Buddha-Dharma-Sangha History



China is a huge country in eastern Asia. It is the world’s largest country in population and the third largest in area. About a fifth of the world’s people live in China. The country covers more than a fifth of Asia. Only Russia and Canada have more territory. China’s vast land area includes some of the world’s driest deserts and highest mountains, as well as some of the richest farmland.

The Chinese call their country Zhongguo, which means Middle Country. This name may have come into being because the ancient Chinese thought of their country as both the geographical center of the world and the only cultured civilization. The name China was given to the country by foreigners. The name may have come from Qin (pronounced chihn), the name of an early Chinese dynasty (series of rulers from the same family).

Most of the Chinese people live in densely populated areas in the eastern third of the country. This part of the country has most of China’s major cities and nearly all the land suitable for farming. Agriculture has always been the chief economic activity in China. Most of the people live in rural villages, and over half of all workers are farmers. Although only a small percentage of the people live in urban areas, China has several of the largest cities in the world. They include Shanghai and Beijing (also spelled Peking), the nation’s capital.

China has the world’s oldest living civilization. Its written history goes back about 3,500 years. The Chinese people take great pride in their nation, its long history, and its influence on other countries. The Chinese were the first people to develop the compass, paper, porcelain, and silk cloth. Over the centuries, Japan, Korea, and other Asian lands have borrowed from Chinese art, language, literature, religion, and technology.

In early times, China was divided into many small states. In 221 B.C., the Qin dynasty established an empire with a strong central government. This empire lasted in some form for more than 2,000 years. During those years, Chinese society survived wars, rebellions, and the rise and fall of numerous dynasties. The Chinese developed an increasingly powerful and efficient system of government, built great cities, and created magnificent works of literature and art. From time to time, nomadic invaders conquered all or part of China. But the invaders had little effect on Chinese civilization.

In the 1800’s, the Chinese empire began to weaken. In 1911, revolutionaries overthrew the empire. The next year, China became a republic. But the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party), which ruled the republic, never established an effective government over all of China. In 1949, the Chinese Communist Party defeated the Nationalists and set up China’s present government. The Communists gave the nation the official name Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo (People’s Republic of China). The Nationalists fled to the island of Taiwan, where they reestablished their own government. But the People’s Republic claims that Taiwan should be part of its territory. This article discusses only the People’s Republic of China. For information about Taiwan, which the Nationalists call the Republic of China, see the World Book article on TAIWAN.

China has gone through many major changes under the Communists. All important industries have been placed under state ownership and direction. The government also controls most trade and finance. The Communists have dramatically increased industrial production and have expanded and improved education and medical care. China has one of the world’s largest economies in terms of its total economic production. However, the country has so many people that its economic output per person is small. As a result, economists consider China a developing country. The Communist Party and the government are making major efforts to modernize China.

This article discusses CHINA (History).


The Chinese government is dominated by three organizations. They are the Chinese Communist Party, the military, and a branch known as the State Council.

Of the three organizations, the Communist Party is the most powerful. All people who hold a middle- or lower-level position in the party or the government are called cadres. China’s Constitution, adopted in 1982, calls for the people to concentrate on modernizing agriculture, industry, the military, and science and technology.

The Communist Party. China has the largest Communist Party in the world. Millions of Chinese belong to it. But members make up less than 5 percent of the total population. China also has a number of minor political parties, but such parties have little or no power.

The Communist Party has four main decision-making bodies. These are the National Party Congress, the Central Committee, the Politburo (Political Bureau), and the Secretariat.

The National Party Congress has more than 1,900 representatives, selected by party members throughout the nation. The Central Committee consists of about 300 leading party members. The members are elected by the National Party Congress. The Politburo has about 20 members, who are top party leaders elected by the Central Committee. The Politburo includes a standing committee of 5 or 6 of the most important Communist Party leaders. The Secretariat has about 5 members, elected by the standing committee.

The Communist Party’s constitution states that the National Party Congress and the Central Committee are the most important bodies. But the congress has little real power. In general, it automatically approves policies set by the Central Committee and the Politburo. The Politburo also establishes policy guidelines for the party. The Secretariat is responsible for day-to-day decisions and supervision of party actions.

The highest post in the Communist Party is that of general secretary. But from the late 1970’s until the early 1990’s, Deng Xiaoping was the most influential person in the party and in the country. Even though he had resigned from his last remaining party and government posts in 1989, top party and government officials continued to consult him. Deng died in 1997.

National government. China’s Constitution establishes the National People’s Congress as the highest government authority. According to the Chinese electoral law, members of the National People’s Congress are elected by local people’s congresses of counties and townships. The Communist Party has an important influence on the selection of candidates for these and all other elections in China.

The members of the National People’s Congress serve five-year terms. The congress carries out various legislative duties. But in practice, it has no real power. Its chief function is to transmit policies of the national government and of the party to lower levels of government. A standing committee handles the work of the congress when it is not in session.

The State Council carries on the day-to-day affairs of the government. The council is led by the premier, China’s head of government. The premier is nominated by the Central Committee of the Communist Party and approved by the president, who is chiefly a ceremonial official. The premier is assisted by several vice premiers and a number of ministers and heads of special commissions. The ministers are in charge of government departments, including the defense ministry and the ministries responsible for economic planning.

Political divisions. China has 33 major political divisions. They consist of 22 provinces, 5 autonomous (self-governing) regions, 4 special municipalities, and 2 special administrative regions. The autonomous regions are Guangxi, Inner Mongolia (Nei Menggu), Ningxia, Tibet (Xizang), and Xinjiang. These regions have many people who belong to China’s minority ethnic groups. Although the regions are called autonomous, they are actually governed much like the rest of the nation. Local governments in these regions do have some powers to safeguard the culture and interests of the minority peoples. The special municipalities-Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai, and Tianjin-are huge metropolitan areas that are administered by the national government. Each special municipality consists of an urban center and a rural area. The Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions have their own executive, legislative, and judicial powers. China is responsible for their defense and foreign policy.

China has three levels of local government. The 33 major political units are divided into about 2,100 counties. These counties are subdivided into about 100,000 townships and towns. Each political unit has a people’s congress and an executive body patterned after the State Council.

Courts in China do not function as a completely independent branch of government as they do in the United States and many other Western nations. Instead, the courts base their decisions largely on the policies of the Communist Party.

The highest court in China is the Supreme People’s Court. It hears cases that involve national security or violations by high officials. It also supervises people’s courts in the provinces and counties. The Supreme People’s Procuratorate sees that the national Constitution and the State Council’s regulations are observed.

The armed forces of China are jointly commanded by the Military Commission of the Communist Party and the Central Military Commission of the government. China has an army, navy, and air force, which together make up the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The PLA has about 3 million male and female regular members. About 600,000 million men and women serve in China’s militia (citizens’ army). There are also about 900,000 army reserves. Men and women between 18 and 22 years of age may be drafted for military service. Draftees serve three years in the army and four years in the air force and the navy.

The armed forces have held enormous political power in the People’s Republic of China since its birth in 1949. Military officers have made up a large percentage of the members on the Communist Party’s Central Committee. In addition to its military duties, the People’s Liberation Army helps carry out party policies and programs.


Population. About a fifth of the world’s people live in China. Shanghai is China’s largest city and one of the world’s largest as well. Beijing, the country’s capital, is the second largest city. China has a total of about a hundred cities with more than a million people. However, most of the country’s people live in rural villages and small towns. Most of these people live in densely populated areas in eastern China. Western China makes up about half the land area of the country but has less than 10 percent of the population.

China’s government is concerned about the nation’s enormous population and seeks to limit population growth. By law, the country’s men may not marry until they are 22 years old, and women until they are 20. People are encouraged to postpone marriage until they are in their late 20’s and to have no more than one or two children.

Nationalities. About 92 percent of the people belong to the Han nationality, which has been China’s largest nationality for centuries. The rest of the population consists of about 55 minority groups, including Kazakhs, Mongols, Tibetans, and Uygurs. The different nationality groups are distinguished chiefly by language and culture.

Most of China’s minority peoples live in the border regions and the western half of the country. Some groups, such as the Mongols in the north and the Kazakhs in the northwest, herd sheep and goats. These people move from place to place during the year to feed their herds on fresh pastures. The Uygurs raise livestock and grow a wide variety of crops on oases in the deserts of northwestern China. The Tibetan people practice simple forms of agriculture and herding in China’s southwestern highlands. Many Koreans dwell near the border with Korea.

