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China

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The , stretching over 6,700 km, was erected beginning in the  to protect the north from raiders on horseback.
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The Great Wall of China, stretching over 6,700 km, was erected beginning in the 3rd century BC to protect the north from raiders on horseback.

China Template:Audio (Template:Zh-tspw) refers to a number of states and cultures that have existed and are viewed as having succeeded one another in continental East Asia for the last 4000 years. Depending on one's point of view, modern China can be described as a single civilization or multiple civilizations, as a single state or multiple states, and as a single nation or multiple nations.

China is one of the world's oldest civilizations, with a history characterized by repeated divisions and reunifications amid alternating periods of peace and war and violent imperial dynastic change. The country's territorial extent expanded outwards from a core area in the North China Plain, and varied according to its moving fortunes. For centuries, China was one of the world's most technologically advanced civilizations, and East Asia's dominant cultural influence. However, by the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, China stagnated and fell behind, and was too weak militarily to repel European interference or Japanese invasion. Imperial monarchy in China ended with the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912; however the next four decades were marred by warlordism, the Second Sino-Japanese War, and the Chinese Civil War.

The Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War in 1949 established the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949 which has since then governed mainland China. The PRC has also assumed sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997 and Macau in 1999. In the mean time, the Republic of China (ROC) government was forced to flee the mainland and retreat to Taiwan, which it had governed since the end of World War II. Since then the ROC has maintained control over Taiwan and the Pescadores, islands off the coast of Fujian, and some islands in the South China Sea. The PRC does not recognize the ROC, as it claims to be the sole successor of all China including Taiwan. On the other hand, the ROC, while never formally surrendering its claims, has moved away from its former identity as the ruler of China, and increasingly characterizes itself as Taiwan, which is also the usage commonly adopted in the West (see political status of Taiwan for more information). The nature and extent of China is the subject of ongoing political disputes on Chinese reunification/Taiwan independence issues.

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Terminology

Main article: Name of China in various languages
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"Zhongguo"

The Chinese call their country Zhongguo, which is usually translated as "Middle Kingdom", but perhaps could also be translated as, "Central State". It literally means "middle (or centre) land," referring to the historic position of China at the centre of her known world, surrounded by lesser tributary states.

The term has not been used consistently throughout Chinese history, however, and carries certain cultural and political connotations. During the Spring and Autumn Period, it was used only to describe the states politically descended from the Western Zhou, in the Yellow River (Huang He) valley, to the exclusion of states such as Chu and Qin. The "Chinese" thus defined their nation as culturally and politically distinct from - and as the axis mundi of surrounding nations; a concept that continued well into the Qing dynasty, although being continually redefined while the central political influence expanded territorially, and its culture assimilated alien influences.

Thus "Zhongguo" quickly came to include areas farther south, including the Yangtze River and Pearl River systems, and by the Tang Dynasty it even included "barbarian" regimes such as the Xianbei and Xiongnu. As the PRC now governs Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, and Tibet, and the ROC now governs Taiwan (also claimed by the PRC), these regions are also often included as a part of "Zhongguo", though acceptance or denial of such claims remains politically controversial, especially where Zhongguo means PRC.

During the Han Dynasty and before, Zhongguo had three distinctive meanings:

  1. The area around the capital or imperial domain. The Book of Poetry explicitly gives this definition.
  2. Territories under the direct authority of central authorities. The Historical Records states: "Eight mountains are famed in the empire. Three are with the Man and Yi barbarians. Five are in Zhongguo."
  3. The area now called the North China Plain. The Sanguo Zhi records the following monologue: "If we can lead the host of Wu and Yue (the area of southern Jiangsu and northern Zhejiang) to oppose Zhongguo, then we should break off relations with them soon." In this sense, the term is synonymous with Hua (華) and Xia (夏).

During the period of division after the fall of the Han Dynasty, the term Zhongguo was subjected to transformation as a result of the surge of nomadic peoples from the northern frontier. This was doubly so after the loss of the Yellow River valley, the cradle of Chinese civilization, to these peoples. For example, the Xianbei called their Northern Wei regime Zhongguo, contrasting it with the Southern Dynasties, which they called the Yi (夷), meaning "barbarian". The southern dynasties, for their part, recently exiled from the north, called the Northern Wei Lu (虏), meaning "criminal" or "prisoner". In this way Zhongguo came to represent political legitimacy. It was used in this manner from the tenth century onwards by the competing dynasties of Liao, Jin and Song. The term Zhongguo came to be related to geographic, cultural and political identity and less to ethnic origin.

