Study Abroad China
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China is a cultural region and ancient civilization in East Asia. China refers to one of the world's oldest civilizations, consisting of states and cultures dating back more than six millennia. The stalemate of the last Chinese Civil War following World War II has resulted in two de-facto sovereignties using the name "China": the People's Republic of China (PRC), administering mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau; and the Republic of China (ROC), administering Taiwan and its surrounding islands. See Political status of Taiwan for more information.
China has the world's longest continuously used written language system. China is also the source of many of the world's great inventions, including the Four Great Inventions of ancient China: Paper, the compass, gunpowder, and printing.
China's overall population exceeds 1.3 billion, about one-fifth of the world's population. While over a hundred ethnic groups have existed in China, the government of the People's Republic of China officially recognizes a total of 56. The largest ethnic group in China by far is the Han. This group is diverse in itself and can be divided into smaller ethnic groups that share some traits.
Over the last three millennia, many previously distinct ethnic groups in China have been Sinicized into a Han identity, which over time dramatically expanded the size of the Han population. However, these assimilations were usually incomplete and vestiges of indigenous language and culture often are still retained in different regions of China. Because of this, many within the Han identity have maintained distinct linguistic and cultural traditions, though still identifying as Han. Several ethnicities have also dramatically shaped Han language and culture, e.g. the Manchurian clothing called the qipao became the new "Chinese" fashion after the 17th century, replacing earlier Han styles of clothing such as the Hanfu (that are still found in various forms in Japan and Korea). The term Chinese nation (Zhonghua Minzu) is usually used to describe a notion of a Chinese nationality that transcends ethnic divisions.
China is composed of a vast variety of highly different landscapes, with mostly plateaus and mountains in the west, and lower lands in the east. Principal rivers flow from west to east, including the Yangtze (central), the Huang He (Yellow river, north-central), and the Amur (northeast), and sometimes toward the south (including the Pearl River, Mekong River, and
Brahmaputra), with most Chinese rivers emptying into the Pacific Ocean.
The climate of China varies greatly. The northern zone (containing Beijing) has summer daytime temperatures of more 30 degrees and winters of Arctic severity. The central zone (containing Shanghai) has a temperate continental climate with very hot summers and cold winters. The southern zone (containing Guangzhou) has a subtropical climate with very hot summers and mild winters.
Due to a prolonged drought and poor agricultural practices, dust storms have become usual in the spring in
China. Dust has blown to southern China and Taiwan, and has even reached the West Coast of the United States. Water, erosion, and pollution control have become important issues in China's relations with other countries.
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