Many minority groups live in the far southern parts of China. Some of these groups speak dialects of Chinese and live much like the Han Chinese. Other minority groups are members of ethnic groups related to the peoples of Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, or Tibet. Many of these people, who live in less developed mountain areas, retain their traditional language and way of life.

Languages. The Han people speak Chinese. Spoken Chinese has many dialects, which differ enough in pronunciation to be considered separate languages. To bring about better communication among the people of China, the government has made the Northern Chinese dialect the official language. Many non-Chinese call the official language Mandarin, but the Chinese prefer the term putonghua (common language). Northern Chinese is spoken by about 70 percent of the nation’s people, and it is now taught in all Chinese schools. Other varieties of Chinese include Min (spoken in Fujian province), Wu (spoken in Shanghai), and Yue (Cantonese), each of which has many local dialects. For more information, see CHINESE LANGUAGE.

Although each dialect of Chinese has its own pronunciation, all speakers of Chinese write the language in the same way. The Chinese writing system uses characters instead of an alphabet. Each character is a symbol that represents a complete word.

Scholars have developed several systems of writing the Chinese language in the Roman alphabet. One system, called the Wade-Giles system, was developed during the 1800’s by two English scholars, Sir Thomas Wade and Herbert A. Giles. In 1979, China began using another system, called the pinyin system, in all news reports sent abroad and in all communications with other nations. Many Chinese words and names are spelled differently in the two systems. For example, the name of the man who led the country’s Communist revolution is spelled Mao Zedong in the pinyin system and Mao Tse-tung in the Wade-Giles system. This article generally uses pinyin spellings.

The minority peoples of China speak many languages, including Korean, Mongolian, and Uygur. Each group uses its own language in its schools and publications. Some members of China’s minority groups learn Chinese as a second language.

                Way of life 

Family life has always been extremely important in Chinese culture. Before 1949, some Chinese lived in large family units. As many as 100 or more relatives lived together under the rule of the oldest male. The ideal was “five generations under one roof.” However, those who lived this way were mainly the families of rich rural landowners, wealthy merchants, and government officials. Among the common people, most households consisted of only parents and children, but some also included grandparents and uncles. Today, the Chinese live in these smaller types of family units.

In the past, only men were expected to work outside the home. But today, almost all adults have a job. In many families, a grandparent looks after the house and children during the day. More and more children attend nursery school and kindergarten so that both parents can be free to work.

Relationships within Chinese families have become less formal and more democratic. Parents no longer expect their children to show unquestioning obedience. In the past, a father could legally kill his children if they disobeyed him. Young people today generally choose their own marriage partners on the basis of shared interests and mutual attraction. However, parents still play a role in arranging some marriages, especially in rural areas. Any couple would at least consult their parents about such a major decision.

Chinese families traditionally valued sons far more than daughters. A husband could divorce his wife if she failed to give birth to sons. In some cases, daughters were killed at birth because girls were considered useless. Today, social policy in China stresses that girls as well as boys are valued. The Communist government strongly supports the idea that women should contribute to the family income and participate in social and political activities. Women do many kinds of work outside the home. Many young husbands share in the shopping, housecleaning, cooking, and caring for the children to show that they believe the sexes are equal. However, equality between the sexes is more widely accepted in the cities than in the countryside.

Rural life. Traditionally, most Chinese lived in villages of 100 to 200 households. Many families owned their land, though in numerous cases it was not large enough to support them. Many other families owned no land. The members of these families worked as tenants or laborers for big landowners and rich peasants. They had to pay extremely high rents-from 30 to 60 percent of the harvest. In some cases, peasant families were so poor that they became beggars or bandits, or even sold their children as servants or slaves to rich families.

After the Communists took control of China, they organized agricultural collectives, in which large groups of peasants owned land, tools, work animals, and workshops in common. The highest level of the collective system was the commune, which administered the economic activity for 20 or more villages. Smaller collective units were called production brigades and production teams. Most day-to-day farm work was planned and performed by these units. Each family owned its house and a plot on which it could grow vegetables and raise chickens or pigs for its own use. If a family grew a surplus of crops, it could sell the surplus in a local market.

In 1979, the government introduced a new system to gradually abolish communes, brigades, and teams. Collectives now make production contracts with individual families. A production contract includes what crops and livestock the family will raise, how much will be given to the collective, and how much will be sold to the government at a set price. After fulfilling its contract, the farm family may use the remainder of its production as it wishes. Most families use some for food and sell the rest on the open market. Some sign contracts as key households. Key households provide transportation, repairs, or handicrafts on the free market instead of doing full-time farm work. After paying an agreed amount to the government and the collective, the key household keeps any profit. A few key households operate businesses or small factories and hire employees. Some of them have become relatively wealthy.

The standard of living in rural China today is considerably higher than it was before the Communists came to power. The average income in rural areas is still low. But most families have enough food and clothing and also own a bicycle, a radio, and a sewing machine. Some families own a television set, a washing machine, or a motor scooter. Most rural families live in three- or four-room houses. Older houses are made of mud bricks and have a tile or straw roof. Newer houses are made of clay bricks or stone and have a tile roof. Some villages have constructed apartment buildings. Except in remote areas, most houses have electricity.

Rural people work many hours a day, especially at planting and harvesting time. They also attend political meetings and night classes, where they learn to read and write or how to use scientific farming methods. Even so, the people have time for recreation. Many villages have a small library and a recreation center that offers television viewing and shows motion pictures. Villages also provide facilities for such sports as basketball and table tennis. Some villages have a small choral group, orchestra, or theater group.

City life. Many city residents live in older neighborhoods where the houses resemble those in the countryside. Many other city dwellers live in big apartment complexes. City governments construct some apartment buildings, and large factories build others.

Most families are assigned an apartment by the factory or other unit for which they work. City apartments have plumbing and heating, but many have less space than rural houses have. Some families purchase their own home or condominium. China’s cities are overcrowded, and new housing is in great demand.

Each city neighborhood or apartment complex has an elected residents’ committee. The committee supervises various neighborhood facilities and programs, such as day-care centers, evening classes, and after-school activities for children. When fights, petty crimes, or acts of juvenile delinquency occur in the neighborhoods, committee members talk with the people involved and try to help them solve the problem. These neighborhood organizations seek to keep crime from being a serious problem in spite of the overcrowding in China’s cities.

In general, people in cities have a higher standard of living than people in the countryside. Their wages are low compared with those of workers in Western industrial countries. But most households have at least two wage earners, and rents and the cost of food are low. Medical care, child care, and recreational activity also cost little. Thus, most city people can afford a bicycle, a television set, and some household appliances.

City people have more cultural advantages than do rural people. They can attend a greater variety of classes and meetings. On their days off, they enjoy browsing in stores; dining at a restaurant; or going to a park, museum, theater, or sporting event. Since the early 1980’s, stores have offered an increasing variety of merchandise. Large stores are owned and operated by the government. But many small stores, restaurants, and repair shops are privately owned.

Food. Grains are the main foods in China. Rice is the favorite grain among people in the south. In the north, people prefer wheat, which they make into bread and noodles. Corn, millet, and sorghum are also eaten. Vegetables, especially cabbages and tofu (soybean curd), rank second in the Chinese diet. Pork and poultry are the favorite meats. People in China also like eggs, fish, fruits, and shellfish.

Breakfast in China may be rice porridge, chicken noodle soup, or deep-fried pastries that taste like doughnuts. Favorite lunchtime foods include egg rolls and dumplings stuffed with meat or shrimp. A typical Chinese main meal includes vegetables with bits of meat or seafood, soup, and rice or noodles. Chopsticks and soup spoons serve as the only utensils at Chinese meals. Western fast food chains are popular among younger Chinese.

Tea is the traditional favorite Chinese beverage. But soft drinks, beer, and milk have also become popular beverages in the cities. Ice cream has also gained popularity there.

Fancy Chinese cooking varies from region to region. Beijing (also spelled Peking) duck is a northern specialty. It consists of slices of crisp roast duck eaten with thin rolled pancakes and a sweet sauce made from soybean paste. Food from the east and southeast coastal areas includes fish, crab, and shrimp. The spiciest foods come from Sichuan and Hunan. Chinese cooks vary the texture of dishes by adding slippery mushrooms and crunchy bamboo shoots and water chestnuts (bulbs of an aquatic plant). The Chinese occasionally eat things rarely used as food elsewhere, such as tiger lily buds, sea animals called sea cucumbers, and snake meat. Sharkfin soup is an expensive delicacy.