The Republic of China as it controlled mainland China, and later, the People's Republic of China, have used Zhongguo to mean all the territories and peoples within their political control (people in the Republic of China now usually uses Zhongguo to refer to the PRC and Taiwan to refer to itself). Thus it is asserted that all 56 officially recognized ethnic groups are Zhongguo ren (中國人), or Zhongguo people. Their disparate histories are collectively the history of Zhongguo.

"China"

The most commonly accepted theory as to the origin of the English word "China" (and the prefix "Sino-") is that they came from the "Qin" dynasty that first unified the country.[1] (http://www.bartleby.com/61/80/C0298000.html) Despite the fact that the Qin dynasty was short-lived and was often regarded as overly tyrannical it unified the written language in China and gave the supreme ruler of China the title of "Emperor", hence, the subsequent Silk Road traders would identify themselves by that name.

In any circumstance, the word China passed through many languages along the Silk Road before it finally reached Europe and England. The Western "China", transliterated to Shina (支那) has also been used by Japanese since the nineteenth century, and has since evolved into a derogatory term in that language.

The term "China" can narrowly mean China proper, or, often, China proper and Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, and Xinjiang; the boundaries between these regions do not necessarily follow provincial boundaries. In many contexts, "China" is commonly used to refer to the People's Republic of China or mainland China, while "Taiwan" is used to refer to the Republic of China. Informally, in economic or business contexts, "the Greater China region" (大中華地區) refers to Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore and most countries of South East Asia ( where local Chinese are dominant either demographically or economically ).

Sinologists usually use "Chinese" in a more restricted sense, more akin to the classical usage of Zhongguo, or to the meaning of the "Han ethnic group", who make up the bulk of Mainland China.

In many contexts it may be more appropriate to speak of "mainland China" (中國大陸,zhōngguó dàlù in Mandarin), especially when contrasting it with other, politically different regions like Hong Kong, Macau, and territories administered by the Republic of China (Taiwan).

History

Main articles: History of China, History of the Republic of China (1912-1949; 1949-Present on Taiwan), History of People's Republic of China (1949-Present)

China was one of the earliest centers of human civilization. The Chinese language was also one of the few languages to invent writing independently, the other languages being that of ancient Mesopotamia (Sumerians), the Mayans, India(Sanskrit),and Egypt.

The first dynasty according to Chinese historical sources was the Xia dynasty; however there is no archaeological evidence definitively attesting a Xia dynasty (although some neolithic sites have been suggested to be such). The first confirmed dynasty is the Shang, who settled along the Huang He river, dating from the 18th to the 12th centuries BC. The Shang were in turn invaded by the Zhou (12th to 5th centuries BC), whose centralized authority was slowly eroded by the ceding of state-like authority to warlords ruling small states; eventually, in the Spring and Autumn period, many strong independent states, in continuous war, paid but nominal deference to the Zhou state as the Imperial centre. They were all unified under one emperor in 221 BC by Qin Shi Huang, ushering in the Qin Dynasty, the first unified centralized Chinese state.

After the fall of authoritarian Qin Dynasty in 207 BC came the Han Dynasty which lasted until 220 AD. A period of disunion followed again. In 580, China was reunited under the Sui. Under the succeeding Tang and Song dynasties, China reached its golden age. For a long period of time, especially between the 7th and 14th centuries, China was one of the most advanced civilizations in the world in technology, literature, and art. The Song Dynasty fell to the invading Mongols in 1279. The Mongols, under Kublai Khan, established the Yuan Dynasty. A peasant named Zhu Yuanzhang overthrew the Mongols in 1368 and founded the Ming Dynasty, which lasted until 1644. After the Ming dynasty, came the Qing (Manchu) dynasty, which lasted until the overthrow of Puyi in 1911.

