by Confucius

THE CHINESE CALENDAR. The Chinese Lunar New Year is the longest chronological record in history, dating from 2600BC, when the Emperor Huang Ti introduced the first cycle of the zodiac. Like the Georgian calendar, The Chinese Lunar Calendar is a yearly one, but the start of the lunar year is based on the cycles of the moon, so the New Year Day can fall anywhere between late January and the middle of February. Each lunar year is associated with one of the 12 zodiac animals, and 2007 is The Year of the Boar (Pig). A complete cycle takes 60 years and is made up of five cycles of 12 years each.

The Chinese Lunar Calendar names each one of the twelve years after an animal. According to the legend; Lord Buddha summoned all the animals to come to him before he departed from earth. Only twelve came to bid him farewell. As a reward he named a year after each animal in the order they arrived.
 

Rat

1924

1936

1948

1960

1972

1984

1996

Ox

1925

1937

1949

1961

1973

1985

1997

Tiger

1926

1938

1950

1962

1974

1986

1998

Rabbit

1927

1939

1951

1963

1975

1987

1999

Dragon

1928

1940

1952

1964

1976

1988

2000

Snake

1929

1941

1953

1965

1977

1989

2001

Horse

1930

1942

1954

1966

1978

1990

2002

Sheep

1931

1943

1955

1967

1979

1991

2003

Monkey

1932

1944

1956

1968

1980

1992

2004

Rooster

1933

1945

1957

1969

1981

1993

2005

Dog

1934

1946

1958

1970

1982

1994

2006

Boar

1935

1947

1959

1971

1983

1995

2007


The Chinese believe that the animal ruling the year of which a person is born has a profound influence on personality, saying: "This is the animal that hides in your heart."  As an example, let us see what the Chinese Dragon symbolizes;

The Chinese Dragon is an ancient symbol of transformation and adaptability, characteristics that are the key to the resilience of Chinese civilization over at least forty centuries. The Chinese Dragon, or Lung, symbolizes power and excellence, valiancy and boldness, heroism and perseverance, nobility and divinity. A dragon overcomes obstacles until success is his. He is energetic, decisive, optimistic, intelligent and ambitious. Chinese people around the world, proudly proclaim themselves "Lung Tik Chuan Ren" (Descendents of the Dragon). Dragons are referred to as the divine mythical creature that brings with it ultimate abundance, prosperity and good fortune.

CHINESE FESTIVALS

Chinese New Year. The Celebration of Chinese Lunar Year, known as Spring Festival today, is the biggest holiday in China. The date for the Chinese New Year is based on astronomical observations, as is determined to be the Second Moon after Winter Solstice, and due to its scientific and mathematical nature, we can easily and precisely calculate backward or forward for thousands of years. 

Chinese New Year

Zodiac

Georgian Calendar

4705

Boar

February 18, 2007

4706

Rat

February 7, 2008

4707

Ox

January 26, 2009

4708

Tiger

February 10, 2010

4709

Hare/Rabbit

February 3, 2011

4710

Dragon

January 23, 2012

4711

Snake

February 10, 2013

4712

Horse

January 31, 2014

4713

Ram/Sheep

February 19, 2015

4714

Monkey

February 9, 2016

4715

Rooster

January 28, 2017

4716

Dog

February 16, 2018

4717

Boar

February 5, 2019

4718

Rat

January 25, 2020

Pure Brightness Day. This is the day that people offer sacrifices to their ancestors. The day falls around 5th or 6th of April each year.

Lantern Festival. The 15th day after the first lunar moon, the night of the first moon after Spring Festival, is Lantern Festival.

Dragon Boat Festival. This festival is believed originated to honour the memory of a poet, Qu Yuan (340-278 BC)

Mid Autumn Festival. On the 15th day of the eight lunar month is MidAutumn Festival celebrated. The festival came to celebrate family reunion, and the family would offer elaborate cakes as sacrifices to the Moon Goddess on this day. The custom of enjoying moon cakes when families are sitting together this evening has passed on from ancient time until today.