Clothing. Most Chinese make their own clothes, chiefly of cotton or synthetic materials. They dress for comfort and practicality rather than for style. Some women, especially in cities, wear skirts or dresses. But throughout China, both men and women generally wear Western-style shirts and loose-fitting trousers. Most adults wear dark or pastel colors. Children and young women sometimes wear clothes with bright colors and patterns. Men wear their hair short. Most women also wear their hair in short simple styles, though permanents and fancier styles are becoming popular.

Government officials and technicians may buy better-quality clothing at special stores. Such clothing includes suits with four-pocket jackets that button at the neck. But most of the time, it is difficult to tell from a person’s clothing whether that person is an ordinary worker, a government official, or a technician. In earlier times, however, the kinds of clothes that people wore indicated their place in Chinese society. For example, scholars traditionally dressed in long blue gowns. Women of the upper classes wore elaborate hairdos, long fingernails, and colorful robes. In contrast, peasants wore patched and faded jackets and trousers.

Health care in China combines traditional Chinese medicine and modern Western medicine. Traditional medicine is based on the use of herbs, attention to diet, and treatments such as acupuncture. In acupuncture, thin needles are inserted into the body at certain points to relieve pain or treat disease (see ACUPUNCTURE). From Western medicine, the Chinese have adopted many drugs and surgical methods.

All Chinese cities and towns have hospitals. These hospitals provide access to advanced medical technologies. In rural areas, some villages have part-time medical workers or rural doctors. These workers were once nicknamed barefoot doctors, not because they were actually barefoot, but because they shared the simple life of the peasants they served. Village health-care providers can treat simple illnesses, help at childbirth, prepare medicines made of herbs, and give prescriptions. For more advanced care, rural Chinese must go to a township health center or a county hospital. However, they may have to travel far to reach such a facility.

Prior to the 1990’s, village health-care providers carried out public health programs in their communities. They checked the quality of water and vaccinated people against diseases. They also supervised proper sanitation, such as disposing of garbage and exterminating harmful insects and rodents. Such measures contributed to the decline of infectious diseases throughout China.

During the 1990’s, China shifted from state-funded health care to privatized health care, in which patients must pay for their care. As a result, medical costs have greatly increased. Many rural Chinese can no longer afford adequate health care. In addition, many Chinese have turned to various folk remedies to improve their health. For example, a deep-breathing meditation exercise called qigong has become increasingly popular.

Religion is discouraged by the Communist government of China. However, it played an important part in traditional Chinese life. Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism were the major religions throughout most of China’s history. The religious beliefs of many of the Chinese people included elements of all three religions.

Confucianism is based on the ideas of Confucius, a Chinese philosopher who was born about 550 B.C. It stresses the importance of moral standards and of a well-ordered society in which parents rule their children, men rule women, and the educated rule the common people. In addition, Confucianism strongly emphasizes deep respect for one’s ancestors and for the past. See CONFUCIANISM.

Taoism is also a native Chinese religion. It teaches that a person should withdraw from everyday life and live in harmony with nature. Taoism began during the 300’s B.C. and is based largely on a book called the Tao Te Ching (The Classic of the Way and the Virtue). Taoism came to include many elements of Chinese folk religion and so became a religion with many protective gods. See TAOISM.

Buddhism reached China from India before A.D. 100 and became well established throughout the country during the 300’s. Under the influence of Confucianism and Taoism, Chinese varieties of Buddhism developed. They taught strict moral standards and the ideas of rebirth and life after death. The Chinese Buddhists worshiped many gods and appealed to them for help in times of troubles. See BUDDHISM.

The Chinese government regards religion as superstition. It encourages the people to study science and political writings to solve their problems. The Communists have opposed Confucianism because it emphasizes the past and justifies inequality in society. The Communists have also turned Taoist and Buddhist temples into museums, schools, and meeting halls. Since the late 1970’s, government attitudes towards religion have softened somewhat. The government now recognizes the value of such Confucian ideas as the importance of education and correct moral behavior. Also some temples have been returned to religious groups. But the government still tries to control religious organizations.

Muslims make up about 2 percent of the Chinese population, mostly minority peoples in the northwest. The government permits them to follow their religion, but it does not encourage them to do so. Christian missionaries worked in China for many years before the Communists came to power. The Communists expelled foreign missionaries and closed most Christian churches. But since the late 1970’s, the government has permitted many Christian churches to reopen. Today, about 1 percent of the people are Christians.

Education. The Chinese have always prized education and respected scholars. Before the Communists came to power in 1949, there were two major reasons for this high regard for education. (1) The Confucians believed that people could perfect themselves through study. They made no sharp distinction between academic education and moral education. They believed the function of all study was to build character. (2) The ability to read and write and a knowledge of Confucian sacred writings paved the way to financial security and social position. Candidates for government jobs had to pass an examination based on the Confucian works.

Today, the Communists regard education as a key to reaching their political, social, and economic goals. Since their rule began, they have conducted adult education programs in an effort to teach all Chinese to read and write. In the early 1950’s, they began a language reform program to help reduce illiteracy. The program included simplifying more than 2,000 of the most basic Chinese characters by reducing the number of strokes in each character. Such changes helped make written Chinese easier to learn. Today, most Chinese 15 years of age or older can read and write. For the country’s literacy rate, see LITERACY (table: Literacy rates).

Since the mid-1900’s, the Chinese have made great progress in providing education for their children. The number of children who attend elementary school and secondary school has increased sharply. China traditionally did not require children to attend school. But in 1986, the government passed a law that required children to attend school for at least nine years. Rural areas lag behind cities in educational progress, and the new laws apply to cities earlier than to rural areas.

Moral education is important in China. However, the Chinese teach morality as defined in a Communist sense. They say students should be both politically committed to Communist ideas and technically skilled. Courses in China combine the teaching of academic facts and political values.

An important issue in Chinese education involves a conflict between basic Communist principles and the desire to modernize China’s economy rapidly. Rapid modernization requires high-quality education with special opportunities and facilities for talented students. However, a Communist principle stresses equality in education. Supporters of this principle would like to increase the educational opportunities of peasants and workers at the expense of more privileged groups, such as scientists and government officials. Since 1949, the Communists have alternately stressed equality in education and high-quality education for modernization. At present, supporters of rapid modernization control the educational system. Students who show outstanding ability on nationwide examinations go to key schools, which have the best faculties and facilities. Key schools exist at the elementary, secondary, and college levels.

Elementary and secondary schools. Children in China enter elementary school at the age of 6 or 7 and must attend school for at least nine years. About 95 percent of the country’s children attend elementary school. Elementary school courses include the Chinese language, geography, history, mathematics, music, science, painting, physical education, and political education.

After completing elementary school, students may enter secondary schools, called middle schools. Junior middle school lasts three years, and senior middle school continues for another two or three years. Middle school courses include many subjects studied in elementary school plus biology, chemistry, physics, law, and English and other foreign languages. Vocational and technical middle schools offer training in agriculture, industrial technology, and other work-related subjects. About two-thirds of China’s children begin middle school, but most drop out before graduation.

Higher education. A nationwide examination determines who may advance to higher education and at what kind of school. High school students study intensely for the tests, which are held each July. Those who do best on the tests may enter a public university. Some wealthier students who do not qualify to attend a public university may pay to attend a private university. The chief university subjects include economics, languages, mathematics, and natural and social sciences.

Some students who pass the examination with lower scores enter a technical college. Each technical college specializes in one particular field, such as agriculture, forestry, medicine, mining, or teacher training. Many technical schools are administered by the government ministry specifically concerned with the subject that is taught. This system enables government leaders to plan the number of graduates who will have the special skills needed to run China’s farms and factories.

China has about 1,000 institutions of higher learning, including both universities and technical colleges. Only a small percentage of the students who wish to attend college can do so because of a shortage of faculties and facilities. Unsuccessful candidates can continue their education at “workers’ universities” run by factories. These schools offer short-term courses. Youths who dropped out of middle school can resume their studies at spare-time schools or through television and correspondence courses.