Often times regime change was violent and strongly opposed and the ruler class needed to take special measures to ensure their rule and the loyalty of the overthrown dynasty. For example, after the foreign Qing (Manchus) conquered China, because they were ever suspicious of Han Chinese, the Qing rulers put into effect measures aimed at preventing the absorption of the Manchus into the dominant Han Chinese population. However, these restrictions proven ineffective against the assimilation of Manchus into the Chinese identity and culture.

In the 18th century, China achieved a decisive technological advantage over the peoples of Central Asia, which it had been at war with for several decades, while simultaneously falling behind Europe in that respect. This set the stage for the 19th century, in which China adopted a defensive posture against European imperialism while itself engaging in imperialistic expansion into Central Asia. See Imperialism in Asia.

However the primary cause of the decline of the Chinese empire was not European and American interference, as the ethnocentric Western historians would lead many to believe. On the contrary it was a series of internal upheavals. Most prominent of these was the Taiping Civil War which lasted from 1851 to 1862. The civil war was started by an extremist believer in a school of thought partly influenced by Christianity who believed himself to be the son of God and the younger brother of Jesus. Although the imperial forces were eventually victorious, the civil war was one of the bloodiest in human history - costing at least twenty million lives (more than the total number of fatalities in the First World War). Prior to this conflict a number of Islamic Rebellions, especially in Central Asia, had occurred. Later, a second major rebellion took place, although this latter uprising was considerably smaller than the cataclysmic Taiping Civil War. This second conflict was the Boxer Rebellion which aimed to repel Westerners. Although secretly supporting the rebels, the Empress, Ci Xi, aided foreign forces in suppressing the uprising.

In 1912, after a prolonged period of decline, the institution of the Emperor of China disappeared and the Republic of China was established. The following three decades were a period of disunion — the Warlord Era, the Sino-Japanese War, and the Chinese Civil War. The latter ended in 1949 with the Communist Party of China in control of mainland China. The CPC established a communist state—the People's Republic of China—that laid claim to be the successor state of the Republic of China. Meanwhile, the ROC government of the Kuomintang fled to Taiwan, where it continued to be recognized as the legitimate government of all China by the Western bloc and the United Nations until the 1970s, when most nations and the UN switched recognition to the PRC.

See also:

Political history

Main articles: Politics of Imperial China, Politics of the People's Republic of China, Politics of Taiwan, Political status of Taiwan.

Before unification by the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC, "China" did not exist as a coherent entity. The Chinese civilization consisted of a patchwork of several states, each ruled by a king (王), duke (公), marquess (侯), or earl (伯). Although there was a central king who held nominal power, and powerful hegemons sometimes held considerable influence, each state was ruled as an independent political entity.

This ended with the Qin Dynasty unification, during which the office of the emperor was set up, and a system of bureaucratic administration established. After the Qin, China experienced about 13 more dynasties, many of which continued the extensive system of kingdoms, dukedoms, earldoms, and marquisates. The territory varied with several expansions and contractions depending on the strength of each emperor and dynasty. However the emperor had ultimate, supreme, and unquestionable authority as the political and religious leader of China. The emperor also consulted civil and martial ministers, especially the prime minister. Political power sometimes fell into the hands of powerful officials, eunuchs, or imperial relatives, often at the expense of a child heriditary emperor.

Political relations with dependencies (tributary kingdoms) were maintained by international marriages, military aids, treaties, and gifts. (see section "Geography, Political" below for examples),

Nanjing, Beijing, Chang'an (today Xi'an), and Luoyang are the four cities most commonly designated as capitals of China over the course of history. Chinese was the official language, though periods of Mongol and Manchu conquest saw the arrival of Mongol and Manchu as alternate official languages.

On January 1, 1912, the Republic of China (ROC) was established, signaling the end of the Manchu-dominated Qing Empire. Sun Yat-sen of the Kuomintang (KMT or Nationalist Party), was proclaimed provisional president of the republic. However, Yuan Shikai, a former Qing general who had defected to the revolutionary cause, soon forced Sun to step aside and took the presidency for himself (formally it was a negotiation where Sun agreed to step aside for what was then perceived as a strong reformer, Yuan). Before long, Yuan attempted to have himself proclaimed emperor of a new dynasty, but he died soon of natural causes.