Double-Ninth Festival. This festival originated in 1980s, and is an occasion to show respect for the elderly people. The day falls on the 9th day of the 9th lunar moon. The number 9 represents luck in China, and two 9s has been considered a lucky day since ancient times.

Chinese Holidays. New Year – 1 January (1 day) Spring Festival (Chinese New Year of the Lunar Calendar, 3 days), International Women's Day (8 March), International Labour Day – 1 May (3 days), Chinese Youth Festival – 4 May (1 Day), International Children's Day – 1 June (1 day), Anniversary of the Founding of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army – 1 August (1 day), Teacher’s Day – 10 September (1 day), National Day of China – 1 October (3 days).

CHINESE ART

Visual Art

Art of Embroidery is a very long established art form in China. Based on archaeological findings in tombs, the first embroideries can be dated back to the early Han Dynasty in the early second century BC. As men and women have been involved in embroidery, it has never been classified as a solely female activity. Embroidered items are quite diverse and include robes, theatrical costumes, shoes, purses, spectacle cases, banners, and alter cloths. Some items were so finely stitched that it took 5-6 people several years to complete. Embroidery was also used to decorate silk clothing, silk flags and banners as a means of denoting rank or station. The finest embroidered items were very expensive. The city Suzhou is well known for its quality of embroidery today.

Art of Painting. Chinese painting is said to have the same origin as calligraphy, and can be traced back to paintings on ancient pottery, 6,000-7.000 years old. In its early stage of development, Chinese painting was closely related to crafts, from pottery to the decorations used on the bronzes, carved jade, lacqerware, and silk. Many scholar painters working with ink and brush produced paintings of plum blossoms, orchids, bamboo, chrysanthemums, pines and cypresses, using their subject matter to reflect their own ideals and character. Paintings could also integrate poetry or calligraphy with themes that includes landscapes, flowers, humans, birds and animals.

The traditional Chinese painting is still very highly valued. Western techniques of oil and watercolour painting are also popular, and some famous Chinese artists are combining traditional Chinese techniques with those of the West, with great success. The China Art Gallery and other galleries are worth a visit, as they arrange individual and joint art exhibitions the year out.

Art of Writing - Calligraphy. One does not have to know the Chinese language to appreciate the beauty of calligraphy! Chinese calligraphy serves the purpose of conveying thought, but also shows the abstract beauty of the line. Rhythm, line, and structure are more perfectly embodied in calligraphy than in painting or sculpture. Calligraphy is an abstract art, and is considered as one of the highest forms of Chinese art. It developed naturally from the unique Chinese writing system of pictures and signs, and is dated back to the earliest day of history. Calligraphy has been handed down to the present day, and the love of calligraphy is deeply ingrained in Chinese schools.

Chinese characters are build in its own square with a variety of structure and composition, and consist of only three basic forms; the circle, the triangle and the square. Each Chinese character has a definite number of strokes in appointed positions. Therefore, no stroke or line must be deleted or added for giving a decorative effect. The strokes should have artistic living movements, as strict regularity is not required.

For traditionally trained Chinese and even many “modern” leaders in government, business life and the arts today, the Chinese brush, ink and ink stone used in writing of characters, calligraphy and painting has a deep cultural significance.  One of the fascinating and intriguing characteristics of traditional Chinese society is the reverent manner in which a scholar was encouraged to think of all things concerning literature and the library including his writing materials.  Over the years numerous rules were developed and popularized in relation to the making of brushes, ink, ink stones and paper.  The literature called these four items the »four precious things of the library«, and many Chinese today are taught to give attention to writing of characters in a way very unlike the status of penmanship in this rapidly increasingly technological world.

In ancient times the Chinese ink was sold in solid ink sticks or ink cakes, which were round or rectangular but sometimes also shaped like a canoe.  The ink was the ground on an ink stone and was mixed with water for use. Today the ancient or antique ink sticks are collectors’ items, and reach high prices at auctions.

The brush used in calligraphy, has a tip a bit finer than the Western used for water-colour painting, and is more suitable for dealing with the variation of lines and strokes. Brushes of animal hair (mostly rabbit and sheep) are used for writing.