                The arts 

The oldest known Chinese works of art include pottery and carved jades from the 5000’s B.C. Beautiful bronze vessels that were used in religious rites were first fashioned between 2000 and 1500 B.C. Many ancient objects have been dug up from burial sites. Today, excavation of tombs and dwellings continues to yield different objects of art and a fuller understanding of China’s ancient past. Large numbers of works of art exist from all periods of Chinese history from the 200’s B.C. up to the present. They include masterpieces of painting and sculpture, pottery, ivory and jade carvings, furniture, and lacquerware. See BRONZE; FURNITURE (China); IVORY; JADE; LACQUERWARE; PORCELAIN.

Today, Chinese artists receive support from the government or work as amateurs in addition to their regular jobs. The Communists teach that the arts originate from the people-farmers, workers, soldiers, and minority groups. The Communists also stress that art should express the aims of their society. As a result, most Chinese art from the 1950’s to the 1970’s dealt with themes from the Communist revolution or from the daily lives of workers and peasants. Since then, art has also reflected traditional themes, ideas from other countries, and individual expression.

Literature. China has one of the oldest and greatest literatures in the world. The first significant work of Chinese literature was a collection of poems called the Classic of Songs. Some of these poems probably date from the 1100’s B.C. For more information on China’s rich literary heritage, see CHINESE LITERATURE.

Painting. Sophisticated designs were painted on Chinese pottery as early as the 5000’s B.C. Painting on silk has been an art in China since about 400 B.C. Painting on paper began later. Most early paintings show people, or gods or spirits. But landscapes became the chief subject of Chinese painting by the A.D. 900’s. During the Song dynasty (960-1279), many artists painted landscapes called shanshui (mountain-water), which showed towering mountains and vast expanses of water. In these paintings, the artist tried to suggest a harmony between nature and the human spirit.

Chinese painting was closely linked with the arts of poetry and calligraphy (fine handwriting). Chinese writing and the use of a brush for the writing originated during the Shang dynasty (c. 1766-c. 1122 B.C.). The Chinese traditionally considered calligraphy a branch of painting. During the 1200’s, it became popular for painters to combine shanshui and other subjects with written inscriptions that formed part of the overall design. In many cases, these inscriptions consisted of a poem along with a description of the circumstances under which the painting was created.

Chinese artists used the same brush for painting and calligraphy. It consisted of a wooden or bamboo handle with bristles of animal hair arranged to form an extremely fine point. The artist could paint many kinds of lines by adjusting the angle of the brush and the pressure on it. Chinese artists painted chiefly with black ink made of pine soot and glue. They sometimes used vegetable or mineral pigments to add color to their paintings. Chinese painters created many works on silk scrolls, which could be rolled up for storage and safekeeping. Other paintings were done on plaster walls and on paper. See PAINTING (Chinese painting).

Sculpture and pottery. The earliest Chinese sculptures were small figures placed in tombs. From the Shang dynasty through the Zhou dynasty (c. 1122-256 B.C.), sculptors created chiefly bronze and jade works. Shang and Zhou artists used bronze to make elaborate sacrificial vessels used in ceremonies for the dead. These works were cast in molds, and most had complicated designs based on animal forms.

In 1974, thousands of clay figures of people and horses were discovered near Xi’an in burial pits near the tomb of Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of the Qin dynasty. These figures, which are the earliest known life-sized Chinese sculptures, date from the 200’s B.C.

Buddhism reached China from India during the Han period. Sculptors then began to turn their skills to the service of this new religion. Temples were built in or near cities. In rural areas, cliffsides were hollowed out to form elaborate chapels. Sculptors decorated the chapels with figures of Buddha and his attendants. Some sculptures were carved from local stone. Others were molded of clay and painted. Still other sculptures were cast of bronze and coated with gold. As artistic expressions of religious faith, these works rival the finest sculptures in the monasteries and cathedrals of Europe. See SCULPTURE (China).

The Chinese have made pottery since prehistoric times. They began to use the potter’s wheel before 2000 B.C. and produced glazed pottery as early as the 1300’s B.C. During the Tang dynasty (A.D. 618-907), the Chinese developed the world’s first porcelain. Porcelain dishes and vases produced during the Tang and Song dynasties, and during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and the early part of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912) are among the greatest treasures of Chinese art.

Architecture. Traditionally, most of the public buildings in China were constructed of wood on a stone foundation. The most outstanding feature of Chinese architecture was a large tile roof with extending edges that curved gracefully upward. These roofs were supported by wooden columns connected to the ceiling beams by wooden brackets. Walls did not support the roof but merely provided privacy. Most buildings had only one story, but the Chinese also built many-storied towers called pagodas (see PAGODA). Chinese architects no longer use the traditional styles, and new buildings in Chinese cities look much like those in Western cities.

Music. Chinese music sounds much different from Western music because it uses a different scale. The scales most commonly used in Western music have eight tones, but the Chinese scale has five tones. Melody is the most important element in Chinese music. Instruments and voices follow the same melodic line instead of blending in harmony.

Chinese musical instruments also differ from those played by Western musicians. Chinese instruments include the qin, a seven-stringed instrument, and the sheng, a mouth organ made of seven bamboo pipes. The Chinese also have a lutelike instrument called the pipa and two kinds of flutes, the xiao and the di. Today, Chinese musicians also play Western instruments and perform the music of many of the great European composers.

Theater. Formal Chinese drama began during the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). Since the 1800’s, the most popular form has been Beijing opera (also called Peking opera). This type of drama combines spoken dialogue and songs with dance and symbolic gestures. It also features colorful and elaborate costumes. The plays are based on Chinese stories, history, and folklore.

                The land 

China is the world’s third largest country. Only Russia and Canada are larger. China’s land is as varied as it is vast. It ranges from subarctic regions in the north to tropical lowlands in the south and from fertile plains in the east to deserts in the west.

Several regions of China have traditionally been known by certain names. Northeastern China has been called Manchuria. But in China today, it is called simply the Northeast. Xinjiang covers the far northwest, and Tibet covers the far southwest. Inner Mongolia lies in the north. The eastern third of China, south of Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, is sometimes called China Proper. It has always had most of China’s people.

China is divided into eight major land regions. They are (1) Tibetan Highlands, (2) Xinjiang-Mongolian Uplands, (3) Mongolian Border Uplands, (4) Eastern Highlands, (5) Eastern Lowlands, (6) Central Uplands, (7) Sichuan Basin, and (8) Southern Uplands.

Much of China is so densely populated that little wildlife remains. But rugged mountain forests at the eastern edge of the Tibetan Highland area shelter pandas, golden monkeys, takins, and other rare animals. Wild elephants and gibbons dwell in the subtropical far southwestern uplands. A few Amur tigers live in remote forests of Manchuria.

The Tibetan Highlands lie in southwestern China. The region consists of a vast plateau bordered by towering mountains-the Himalaya on the south, the Pamirs on the west, and the Kunlun on the north. The world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest, rises 29,035 feet (8,850 meters) above sea level in the Himalaya in southern Tibet. Two of the world’s longest rivers, the Huang He and Yangtze, begin in the highlands and flow eastward across China to the sea.

Tibet suffers from both drought and extreme cold. Most of the region is a wasteland of rock, gravel, snow, and ice. A few areas provide limited grazing for hardy yaks-woolly oxen that furnish food, clothing, and transportation for the Tibetans. Crops can be grown only in a few lower-lying areas. See TIBET.

The Xinjiang-Mongolian Uplands occupy the vast desert areas of northwestern China. The region has plentiful mineral resources. However, it is thinly populated because of its remoteness and harsh climate.

The eastern part of the region consists of the Ordos Desert and part of the Gobi Desert. The western part of the region is divided into two areas by the Tian Shan range, which has peaks over 20,000 feet (6,096 meters) above sea level. South of the mountains lies one of the world’s driest deserts, the Taklimakan. The Turpan Depression, an oasis near the northern edge of the Taklimakan, is the lowest point in China. It lies 505 feet (154 meters) below sea level. To the north of the Tian Shan, the Junggar Basin stretches northward to the Altai Mountains along the Mongolian border.

The Mongolian Border Uplands lie between the Gobi Desert and the Eastern Lowlands. The Greater Hinggan Range forms the northern part of the region. The terrain there is rugged, and little agriculture is practiced. The southern part of the region is thickly covered with loess, a fertile, yellowish soil deposited by the wind. Loess consists of tiny mineral particles and is easily worn away. The Huang He and its tributaries have carved out hills and steep-sided valleys in the soft soil. The name Huang He means Yellow River and comes from the large amounts of loess carried by the river.