After Yuan's downfall, China was politically fragmented, with an internationally-recognized, but virtually powerless, national government seated in Beijing (thus failing to fit the definition of a state). Warlords in various regions exercised actual control over their respective territories.

In the late 1920s, the Kuomintang, under Chiang Kai-shek, was able to reunify the country under its own control, moving the nation's capital to Nanjing and implementing "political tutelage", an intermediate stage of political development outlined in Sun Yat-sen's program for transforming China into a modern, democratic state. Effectively, political tutelage meant one-party rule by the Kuomintang with heavy Leninist influences. Ironically, both the Kuomintang and the CCP have heavy Leninist influences. In 1947, constitutional rule was established, but because of the ongoing Chinese Civil War between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China (CPC), many provisions of the 1947 ROC constitution were never put into actual practise on the mainland.

By early 1950, the CPC had defeated the Kuomintang on the mainland, and the ROC government retreated to the island of Taiwan. Beginning in the late 1970s, Taiwan began the implementation of full, multi-party, representative democracy in the territories still under ROC control (i.e., Taiwan Province, Taipei, Kaohsiung and some offshore islands of Fujian province). Today, the political scene in the ROC is vibrant, with active participation by all sectors of society. But rather than the usual conservative-liberal policy distinctions that are the hallmarks of most democracies around the world, the main cleavage in ROC politics is the unification with China in the long-run vs. formal independence issue. However, Greens are generally more liberal (i.e. more environmentally friendly) and Blues are generally regarded as more conservative.

Meanwhile, Mao Zedong, the leader of the communists, proclaimed the People's Republic of China (PRC) on October 1, 1949 in Beijing. From the beginning, the PRC has been a dictatorial one-party state under the Communist Party. However, post-1978 reforms have led to the relaxation, in varying degrees, of party control over many areas of society. Nonetheless, the Communist Party still has absolute control over political aspects of society, and it continuously seeks to eradicate threats to its rule. Examples of this include the jailing of political opponents and journalists, general control of the press, regulation of religions and other non-party organizations, censorship of the press, literature and film, and suppression of independence/secessionist movements. The attempted eradication of the Falun Gong movement is also held by its supporters to be motivated by fear of Falun Gong's growing influence. Today, however, there is much more freedom in intellectual thought in non-political areas and propaganda, while still continuing, has lessened.

See also:

Territory

Historical overview

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The Zhou Dynasty, which preceded the unification of China by Shi Huangdi, was originally the region around the Yellow River. Since then, the territory has expanded outward in all directions, and was largest during the Tang, Yuan, and Qing dynasties. The Qing Dynasty included parts of modern Russian Far East and Central Asia (west of Xinjiang).

Along with provincial administrators, some foreign monarchs sent envoys to offer gifts to the Emperor of China and the Emperor returned compliments to them. The Chinese thought that the barbarians attached themselves to the virtue of the Emperor, while the foreign governments sometimes disagreed. Since the end of the 19th century, China has tried to reinterpret this relationship as suzerainty or suzerainty-dependency, but this no longer has any real conception in modern international political theories.

The Qing Empire reduced the territorial value of the Great Wall of China as a barrier of China proper after they merged their homeland (Manchuria) north of the wall with China proper south of it. In 1683 after the surrender of the Kingdom of Tungning established by Koxinga, Taiwan including the Pescadores became a part of the Qing Empire, originally as one prefecture, then two, and later a province. Taiwan was subsequently ceded to Japan after the first Sino-Japanese War in 1895. At the end of the second Sino-Japanese War in 1945, Japan relinquished the sovereignty of the island in the San Francisco Peace Treaty, and the Republic of China took over. Since then, the de jure sovereignty of Taiwan has been under dispute between the PRC, and the now democratic ROC and Taiwan independence supporters.

See: Taiwan, Republic of China, Tibet

Historical political divisions

Top-level political divisions of China have altered as the administration changed. Top levels included circuits and provinces. Below that, there have been prefectures, subprefectures, departments, commanderies, districts, and counties. Recent divisions also include prefecture-level cities, county-level cities, towns and townships (see below for examples).