Considering the reverence traditionally educated Chinese scholars had for the brush and ink, their interest in the ink stone was even greater. The ink stone, which was used to grind the ink, is considered the very soul of a scholar’s library.  The ink stone was selected with greatest care and was often decorated with elaborate symbols or literary phrases which were thought to encourage the scholar’s production of higher sentiments.  Most ink stones are rectangular or rounded, and generally black or dark in colour. For Chinese who are fortunate to have learned to master the brush, ink, ink stone and paper, these »four precious things of the library” are a passion.  When holding an antique ink stone, it is hard not to feel the power that emanated from the previous painter or scholar who possessed this stone.  Antique ink stones are avidly collected and treasured both by Chinese and foreigners.  The prices vary greatly, and are often based on the ink stone’s history as to the prior owners, which of course are difficult if not impossible to verify. 

Folk Art. Papercuts, kites, marriots, wooden toys, jade, and stone carvings are artistic forms with ancient roots that are inherited from regional and ethnic scenes in China. It is still widely practiced, especially among ethnic groups.

Performing Art

Peking Opera. Among the 300 forms of traditional opera, the Peking Opera is the most famous. It developed in Beijing in early 19th century, and presents singing, dancing, music, chanting and martial arts in a one stage performance. Its dramatic masks and costumes are world-renowned.

Theatre. The three famous theatres; Beijing People's Art Theatre, China National Experimental Theatre and China National Youth Theatre, are boosting the popularity of stage dramas in Beijing, particularly among Beijing's young people.

CLASSICAL LITERATURE

China is the only country in the world with a written literature in one language for more than 3,000 consecutive years. From the earliest dynasties being recorded, it is the use of characters, not letters as in Western languages, that is most important in the Chinese language.

»The Book of Songs« (Shi Jing) is China's first anthology of poetry, and the earliest literary achievement (complied approximately 600 BC). Early writings generally derived from philosophical or religious essays such as the works of Confucius (551-479 BC) and Lao Tze (approximately 4th century BC). The writings were often about social behaviour and relation between people, how they should act and how the political system should be organized and operate in the society. After the fall of a dynasty, its grand history was commissioned and written down by scholars in the next dynasty.

From early date has China also produced poetry, novels, and dramatic writings, in addition to historical, philosophical and religious writings. During the Tang Dynasty, poetry became well established (AD 618 to 907). One of China's greatest poets, Li Po (Li Bai, AD701-762), wrote during this period. And the tradition of poetry which often dealt with relationship between humans in their natural surroundings has continued.

FAMOUS WRITINGS

  • Yi Jing »Classic of Changes«, written in classical Chinese.
  • Lao Tze (the Old Master): "Dao De Jing"
  • Confucius: The Analects – Lun Yu , The Great Learning – Da Xue, Doctrine of the Mean – Zhong Yong, Book of History – Shu Jing .
  • Menzius: Book of Menzius
  • Sun Zi: The Art of War
  • Li Zhi: Old Man Moves the Mountain, The Sky is Falling, Did the Hunter Lose or Dream loosing the Deer, Lost Axe, Man Who Loves Sea Gulls
  • Zhuang Zi: Zhuang Zi and Butterfly, Zhuang Zi and Happy Fish, Feed 3 bananas to monkeys in the Morning.

The five most popular literatures in China are »Classic of Changes« (Yi Jing), »The Dream of the Red Chamber«, »Water Margin«, »The Journey to the West«, and »Story of West Chamber«. All these works have been translated into foreign languages. Many works in literature, poetry, philosophies and medicine have not been translated and thus not accessible to foreigners, for example; »Romance of Three Kingdoms«, and  »The Legend of the White Snake«. For people interested in this subject, there are many international study groups active in this area.

More information:
Classical Literature, Resource Page:
http://mockingbird.creighton.edu/english/worldlit/wldocs/china.htm

CHINESE MUSIC

Chinese heritages are also reflected in music, mucis instruments and Chinese operas.  Chinese music is built on a totally consistent harmonic system which controls melodic progression, orchestration, and temperament use. It is perhaps the only major musical system in the world that has such all-encompassing requirements on all aspects of its music, and at the same time allowing the largest flexibility in the acceptance of harmonic intervals into music. 