The Eastern Highlands consist of the Shandong Peninsula and eastern Manchuria. The Shandong Peninsula is a hilly region with excellent harbors and rich deposits of coal. The hills of eastern Manchuria have China’s best forests, and timber is a major product. The highest hills are the Changbai Mountains (Long White Mountains) along the Korean border. To the north, the Amur River forms the border with Russia. Just south of the river is the Lesser Hinggan Range.

The Eastern Lowlands lie between the Mongolian Border Uplands and the Eastern Highlands and extend south to the Southern Uplands. From north to south, the region consists of the Manchurian Plain, the North China Plain, and the valley of the Yangtze River. The Eastern Lowlands have China’s best farmland and many of the country’s largest cities.

The Manchurian Plain has fertile soils and large deposits of coal and iron ore. Most of Manchuria’s people live on the southern part of the plain near the Liao River. To the south lies the wide, flat North China Plain in the valley of the Huang He. Wheat is the main crop in this highly productive agricultural area. Major flooding formerly occurred in the valley. These frequent and destructive floods earned the river the nickname “China’s Sorrow.” Dams and dikes control most floods.

The Yangtze Valley has the best combination of level land, fertile soil, and sufficient rainfall anywhere in China. In the so-called Fertile Triangle between Nanjing, Shanghai, and Hangzhou, the rural population exceeds 5,000 persons per square mile (1,900 per square kilometer). The Yangtze River and its many tributaries have long formed China’s most important trade route.

The Central Uplands are an area of hills and mountains between the Eastern Lowlands and the Tibetan Highlands. The Qin Ling, a mountain range, make up the chief physical feature of the region. Peaks in the range rise more than 12,000 feet (3,658 meters) above sea level near the city of Xi’an. The Qin Ling cross the region from east to west. They form a natural barricade against seasonal winds that carry rain from the south and dust from the north. For this reason, the Qin Ling are China’s most significant geographic boundary. To the north of the mountains are dry wheat-growing areas. To the south lie warm, humid areas where rice is the major crop.

The Sichuan Basin lies south of the Central Uplands. It is a region of hills and valleys surrounded by high mountains. A mild climate and a long growing season make it one of China’s main agricultural regions. Most crops are grown on terraced fields-that is, on level strips of land cut out of the hillsides. The name Sichuan means Four Rivers and refers to the four streams that flow into the Yangtze River in the region. The rivers have carved out deep gorges in the red sandstone of the region and so made land travel difficult. Ships can travel on the Yangtze into western Sichuan, but only small craft can navigate the river’s swift-flowing tributaries.

The Southern Uplands cover southeastern China, including the island of Hainan. The Southern Uplands are a region of green hills and mountains. The only level area is the delta of the Xi Jiang (West River). The Xi Jiang and its tributaries form the main transportation route for southern China. Guangzhou (also called Canton), southern China’s largest city, lies near the mouth of the Xi Jiang. Deep, rich soils and a tropical climate help make the delta area an extremely productive agricultural region.

Much of the Southern Uplands is so hilly and mountainous that little land can be cultivated, even by terracing. The central part of the region, near the city of Guilin, is one of the most beautiful areas in China. It has many isolated limestone hills that rise 100 to 600 feet (30 to 182 meters) almost straight up.


China has an extremely wide range of climates because it is such a large country and has such a variety of natural features. The most severe climatic conditions occur in the Taklimakan and Gobi deserts. Daytime temperatures in these deserts may exceed 100 °F (38 °C) in summer, but nighttime lows may fall to -30 °F (-34 °C) in winter. Both Tibet and northern Manchuria have long, bitterly cold winters. In contrast, coastal areas of southeastern China have a tropical climate.

Seasonal winds called monsoons greatly affect China’s climate. In winter, monsoons carry cold, dry air from central Asia across China toward the sea. These high winds often create dust storms in the north. From late spring to early fall, the monsoons blow from the opposite direction and spread warm, moist air inland from the sea. Because of the monsoons, more rain falls in summer than in winter throughout China. Most parts of the country actually receive more than 80 percent of their rainfall between May and October.

Summers tend to be hot and humid in southeastern China and in southern Manchuria. In fact, summer temperatures average about 80 °F (27 °C) throughout much of China. However, northern China has longer and much colder winters than the south has. In January, daily low temperatures average about -13 °F (-25 °C) in northern Manchuria and about 20 °F (-7 °C) throughout much of the eastern third of the country. However, the coastal areas of the Southern uplands are much warmer. Southern China and the Yangtze Valley west of Wuhan are shielded from the winter winds by mountains. The Sichuan Basin is especially well protected, and frost occurs only a few days each winter.

The amount of precipitation varies greatly from region to region in China. The deserts of Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia receive less than 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain yearly. More than 40 inches (100 centimeters) of rain falls each year in many parts of southeastern China. Some areas near the southeastern coast receive up to 80 inches (200 centimeters) annually. In northern China, the amount of precipitation varies widely from year to year. However, most areas in northern China receive less than 40 inches (100 centimeters) yearly. For example, annual precipitation averages about 25 inches (63 centimeters) in Beijing and 28 inches (70 centimeters) in Shenyang. Snowfalls occur only in the north. But even there, they are infrequent and usually light.


China has one of the world’s largest economies in terms of its total economic production. It ranks among the leading countries in terms of the gross domestic product (GDP), the value of all goods and services produced in a country within a year. But in terms of per capita (per person) GDP, China ranks low. More than half of the world’s countries have a higher per capita GDP than China. Economists consider China a developing country because it has such low per capita GDP.

The national government exercises much control over China’s economy. It owns and operates the most important industrial plants and controls most nonagricultural employment and wages. In addition, the government controls and operates the nation’s banking system, all long-distance transportation, and foreign trade. It rations some kinds of food and sets the prices of certain key goods and services.

The national government receives most of its income from taxes paid out of the profits of state-owned businesses. Government planners have used these profits to invest heavily in the development of China’s manufacturing industries.

China’s government makes national economic plans that cover five-year periods. These plans determine how much money the government will invest in industry and agriculture. The plans help determine the quantity of goods each worker is expected to produce.

The Communist government has achieved an impressive record of economic growth. The Communists have provided widespread employment opportunities, job security, and a more even distribution of income among the people. The prospects for China’s economy to continue growing remain favorable. The country has enough mineral and fuel resources to become one of the world’s developed nations. Another important resource is China’s hard-working and skillful people.

In the early 1980’s, the Chinese government began putting into effect a series of economic reforms that led to less government control over some business activities. Since then, the number of privately owned and operated businesses has increased dramatically. Many experts believe the increased ownership of business has contributed significantly to China’s economic health.

Manufacturing and mining make up the largest single part of China’s GDP, 42 percent. Shanghai is one of the world’s leading manufacturing centers. Its industrial output far exceeds that of any other place in China. Beijing and Tianjin rank second and third. Other important industrial centers include Shenyang in Manchuria; Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Wuhan, and Wuxi in southeastern China; and Chengdu and Chongqing in central China.

After the Communists came to power, they began to rebuild China’s factories in an effort to make the nation an industrial power. They concentrated on the development of heavy industries, such as the production of metals and machinery. Since 1949, China’s industrial production has grown at an average annual rate of more than 12 percent. Today, China has one of the world’s largest and most rapidly growing steel industries. The machine-building industry provides metalworking tools and other machines for new factories. Other major manufactured products include cement, fertilizer and other chemicals, irrigation equipment, locomotives, military equipment, ships, tractors, and trucks.

The largest consumer goods industries are the textile industry and the food-processing industry. As the standard of living in China improves, demand is growing for such consumer goods as bicycles, radios, sewing machines, and watches. As a result, the Chinese are increasing their production of these items.

To help continue the country’s industrial expansion, China’s leaders have made contracts with foreign companies to modernize the country’s factories and to build new ones. They have also begun to improve and expand scientific and technical education in China and to send students abroad for training. Waste and inefficiency in industry are also problems. To combat these problems, the government has introduced wage and bonus systems that give workers more pay for more production.