Historically, most Chinese dynasties were based in the historical heartlands of China, known by the politically-correct term of China proper. Various dynasties also exhibited expansionism by engaging in incursions into more peripheral territories like Inner Mongolia, Manchuria, Xinjiang, and Tibet. The Manchu-established Qing Dynasty and its successors, the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China cemented the incorporation of these territories into China. These territories are separated by borders that are vague at best, and do not correspond well to contemporary political divisions. China proper is generally thought to be bounded by the Great Wall and the edge of the Tibetan plateau; Manchuria and Inner Mongolia are found to the north of the Great Wall of China, and the boundary between them can either be taken as the present border between Inner Mongolia and the northeast Chinese provinces, or the more historic border of the World War II-era puppet state of Manchukuo; Xinjiang's borders correspond to today's administrative Xinjiang; and historic Tibet is conceived as occupying all of the Tibetan Plateau. China is also traditionally thought of as comprising North China (北方) and South China (南方), the geographic boundary between which north and south is largely generalized as Huai River (淮河) and Qinling Mountains (秦岭).

See also:

Geography and climate

Main article: Geography of China

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ReliefOfChina.jpg
The Relief of China

China has many very different landscapes, with mostly plateaux and mountains in the west, and lower lands on the east. As a result, principal rivers flow from west to east, including the Yangtze (Chang Jiang), the Huang He (central-east), the Amur (northeast), etc), sometimes toward the south (Pearl River, Mekong River, Brahmaputra, etc). Due to the landscape, most Chinese rivers empty into the Pacific. Template:Dual image

Most of China's arable lands lie along the two major rivers, the Yangtze and the Huang He, and each are the centers around which are founded China's major, ancient civilizations.

In the east, along the shores of the Yellow Sea and the East China Sea are found extensive and densely populated alluvial plains; the shore of the South China Sea is more mountainous and southern China is dominated by hill country and lower mountain ranges.

To the west, the north has a great alluvial plain, and the south has a vast calcareous tableland traversed by hill ranges of moderate elevation, with the Himalayas, containing the highest point Mount Everest. The northwest also has high plateaus among more arid desert landscapes such as the Takla-Makan and the Gobi Desert, which has been expanding. Due to a prolonged drought and perhaps poor agricultural practices, dust storms have become usual in the spring in China. Dust blows all the way to southern China, Taiwan, and has even been measured on the West Coast of the United States.

The  is an  native to the bamboo forests of central China.
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The Giant Panda is an endangered species native to the bamboo forests of central China.

During many dynasties, the southwestern border of China has been the high mountains and deep valleys of Yunnan, which separate modern China from Burma, Laos and Vietnam.

The climate of China varies greatly. The northern zone (within which lies Beijing) has a climate with winters of Arctic severity. The central zone (within which Shanghai is situated) has a generally temperate climate. The southern zone (within which lies Guangzhou) has a generally subtropical climate.

The Palaeozoic formations of China, excepting only the upper part of the Carboniferous system, are marine, while the Mesozoic and Tertiary deposits are estuarine and freshwater or else of terrestrial origin. Groups of volcanic cones occur in the Great Plain of north China. In the Liaodong and Shandong Peninsulas, there are basaltic plateaux.


Demographics

Main articles: ethnic groups in Chinese history, nationalities of China

Over a hundred ethnic groups have existed in China. In terms of numbers, however, the pre-eminent ethnic group in China is the Han, which is a group so diverse in its culture and language that some conceive of it as a larger overarching group bringing together many smaller, distinct ethnic groups sharing common traits in language and culture. Throughout history, many ethnic groups have been assimilated into neighbouring ethnicities or disappeared without a trace. Several previously distinct ethnic groups have been Sinicized into the Han, causing its population to increase dramatically; at the same time, many within the Han identity have maintained distinct linguistic and cultural traditions, though still identifying as Han. The term Zhonghua Minzu sometimes is being used also, to describes a notion of a "Chinese nationality" transcending ethnic divisions.

The government of the People's Republic of China now officially recognizes a total of 56 ethnic groups, of which the largest is the Han Chinese. China's overall population, the largest in the world, is 1.3 billion. With the global human population currently estimated at about 6.4 billion, China is home to approximately 20%, or one-fifth of the human species, homo sapiens.