A SONG OF PURE HAPPINESS   Folk Song Styled Verse

Her robe is a cloud, her face a flower;
Her balcony, glimmering with the bright spring dew,
Is either the tip of earth's Jade Mountain
Or a moon- edged roof of paradise.

There's a perfume stealing moist from a shaft of red blossom,
And a mist, through the heart, from the magical Hill of Wu
The palaces of China have never known such beauty
Not even Flying Swallow with all her glittering garments.

Lovely now together, his lady and his flowers
Lighten for ever the Emperor's eye,
As he listens to the sighing of the far spring wind
Where she leans on a railing in the Aloe Pavilion.
                                                 From High Tang period, by Li Bai

The music of China dates back to the dawn of Chinese civilization, as early as the Zhou Dynasty (1122-256 BC), with documents and artifacts providing evidence of a well-developed musical culture. The legendary founder of music in Chinese mythology was Ling Lun, who made bamboo pipes tuned to the sounds of birds. The oldest written music "Youlan"  (or the Solitary Orchid), attributes to Confucius. Today, the music continues a rich traditional heritage in one aspect, while emerging into a more contemporary form at the same time.

Traditional music is played on solo instruments or in small ensembles of plucked and bowed stringed instruments, flutes, and various cymbals, gongs, and drums. The scale has five notes. Bamboo pipes and qin are among the oldest known musical instruments. Traditionally instruments are divided into categories based on their composition; skin, gourd, bamboo, wood, silk, earth/clay, metal, and stone. Chinese orchestras traditionally consist of bowed strings, woodwinds, plucked strings and percussio.

Folk song has the longest history, simplest structure, richest numbers, and widest spreading musical genre among traditional Chinese culture. The poems of Chinese earliest poetry anthology "The Book of Songs" appeared 3,000 years ago. The 305 poems collected in the anthology are divided into three categories "Feng" (local folk songs), "Ya" and "Song"(court songs, banquet songs, flattering praises and sacrificial pomes), which display the music for folk customs, court, and rituals of pre-Qin Period (before 221 BC). The folk songs of Han people, which account for above 90% of China population, falls into nine categories according to music genres as; haozi (work songs), shan'ge (mountain songs, tian'ge (field songs), xiao diao (small tunes), Wuge (dance songs), yu'ge (fisherman's songs), ritual songs, children's songs, vendor's cries. All the different ethnic minorities have their own work songs, mountain soungs, dance songs, ritual songs and children's songs. Besides; love songs, narrative songs and religious songs are all given high importance. 

FAST FACTS

LOCATION. China is the third largest country in the world, next to Canada and Russia. The country is located in the east of the Asian continent, on the western shore of the Pacific Ocean. Total area is 9.6 million sq km. The country's border is 22.600 km long, with neighbouring countries; Korea, Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.

CLIMATE. Extremely diverse; from tropical in the south to sub arctic in the north. Most of China lies in the north temperate zone, characterized by a warm climate and distinctive seasons, a climate well suited for habitation. Most of China has a continental monsoon climate. From September to April, the dry and cold winters monsoon blows from Siberia and the Mongolian Plateau, resulting in cold and dry winters. From April to September, warm and humid summer monsoons blow from the seas in the east and south, resulting in overall temperatures and rainfall. In terms of temperature, the country can be sectored from south to north into equatorial, tropical, subtropical, warm-temperate, temperate and cold-temperate zones.

GEOGRAPHY. Mountains, high plateaus, deserts in the west, plains, deltas and hills in the east. The highest mountain in China is the highest mountain in the world; Mount Everest (Qomolangma Feng) with its 8,848 meters, on the border between China and Nepal. China's topography varies from high mountains to flat, contour less plains.

The surface of the country reminds us of stairs, starting in the west and going down in the east. On the top of the stairs are the Tibet and Qinghai plateaus, with an average height of 4.500 meters. Tibet is often called the Roof of the World. On the south end of the plateau is Himalaya with its mountains with an average height of 6,000 meter, 40 tops with heights up to 7,000 meter and even higher.