China is the world’s largest producer of coal. Coal deposits occur in many parts of China, but the best fields are in the north. During the early 1950’s, more than 90 percent of China’s energy came from coal. Since that time, however, the Chinese have discovered and rapidly made use of large deposits of petroleum. Today, hydroelectric plants provide about 20 percent of China’s energy, and oil-burning plants supply about 15 percent. The largest oil field in China is at Daqing in the northern part of Manchuria. Other major Chinese oil fields include those at Shengli on the Shandong Peninsula; at Dagang, near Tianjin; and at Karamay in Xinjiang.

China is a leading producer of iron ore. Most of the ore comes from large, low-grade deposits in the northeastern provinces. Some mines in the central and northern parts of the country yield rich iron ore.

China outranks all other countries in the production of manganese, tin, and tungsten, and it is a leading producer of antimony, gold, lead, and salt. China also mines bauxite, uranium, and zinc.

Service industries are industries that produce services, not goods. These industries include such services as trade; government services, including the military; transportation; communication; finance; insurance; and personal and business services. Together, they account for 34 percent of China’s GDP. More information on transportation and communication appears later in this section.

Agriculture accounts for less than 25 percent of China’s GDP, but it ranks as the country’s largest employer by far. About 60 percent of China’s workers are farmers. In southern China, rice, sweet potatoes, and tea are the major crops. Wheat is the chief crop in the north, followed by corn and sorghum. China produces more cotton, pears, rice, tobacco, and wheat than any other country. It grows 85 percent of the world’s sweet potatoes. In addition, it is a leading producer of apples, cabbages, carrots, corn, melons, potatoes, rubber, sugar beets, sugar cane, tea, and tomatoes. Other important crops include millet, peanuts, and soybeans. Farmers on Hainan Island grow tropical crops, such as bananas, oranges, and pineapples.

Only about 13 percent of China’s land area can be cultivated. Thus, farmers have extremely little cropland to support themselves and the rest of the huge population. However, they manage to provide almost enough food for all the people. Only small supplies must be imported. This accomplishment is made possible partly by the long growing season in southern China. Farmers there can grow two or more crops on the same land each year. Chinese farmers must do most of their work by hand with simple tools. They make use of irrigation and organic fertilizers and practice soil conservation.

During the 1950’s, the Communists collectivized China’s agriculture-that is, they transferred farm ownership to the state. They organized the peasants to farm the land cooperatively in units called communes. In the 1980’s, emphasis on communes declined, and individual families farmed more of the land. The families must give part of their crop to their collective and must sell an agreed quota of farm products to the state at a fixed price. They may then sell their surplus crops at farm markets, sometimes to city dwellers.

China’s farm output has greatly expanded since the Communists took control of China. Faster growth in agriculture will require the introduction of higher-yielding seeds, increased use of machinery, expanded irrigation, and wider use of chemical fertilizers. In rural areas, many families raise chickens and ducks, and nearly every household has a hog. Hogs provide both meat and fertilizer. China has more than 350 million hogs, more than 40 percent of the world’s total. China also has large numbers of cattle, goats, horses, and sheep.

Fishing industry. China has the world’s largest fishing industry. The Chinese catch about 161/2 million short tons (15 million metric tons) of fish, shellfish, and other seafood annually. About 40 percent comes from freshwater fisheries, and the rest comes from the sea. Fish farming is an important industry in China. Fish farmers raise fish in ponds both for food and for use in fertilizer.

International trade is vital to China’s economic development. During the 1950’s, the Chinese imported from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) most of the machinery needed to build their industries. However, friendly relations between China and the U.S.S.R. broke down in the early 1960’s. The Chinese then began a policy of economic self-reliance and limited imports. But in the late 1970’s, China’s leaders turned away from the principle of self-reliance and began to open the economy to foreign trade. China imports machinery and other technology needed to modernize its economy. The Chinese sometimes even seek foreign loans to finance these imports. In 1999, China signed a landmark trade agreement with the United States that lowered many barriers to foreign trade.

China’s chief imports are metals and machinery. Other leading imports include grain, cotton, and fertilizers. China’s main exports include clothing, textiles, tea, and such foods as fruits, pork, and vegetables. In the 1970’s, the Chinese began to export large quantities of petroleum, offsetting the cost of imports. Much of China’s international trade passes through Hong Kong. China’s chief trading partners include Germany, Japan, and the United States.

Transportation. The Chinese rely mainly on simple, traditional means for transportation over short distances. The people carry heavy loads fastened to their back or hanging from poles carried across their shoulders. Carts and wagons are pulled either by people or by donkeys, horses, or mules. Boats are pulled along canals and rivers by animals on the bank.

Railroads make up by far the most important part of China’s modern transportation system. Rail lines link the major cities and manufacturing centers. The railroads transport over 60 percent of the freight hauled by modern means. They also carry much passenger traffic.

China has an extensive network of roads that reaches almost every town in the nation. Most roads are unpaved. Highway traffic in China consists mostly of trucks and buses. China has an average of less than 1 automobile for every 500 people. Most cars are owned by government agencies. Private ownership of cars is permitted, but very few Chinese can afford to buy a car. Bicycles and buses are widely used for local travel.

Ships carry passengers and freight on several Chinese rivers, especially the Yangtze. The Grand Canal, which is the world’s longest artificially created waterway, extends more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) from Hangzhou in the south to Beijing in the north.

China’s major ports include Dalian, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Qingdao, and Shanghai. The chief airports are at Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. More than 80 Chinese cities are linked by domestic air service. Chinese and foreign airlines fly between China and many cities in Asia, Europe, and North America.

Communication in China comes under strict government control. Newspapers, radio, and television formerly were devoted mostly to political propaganda. But since the late 1970’s, the government has increasingly used these communications media to provide information and entertainment. Educational programs, concerts, plays, and new films are often shown on television.

The government and the Chinese Communist Party publish hundreds of daily newspapers and many weeklies. China’s leading newspaper is Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily) of Beijing, the official paper of the Communist Party. In addition to printed newspapers, China has countless mimeographed and handwritten newssheets. So-called big-character posters were formerly a means of communication and personal expression in China. People expressed opinions on the posters and hung them on walls in cities. In the late 1970’s, many people began using posters to complain about China’s political system. In 1980, the government forbade posters that criticized its policies. Now, posters typically give such information as tips on health and physical fitness.

China has an average of 1 radio for every 5 people and 1 television set for every 32 people. Radio programs are also broadcast over loudspeakers in many public areas. Television sets are sometimes bought by groups, such as occupants of an apartment building, and placed in a lobby or public room. The Chinese use their telephone and telegraph systems mainly for official purposes or in emergencies. The people depend chiefly on the postal system for personal communication.


Beginnings of Chinese civilization. The oldest written records of Chinese history date from the Shang dynasty (about 1766 B.C. to about 1122 B.C.). These records consist of inscriptions inside bronze vessels and notations scratched on thousands of turtle shells and animal bones. About 100 B.C., a Chinese historian named Sima Qian wrote the first major history of China. Through the centuries, the Chinese have always appreciated the importance of history and so have kept detailed records of the events of their times.

People have lived in what is now China since long before the beginning of written history. Prehistoric human beings known as the Peking people lived between about 500,000 and 250,000 years ago in what is now northern China. By about 10,000 B.C., a number of New Stone Age cultures had developed in this area. From two of them-the Yangshao and the Longshan-a distinctly Chinese civilization gradually emerged.

The Yangshao culture reached the peak of its development about 3000 B.C. The culture extended from the central valley of the Huang He to the present-day province of Gansu. In time, it was displaced by the Longshan culture, which spread over much of what is now the eastern third of the country. The Longshan people lived in walled communities, cultivated millet and rice, and raised cattle and sheep.

China’s first dynasty, the Shang dynasty, arose from the Longshan culture during the 1700’s B.C. The Shang kingdom was centered in the Huang He Valley. It became a highly developed society governed by a hereditary class of aristocrats. The dynasty’s outstanding accomplishments included the creation of magnificent bronze vessels, the development of horse-drawn war chariots, and the establishment of a system of writing.

About 1122 B.C., the Zhou people of western China overthrew the Shang and established their own dynasty. The Zhou dynasty ruled China until 256 B.C. The dynasty directly controlled only part of northern China. In the east, the Zhou gave authority to certain followers. These followers became lords of semi-independent states. As time passed, these lords grew increasingly independent of the royal court and so weakened its power. Battles between the Zhou rulers and non-Chinese invaders further weakened the dynasty. In 771 B.C., the Zhou were forced to abandon their capital, near what is now Xi’an, and move eastward to Luoyang.