The lack of birth control and promotion of population growth during the rule of Mao Zedong resulted in a demographic explosion, culminating in over 1.3 billion people today. As a response to the problems this is causing, the government of the PRC has enacted a birth control policy, commonly known as the One-child policy.

The Han speak several mutually unintelligible tongues, classified by modern linguists as being separate languages, but regarded within the Chinese languages as "dialects" or "area languages" within a single Chinese language. The various spoken varieties of Chinese share a common written standard, "Vernacular Chinese" or "baihua", which has been used since the early 20th Century and is based on Standard Mandarin, the standard spoken language, in grammar and vocabulary. In addition, another, more ancient written standard, Classical Chinese, was used for writing Chinese by the literati for thousands of years before the 20th Century. Classical Chinese is no longer the predominant form of written Chinese, though it continues to be a part of high school curricula and is hence intelligible to some degree to many Chinese people. Other than Standard Mandarin, spoken variants are usually not written; the exception is Standard Cantonese, which is sometimes written as Written Cantonese in informal contexts.

Culture

Main article: Culture of China

Religion

Main articles: Religion in China

The major religions of China are:

While the People's Republic of China is officially atheist it does allow religion under strict supervision. Historically, Taoism and Buddhism has been the dominant religion of Chinese societies, and continues to be so in Chinese societies outside of direct PRC control.

In recent years, Falun Gong, a spiritual practice drawing upon Buddhism and Taoism, has attracted great controversy after the government of the People's Republic of China labeled it an evil cult and began an attempt to eradicate it. The Falun Gong itself denies that it is a cult or a religion in that it believes its system of thought is universal but it is a spiritual practice and is under normal definitions correctly categorized as one. It has attracted widespread sympathy outside Mainland China. The Falun Gong says that it has approximately 70-100 million followers, which is a bit higher than estimates by outside groups, though exact numbers are unknown.

See also:

Arts, scholarship, and literature

Chinese literature has a long and prolific continuous history, in part because of the development of printmaking during the Song dynasty. Before that, manuscripts of the Classics and religious texts (mainly Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist) were manually written by ink brush (previously scratching shells) and distributed. Academies of scholars sponsored by the empire were formed to comment on these works in both printed and written form. Members of royalty frequently participated in these discussions. Tens of thousands of ancient written documents are still extant and more, from oracle bones to Qing edicts, are discovered each day, which had been formally ground up for use in Chinese medicine.

For centuries, opportunity for economic and social advancement in China could be provided by high performance on the imperial examinations. This led to a meritocracy, though in practice this was possible only among those who were not female or too poor to afford test preparation, as doing well still required tutorship. Nevertheless it was a system distinct from the European system of blood nobility. Imperial examinations required applicants to write essays and demonstrate mastery of the Confucian classics. Those who passed the highest level of the exam became elite scholar-officials known as jinshi, a highly esteemed socio-economic position.

Chinese philosophers, writers, and poets have been, for the most part, highly respected, and played a key role in preserving and promoting the culture of the empire. Some classical scholars, however, were noted for their daring depictions of lives of the common people, often to the displeasure of authorities. (See List of Chinese authors, and List of Chinese language poets).

Chinese culture valued filiality, humility, generosity, and charity.

The Chinese have created numerous musical instruments, such as the zheng, xiao, and erhu, that have spread throughout East and Southeast Asia, and especially areas under its influence. The sheng is the basis for several Western free-reed instruments.

Chinese characters have had many variants and styles throughout the Chinese history, and were "simplified" in the mid-20th century on mainland China. Calligraphy is a major art-form in China, above that of painting and music. Because of its association with elite scholar-official bosses, it later on became commercialized, where works by famous artists became prized possessions.

The great variation and beauty in the Chinese landscape is often the inspiration for great works of Chinese art. See Chinese landscape painting for more details.

Calligraphy, sushi, and bonsai are all millennia-old art that spread to Japan and Korea.

See also:

Science and technology

Main article: Science and technology in China

In addition to the cultural innovations mentioned above, technological inventions from China include:

Other areas of technological study:

Miscellaneous topics

Pictures of China

Pictures of China. (http://classroomclipart.com)

External links

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