RIVERS AND LAKES. Most rivers float from west to south – to the Pacific Ocean, except a few rivers in south east China which floats to the south. In total, the Chinese rivers are 220.000 km long, and more than 1.500 of them serves watering in areas of 1.000 sqm or more. The country’s largest rivers start on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau (on top of the stairs) which results in high waterfalls. Yangtze River (Changjiang) is 6,300 km long, and the largest Chinese river. It is a main domestic transit. Yellow River (Huang He) stretches along 5.464 km and is the second largest in China. China has many lakes; most of them are located in the mid Yangtze plateau and Qinghai-Tibet plateau.

POPULATION. China is the world's most populated country; 1.3 billion (UN 2006), which is 1/5 of the world's total.

POPULATION ETHNICITY. The majority of the population in China is of the Han ethnic group, accounting for 91.6 % of national total population. The non-Han population includes 55 ethnic minorities of which the major groups are the Zhuang, Manchu, Hui, Miao, Ulygur, Yi, Tujia, Mongolian and Tibetan. The Han people can be found throughout the country, mainly on the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow river and the Northeast Plain. Yunnan Province, home to more than 20 ethnic groups, has the greatest diversity of ethnic groups in China. China’s different people have individual customs regarding food, clothing and etiquette, in response to their own particular environments.  

“With just one pitch, a pretty song cannot be composed;
with just one colour, a beautiful picture cannot be painted;
with just one flavour, a tasty dish cannotbe cooked;
with things completely the same, comparison cannot be made.

by ancient Chinese more than 2,500 years ago

The ethnic minorites' traditions and cultures are developed through their long history and influenced by their particular environments, social and economic relations. In general, let us briefly describe some characteristics; people in south China like rice, while people in the north prefer noodles. The minorities Ulygurm Kazak and Ozbek like roast mutton kebab, and crispy pancakes; Mongolians like corn fried in butter, fried sheep tale and tea with milk; the Koreans like rise-cakes, cold noodles and Kimchi (pickled vegetables); Tibetanians eat Zanba (roasted Qingke barley flour) and drink tea with butter, and the Lis, Jings and Dais are chewing betel palm nuts. Mongolians' typical costume is Mongolian robes and riding boots, Tibetanians dress in Tibetanian robes with waistbands, Ulyguries wear embroidered hats with gold or silver ornaments, Koreans use rubber galoshes (shaped as boats), and favour white clothes. Miao people and Yi people use Chaerwa (woollen robes).

POPULATION DISTRIBUTION. Most of the population lives in the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow river, Yangtze River and Pearl River Valleys, and the North East Plain.

RELIGIONS. The number of religious worshippers in China is estimated to well over 100 million, most of who follow Buddhism. Other major religions are Taoism, Islam and Christianity in both its Catholic and Protestant forms. Freedom of religious belief is the fundamental policy of CPC (Communist Party of China), and every Chinese citizen has the freedom to believe or not believe in religion, within a religion to follow a sect of their choice, to change their religious beliefs, and adopt beliefs not formerly held or abandoning former beliefs. Photo: Mahavira Hall, Lingyin Temple, Hangzhou.

Han Chinese tend to practice Han Buddhism, Protestantism, Catholicism or Taoism. Buddhism was introduced to China from India in the first century A.D. There are more than 13,000 Buddhist Temples in China. Pali (Southern) Buddhism is practiced in Yunnan Province. Tibetan Buddhism is primarily in Inner Mongolia and Tibet.

Taoism became a religion during the second century, based on the work of the philosopher, Lao Zi (born 604 BC); Tao Te Ching, or Dao De Jing (“Classic of the Way and Virtue”). There are more than 1,500 Taoist temples in China.

Catholicism has influenced China since the seventh century, while Protestantism was introduced early in the nineteenth century. There are more than 25,000 types of Christian places of worship in China today, 4,600 Catholic churches and 12,000 Protestant churches.

Islam reached China in the mid-seventh century, and China has around 30,000 mosques.