About 500 B.C., the great philosopher Confucius proposed new moral standards to replace the magical and religious standards of his time. This development in Chinese thought compared in many ways to the shift from religion to philosophy that occurred among the people of Greece at about the same time.

During the later Zhou period, the rulers of the eastern states fought one another for the control of all China. In 221 B.C., the Qin state defeated all its rivals and established China’s first empire controlled by a strong central government. The Qin believed in a philosophy called Legalism, and their victory resulted partly from following Legalistic ideas. Legalism emphasized the importance of authority, efficient administration, and strict laws. A combination of Legalistic administrative practices and Confucian moral values helped the Chinese empire endure for more than 2,000 years.

The age of empire. The Qin dynasty lasted only until 206 B.C. But it brought great changes that influenced the entire age of empire in China.

The early empire. The first Qin emperor, Shi Huangdi, abolished the local states and set up a strong central government. His government standardized weights and measures, the currency, and the Chinese writing system. To keep out invaders, he ordered the construction of the Great Wall of China. Laborers built the wall by joining shorter walls constructed during the Zhou dynasty. The Great Wall, added to and rebuilt by later dynasties, extends about 4,500 miles (7,240 kilometers) from the Bo Gulf of the Yellow Sea to the Lop Nur region in the province of Xinjiang in western China.

Shi Huangdi taxed the Chinese people heavily to support his military campaigns and his vast building projects. These taxes and the harsh enforcement of laws led to civil war soon after his death in 210 B.C. The Qin dynasty quickly collapsed. The Han dynasty then gained control of China. It ruled from 202 B.C. to A.D. 220.

During the Han period, Confucianism became the philosophical basis of government. Aristocrats held most of the important state offices. However, a person’s qualifications began to play a role in the selection and placement of officials. Chinese influence spread into neighboring countries, and overland trade routes linked China with Europe for the first time.

In A.D. 8, a Han official named Wang Mang seized the throne and set up the Xin dynasty. However, the Han dynasty regained control of China by A.D. 25. Art, education, and science thrived. Writers produced histories and dictionaries. They also collected classics of literature from earlier times. During the late Han period, Buddhism was introduced into China from India.

Political struggles at the royal court and administrative dishonesty plagued the last century of Han rule. In addition, powerful regional officials began to ignore the central government. Large-scale rebellion finally broke out, and the Han fell in 220. China then split into three competing kingdoms. Soon afterward, nomadic groups invaded northern China. A series of short-lived non-Chinese dynasties ruled all or part of the north from 304 to 581. Six regimes followed one another in the south from 222 to 589. The period of Chinese history from the fall of the Han to 589 is often called the “Six Dynasties.” During these centuries of division, Buddhism spread across China and influenced all aspects of life.

The brief Sui dynasty (581-618) reunified China. By 605, the Grand Canal linked the Yangtze Valley with northern China. The canal made the grain and other products of the south more easily available to support the political and military needs of the north.

The Tang dynasty replaced the Sui in 618 and ruled China for nearly 300 years. The Tang period was an age of prosperity and great cultural accomplishment. The Tang capital at Chang’an (now Xi’an) had more than a million people, making it the largest city in the world. It attracted diplomats, traders, poets, and scholars from throughout Asia and the Mediterranean area. Some of China’s greatest poets, including Li Bo and Du Fu, wrote during the Tang period. Buddhism remained an enormous cultural influence, but followers adapted it to Chinese ways. Distinctly Chinese schools of Buddhism developed, including Chan (Zen) and Qingtu (Pure Land). But in the 800’s, a revival of Confucianism began.

In 755, a rebellion led by a northern general named An Lushan touched off a gradual decline in Tang power. From 875 to 884, another great rebellion further weakened the Tang empire, which finally ended in 907. During the period that followed, a succession of “Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms” struggled for control of the empire. In 960, the Song dynasty reunified China.

The Song dynasty brought two major changes that affected the Chinese empire throughout the rest of its existence. First, the Song rulers firmly established a system of civil service examinations that had begun during the Tang period. They thus completed the shift of social and political power from aristocratic families to officials selected on the basis of talent. The second significant change was the development of Neo-Confucianism, which combined the moral standards of traditional Confucianism with elements of Buddhism and Taoism. The philosopher Zhu Xi was largely responsible for this new Confucianism. The Song dynasty established Neo-Confucianism as the official state philosophy, and all later Chinese dynasties continued to support it.

During the Song period, the introduction of early ripening rice made it possible to grow two or three crops a year in the south. The increased rice production helped support the population, which for the first time exceeded 100 million. Chinese inventions during this period included gunpowder and movable type for printing. Literature, philosophy, and history flourished as more and more people learned how to read and write. In the fine arts, the great Song achievements were hard-glazed porcelains and magnificent landscape paintings.

The Song dynasty suffered from frequent attacks by nomadic peoples from the north. By 1127, it had lost northern China to invaders from Manchuria. The Song then moved their capital from Kaifeng to Hangzhou on the wealthy lower Yangtze Delta, and the dynasty became known as the Southern Song.

Mongol rule. During the 1200’s, Mongol warriors swept into China from the north. The Mongol leader Kublai Khan established the Yuan dynasty. It controlled China from 1279 to 1368, the first time that all China had come under foreign rule. During the Yuan period, Europeans became increasingly interested in China because of the reports of travelers and traders. The most enthusiastic reports came from Marco Polo, a trader from Venice. After traveling widely in China from 1275 to 1292, Polo returned home with glowing accounts of the highly civilized country he called Cathay.

The Mongols ruled China harshly. During the mid-1300’s, rebellions drove the Mongols out of China and led to the establishment of the Ming dynasty.

The Ming dynasty ruled from 1368 to 1644, a period of stability, prosperity, and revived Chinese influence in eastern Asia. Literature and art flourished again. In reaction to Mongol rule, the Ming emperors looked down on all things foreign. When European traders visited China during the 1500’s and 1600’s, the Ming rulers treated them as inferiors. In addition, the Chinese considered the Europeans’ trade activities to be smuggling and piracy. The low opinion the Chinese had of European traders hampered Roman Catholic missionaries who began to reach China about 1600.

The early rule of the Manchus. In 1644, the Manchu people of Manchuria invaded China and established the Qing dynasty. The Manchus ruled China until 1912. Like the Mongols, the Manchus were foreigners. But unlike the Mongols, the Manchus had adopted many elements of Chinese culture before they gained control of the empire. The Manchus strongly supported Neo-Confucianism and modeled their political system after that of the Ming.

From 1681 to 1796, the Qing empire enjoyed stability and prosperity. Chinese influence extended into Mongolia, Tibet, and central Asia. Commerce and the output of agriculture and the handicraft industry increased remarkably. China’s population expanded rapidly. It rose from about 150 million in 1700 to more than 400 million by 1850.

By the late 1700’s, the standard of living in China began to decline as the population grew faster than agricultural production. After the 1760’s, political dishonesty plagued the Qing administration. In 1796, the worsening conditions touched off a rebellion, which was led by anti-Manchu secret societies. The rebellion lasted until 1804 and greatly weakened the Qing dynasty.

Clash with the Western powers. European merchants had little effect on China before the 1800’s. The Chinese government restricted foreign trade to the port of Guangzhou and severely limited contact between foreigners and Chinese. China exported large quantities of tea and silk to the West but purchased few goods in return. To balance their trade, European merchants began to bring opium to China during the early 1800’s. The Chinese had outlawed the importation of opium, and so the Europeans were smuggling the drug.

Opium smuggling created much local disorder in China, and the large outflow of silver to pay for the opium seriously disturbed the economy. In March 1839, Chinese officials tried to stop the illegal trade by seizing 20,000 chests of opium from British merchants in Guangzhou. The Opium War then broke out between China and the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom easily won the war, which ended with the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842.

The Treaty of Nanjing was the first of what the Chinese called the unequal treaties. It gave the Chinese island of Hong Kong to the United Kingdom and opened five Chinese ports to British residence and trade. The Treaty of Nanjing also granted British officials the right to deal on equal terms with Chinese officials and to try criminal cases involving British citizens. China signed similar treaties with France and the United States in 1844 and with several other European nations by 1851. These treaties stated that any rights granted to one foreign power must also be given to the other nations. The Western nations thus acquired a common interest in maintaining their special privileges in China.

