Located in eastern Asia on the western shore of the Pacific Ocean, with an area of 9.6 million square kilometres and home to 1.4 billion people, China boasts time-honoured history, rich culture and fast development – a miracle to the world.
China enjoys various landscapes where the north, such as Heilongjiang, has shorter summers and longer winters while in the south, like in Hainan, you may find tropical beauty. The coastline runs along the east and you can find hills and mountains rolling on the west. Dense plains dominate Inner Mongolia, Gobi deserts are dotted in the northwest and thousands of rivers cross the south.
The east lies in the arm of the Pacific Ocean while in the west the highest mountain in the world, Qomolangma, stands at 8848 meters above sea level. The highlands and hill regions account for 65 percent of the country’s total landmass with more than 2000 lakes dotting it.
Among the 220,000 kilometres of rivers, the Changjiang (Yangtze) and Huanghe (Yellow River) are the most famous ones for being the cradle for the Chinese civilization for ages, as many cultural-historical sites along the banks can attest.
The climate is dominated by Continental climate, though it has an ocean coast, and latitudes range from tropical to Siberian, which means the temperatures and weather vary throughout the country. In the winter, northern winds coming from high-latitude areas are cold and dry; in the summer, southern winds from coastal areas at lower latitudes are warm and moist. However, the climate, due to the highly complex topography, differs from region to region.
There are as many as 292 living languages in China, among which the most spoken ones are Mandarin, Yue, Wu, Min Hakka. Languages spoken among ethnical groups are preserved and taught at local schools as either mandatory or extracurricular courses. With the popularity of Pu Tong Hua (official language), local languages and regional dialects are also promoted and encouraged in society since a language is a symbol of identity as well as culture.
The Chinese government makes great efforts in education to narrow the unbalanced education resources in developed areas and remote regions. In February 2006, the government pledged to provide completely free nine-year education, including, meals, textbooks and fees. As of 2010, 94% of the population over the age of 15 are literate. In 1949, only 20% of the population could read, compared to 65.5% thirty years later. In 2012, China reached its target of spending 4% of its GDP on education, while the number of colleges and universities has doubled in the last decade, now standing at around 2900.
China has 40 institutions ranked in the QS World University Rankings, in 2019, including six in the global top 100, with 60 more top universities in China included in the new QS Mainland China Rankings. China has become a major destination for international students for their overseas study. Nearly 490,000 international students were enrolled in Chinese universities in 2017. It is estimated that China will host 500,000 international students by 2020. In addition, in 2017 nearly 59,000 international students benefited from the Chinese government’s boosted scholarship scheme.
Since ancient times, Chinese culture has been heavily influenced by Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. Each share agreements from disagreements in a harmonious way. The literary emphasis of the exams affected the general perception of cultural refinement in China, such as calligraphy, poetry and painting were higher forms of art among all. Chinese culture has long emphasized a deep sense of history and a largely inward-looking national perspective.
Nation-oriented education has had an impact on the people for centuries, which can be noticed from the glance of the order for respect for the Sky, Earth, Emperor, Parents and Tutors. Known as a nation of land farming, Chinese people have known the significance of climate and land. Therefore, Sky and Earth should go first for giving light, soil and food. Thanks to the peace protected by the ruler/emperor, people could have a happy and safe life. Then they would be grateful to their parents and tutors for giving them life and knowledge. In China, morality is the main method of regulating society. For example, morality encourages young people to take care of the senior. If a young person ignores a senior standing while he/she sits on the bus, critiques will come to the young person, which nowadays is called “Moral Kidnap”, especially by those who feel forced to give up their seats. With the openness to and communication with people outside of China, Chinese culture is also enriched.
China has become a prime sports destination worldwide and the hosting country for several major global sports tournaments. With the awareness of health and physical fitness, nowadays, gyms, fitness clubs and sports centres have become an important part of people’s daily life. Public parks and gardens are equipped with sports and fitness facilities.
Chinese cuisine is highly diverse, drawing on several millennia of culinary history and geographical variety, in which the most influential are known as the “Eight Major cuisines”, including Sichuan, Cantonese, Jiangsu, Shandong, Fujian, Hunan, Anhui and Zhejiang cuisines. All of them are featured by precise skills of shaping, heating, colourway and flavouring, materials and local history and culture. The look at the various cuisines also reflect tolerance, diversity and creativity of the people.
Generally, the staple food is rice in the south and bread and noodles in the north. It is hard to present a general picture of typical Chinese meals for varieties in different regions. You may hear about people having soy milk, porridge, pickles and steamed buns for breakfast, while it’s totally different in my hometown. We have rice noodles with stewed meat (mutton, beef or pork) and green vegetables, while in Canton, their breakfast looks so rich that you would think it’s for the whole day.