LANGUAGES. Standard Chinese or Mandarin (Putonghua, based on the Beijing dialect). Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghaiese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkein-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, and Hakka dialects, as well as minority languages. The large number of minorities is the reason for maps often show two ways of spellings for places; one in Chinese language and the other in dialect. As an example is Kashgar the same as Kashi in dialect. The Han people have their own speech and sign language, known as Mandarin. The ethnical groups Hui and Manchu are also using the Han-language, while the other 53 ethnical groups are using their own languages; 23 national minorities have their own written languages.

All Chinese languages (dialects) are characterized by the use of tones. While Beijing dialect has 4 tones (Mandarin), the Cantonese in the south has 8 tones. The modern standard language has its roots in a variety of Beijing dialect, and the wide divergences in the spoken language is of relatively little importance as the written script can be read in any dialect

In 1958, the Fifth National People's Congress approved at this Fifth Session the adoption of the Pinyin Scheme for the Chinese Phonetic Alphabet) for spelling Chinese names and places in Roman letters, but the Pinyin system was not popularly used until the late 1970's. Pinyin is now widely used in China, and it replaces earlier Romanization spelling systems.

HEALTH. China provides wide access to primary health care and child immunizations. Average life expectancy was 71.8 years in 2002, and having risen from 35.0 years on the eve of Liberation in 1949. Better living conditions in China are reflected in a change of major health problems. Cancer, heart diseases and cerebrovascular diseases have become the top-three health problems, replacing respiratory system diseases, infectious diseases and tuberculosis that were prevalent before the 1950’s. Large and mediums sized cities in all provinces are equipped with high-level hospitals, and in the countryside have now medical, prevention and health-care networks taken shape. Due to a new sedentary lifestyle with salt- and fat-rich food, and growing psychological pressure associated with better living conditions, have made China more vulnerable for diseases seen commonly in the West as high blood pressure and mental depressions.

EDUCATION. One important governmental task has been to eliminate illiteracy and popularize compulsory education. By 2002, more than 90% of the Chinese population had received the nine-year compulsory education, while the illiteracy among young and middle-aged people had dropped to less than 5%. The results have won the Chinese government praise from UNESCO and the World Bank. The fastest development in education has been over last past 15 years. Funding for education has grown significantly, and the ratio of education expenditure of the central expenditure has increase by 1% point each year. Changes have been made on each level and field of education. Consumer market for education is developing fast, training programs, foreign languages, computer, and examinations for certification of professional qualifications are popular. People tend to enter a life-long education era instead of one-chance educational experience throughout a lifetime.

International Students. Most of the foreign students come from Korea, Japan and USA. Beijing Language and Culture University is in the leading position of hosting international students, followed by Peking University and Fudan University. 

China Scholarship Council (CSC): http://www.csc.edu.cn/en/about/

CERNET http://www.cernet.edu.cn/HomePage/english/index.shtml

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY. Through the human history, China’s technological and scientific experiences are reflected not only in well-known inventions as gun powder, printing, compass, and seism scope, but also in highly advanced technology in areas as diverse as agriculture, silk and cotton textile production, mining, marine engineering, and road transportation. In their desire to understand and explain nature, the Chinese people have transferred scientific and technological findings into actual productivity with great success.

The Law of the People’s Republic of China for Progress in Science and Technology is the basic law directing the development of China’s science and technology. and stipulates the objectives, functions, sources of funds and system of rewards for scientific and technological development. China has put forward a series of overall plans for scientific and technological R&D, aiming to strategically improve China’s competitive power in the 21st century. By 2020, the national innovation system is expected to improve to be comparatively perfect, the R&D funds in the society will amount for 3 % of GDP, and the state’s scientific and technological competitiveness will be in the front row of the world.

ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION. China has been actively engaged in its work to protect the natural environment since its first national law on environmental protection in 1989, administrated by the State Environment Protection Administration. In 1992 at UN’s Conference on Environment and Development, China became one of the countries to take lead in formulating and implementing strategies for sustainable development.

China Internet Information Center “China.org.cn”;  http://www.china.org.cn/english/environment/33890.htm

World Bank’s website “Environment in East Asia and Pacific: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/

ECONOMY. China is experiencing a period of intense economic growth unlike anything the world has ever seen. The story of this growth is familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in China.

China is one of the world's major economic powers with the greatest potential. In the 22 years following reform and opening-up in 1979 in particular, China's economy developed at an unprecedented rate, and that momentum has been held steady into the 21st century. In 2004, the government further strengthened and improved its macro control, and the economy entered its best ever development period of recent years. The gross domestic product (GDP) for 2004 amounted to 13,687.59 billion Yuan, 9.5 percent higher than the previous year.

China adopts the "five-year-plan" strategy for economic development.

The economy of China today is the fourth largest in the world when measured by nominal GDP. Economic output for 2006 was $2.68 trillion US$. Per capita GDP in 2006 was approximately US $ 2,000, still low by world standards (number 110 of 183 nations in 2005), but it is rising rapidly, and the living standard is fairly well-off. In 2005, 70% of China's GDP was in the private sector. The public sector is dominated with 200 large state-owned enterprises, mostly in heavy energy resources, heavy industries and utilities.

THE CONSTITUTION. After the founding of the PRC, four Constitutions have been formulated successively in 1954, 1975, 1978 and 1982. The first Constitution was adopted by the First Session of the First National People's Congress, the chief legislative branch, on September 20, 1954. The present Constitution was promulgated in 1982 and amended several times thereafter; in 1988, 1993, 1999 and 2004.

HEAD OF STATE. President Hu Jintao was elected by the National People’s Congress in March 2003.

POLITICAL PARTIES. The CPC (Communist Party of China) is the sole political party in power. CPC was founded in 1921, and has more than 70.8 million members (2005 statistics). Besides CPC, there are eight political parties; China Revolutionary Committee of the Kuomintang, China Democratic League, China Democratic National Construction Association, China Association for the Promotion of Democracy, Chinese Peasants' and Workers' Democratic Party, China Zhi Gong Dang, Jiusan Society, and the Taiwan Democratic Self-government League.

Most of these parties were founded during the anti-Japanese war and the national liberation war. They support the political leadership of the CPC, which has become their historical choice during the long years of cooperation with the CPC and through common struggles. The democratic parties are independent organizations and enjoy political freedom, organizational independence and legal equality under the Constitution. Based on the principle of »long term coexistence and mutual supervision« the parties are co-operating and treating each other with full sincerity, participating in the discussion and administration of State affairs. They have considerable numbers of representatives in organs of State power; economic, cultural. Educational and scientific sectors, the National People's Congress and its Standing Committee, in the NPC special committees and the local people's congresses at various levels.

ADMINISTRATIVE DIVISIONS. Since ancient times, the political divisions in China have consisted of several levels. The Constitution of PCR provides for three levels of government, and there are five practical levels of local government; province, prefecture, county, township and village. (The Republic of China on Taiwan uses a different system). China has 23 provinces, five autonomous regions and four municipalities directly under the Central Government, and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

The 23 provinces are; Anhui, Fujian, Gansu, Guangdong, Guizhou, Hainan, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Jilin, Liaoning, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, Sichuan, Taiwan, Yunnan, and Zhejiang. The five autonomous regions are; Guangxi, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Xinjiang, and Tibet. The four municipalities are; Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai, and Tianjin.

Photo: Hong Kong by night.

MEMBER OF APEC. China; The People’s Republic of China, Chinese Taiwan and Hong Kong, became full members of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in 1991. APEC is an inter-governmental forum and organization with focus on the development of economic regional cooperation... The members are committed to taking a series of concrete steps that will protect and make more efficient the flows of trade, finance and information.

MEMBER OF SCO. China is an active member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), together with Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. SCO is an important force to safeguarding regional stability and common development.

MEMBER OF WTO. China formally became member of World Trade Organization in 2002. Among others were imports tariffs dramatically reduced and varied non-tariff measures cancelled. New laws and regulations in financing were introduced in service trade, and many practical actions were taken to open the service market. Central and local governments are working hard to reform administrative procedures and to accelerate operational changes of government according to WTO standards.