From 1858 to 1860-after China lost another war, against the United Kingdom and France-China and the foreign powers signed more treaties. These treaties opened additional ports to trade, permitted foreign shipping on the Yangtze, and allowed missionaries to live on and own property in the interior of China. The treaties also called for the Western nations to establish permanent diplomatic offices in Beijing. The United Kingdom added the Kowloon Peninsula to its Hong Kong colony, and Russia received all Chinese territory north of the Amur River and east of the Ussuri River.

The Taiping Rebellion. A series of uprisings in the mid-1800’s posed a serious threat to the survival of the Qing dynasty. The most important uprising was the Taiping Rebellion. It lasted from 1850 to 1864 and caused the loss of millions of lives. The Taipings were a semireligious group that combined Christian beliefs with ancient Chinese ideas for perfecting society. They challenged both the Qing dynasty and Confucianism with a program to divide the land equally among the people. After 14 years of civil war, local Chinese officials organized new armies, which defeated the Taipings. The Qing received some military aid from the foreign powers. These nations wanted the dynasty to survive so the terms of the unequal treaties could remain in effect.

The fall of the Manchus. A disastrous war with Japan in 1894 and 1895 forced the Chinese to recognize Japan’s control over Korea. China also had to give the Japanese the island of Taiwan, which China had controlled since 1683. The United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Russia then forced the crumbling Chinese empire to grant them more trading rights and territory. The division of China into a number of European colonies appeared likely. But the Chinese people had begun to develop strong feelings of national unity. This growth of nationalism helped prevent the division of the country, as did rivalry among the foreign powers. None of the foreign powers would allow any of the others to become dominant in China. In 1899, the United States persuaded the other Western powers to accept the Open-Door Policy, which guaranteed the rights of all nations to trade with China on an equal basis. The rivalry among the powers was a reason the policy was approved.

By the 1890’s, some Chinese violently opposed the spread of Western and Christian influences in China. Chinese rebels formed secret societies to fight these influences. The best-known society was called the Boxers by Westerners because its members practiced Chinese ceremonial exercises that resembled shadowboxing. In the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, the Boxers and other secret societies attacked and killed Westerners and Chinese Christians. Even the Manchu court supported this campaign of terror. A rescue force from eight nations crushed the rebellion.

In the years following the Boxer Rebellion, the Manchus set out to reform the Chinese government and economy. They abolished the Confucian civil service examinations, established modern schools, and sent students abroad to study. They also organized and equipped a Western-style army. In addition, the Qing court reorganized the central government, promised to adopt a constitution, and permitted the provinces to elect their own legislatures.

The Manchu reforms came too late to save the dynasty. A movement to set up a republic had been growing since the Japanese defeat of China in 1895. In 1905, several revolutionary republican organizations combined to form the United League. They chose as their leader Sun Yat-sen, a Western-educated physician.

From 1905 to 1911, the rebels staged a series of unsuccessful armed attacks against the Manchus. Finally, on Oct. 10, 1911, army troops loosely associated with the United League revolted at Wuchang. By the year’s end, all the southern and central provinces had declared their independence from Manchu rule.

Modern China. In December 1911, the leaders of the revolution met in Nanjing to establish the Republic of China.

The early republic. The leaders of the revolution named Sun Yat-sen temporary president of the republic. The Manchus then called upon Yuan Shikai, a retired military official, to try to defeat the republicans. But Yuan arranged a secret settlement with Sun and his followers. The last Manchu emperor, a 6-year-old boy named Pu Yi, gave up the throne of China on Feb. 12, 1912. On March 10, Yuan became president in place of Sun, who agreed to step down.

Yuan quickly moved to expand his personal power and ignored the wishes of the republicans. In 1912, the former revolutionaries established the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party). In 1913, they organized a revolt against Yuan. The revolt failed, and the Nationalist leaders fled to Japan. Yuan’s presidency became a dictatorship, and he took steps to establish himself as emperor. But even Yuan’s own followers opposed the reestablishment of the empire. A rebellion by military leaders in the provinces forced him to abandon his plans.

The war lord period. Yuan Shikai died in 1916, and the power of the central government quickly crumbled. Presidents continued to hold office in Beijing, but the real power in northern China lay in the hands of war lords (local military leaders). With the support of southern war lords, Sun Yat-sen set up a rival government in Guangzhou in 1917. By 1922, the republic had failed hopelessly and civil war was widespread.

Meanwhile, great changes were occurring in Chinese culture and society. For example, a magazine called New Youth attacked Confucianism and presented a wide range of new philosophies and social theories. On May 4, 1919, students in Beijing demonstrated against the Versailles Peace Conference. The conference permitted Japan to keep control of the German holdings it had seized in China during World War I (1914-1918). The demonstrations helped spread ideas presented by New Youth and other journals. This revolution in thought became known as the May Fourth Movement. It contributed greatly to the growth of Chinese nationalism and so strengthened the drive for political revolution.

In 1919, Sun began to reorganize the Nationalist Party and to recruit supporters from among students. At almost the same time, the first Communist student groups appeared in Beijing and Shanghai. In 1923, the U.S.S.R. sent advisers to China to help the Nationalists. (The U.S.S.R. had been formed in 1922 under Russia’s leadership.) The Soviets persuaded the Chinese Communists to join the Nationalist Party and help it carry out the revolution. The party began to develop its own army and to organize workers and peasants to prepare for an attack on the northern war lords.

Sun Yat-sen died in 1925, and leadership of the Nationalist Party gradually passed to its military commander, Chiang Kai-shek. In 1926, the Nationalists began a campaign to defeat the northern war lords and soon won some major victories. In 1927, Chiang and his troops turned against the Communists and destroyed the Communist-backed labor unions in Shanghai. Most Communist leaders fled to the hills in the province of Jiangxi in southern China. In 1928, the Nationalists captured Beijing and united China under one government for the first time since 1916.

Nationalist rule. The Nationalist government was a one-party dictatorship that never gained full control of China. Communist opposition and Japanese aggression severely limited its power and accomplishments.

By 1931, the Communists had established 15 rural bases and set up a rival government in southern and central China. In 1934, Chiang Kai-shek’s armies forced the Communists to evacuate their bases and begin their famous Long March. By the end of 1935, the Communists had marched more than 6,000 miles (9,700 kilometers) over a winding route to the province of Shaanxi in northern China. Of the approximately 100,000 Communists who began the march, only a few thousand survived to reach Shaanxi. During the march, Mao Zedong became the leader of the Chinese Communist Party.

While Chiang was fighting the Communists, the Japanese were seizing more and more Chinese territory. In 1931, the Japanese occupied Manchuria and made it a puppet state called Manchukuo. They then extended their military influence into Inner Mongolia and other parts of northern China. Chiang agreed to a series of Japanese demands because he felt unprepared to fight the Japanese until he had defeated the Communists.

Many students and intellectuals opposed Chiang’s giving in to Japan. They organized demonstrations and anti-Japanese associations. Dissatisfaction spread to Manchurian troops who were blockading the Communist-held areas in the northwest. In 1936, the Manchurian forces kidnapped Chiang in Xi’an. He was released only after agreeing to end the civil war and form a united front against the Japanese.

War with Japan. The Japanese army launched a major attack against China in 1937. The Chinese resisted courageously, but Japanese armies controlled most of eastern China by the end of 1938. The Nationalist forces withdrew to the province of Sichuan, where they made Chongqing the wartime capital.

China joined the Allies in World War II on Dec. 8, 1941, one day after Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Allies gave aid to China, but constant warfare against Japan exhausted China’s resources and strength. The cost of the war caused severe inflation, which demoralized the Chinese people and weakened support for the Nationalists.

For the Communists, the war against Japan provided an opportunity for political and military expansion. In northern China, they gained control of large areas that the Japanese army had overrun but lacked the forces to defend. The Communists enlarged their army and organized the people to provide food and shelter for their soldiers. They also began a social revolution in the countryside, which included redistributing land to the peasants in Communist-controlled areas. When the war against Japan ended in August 1945, the Communists held an area in northern China with a population of about 100 million. In addition, they claimed to have an army of more than 900,000 soldiers.

Civil war. In 1946, the United States sent General George C. Marshall to China to attempt to arrange a political settlement between the Nationalists and the Communists. However, neither the Nationalists nor the Communists believed that they could achieve their goals by coming to terms with the other side. In mid-1946, full-scale fighting began.

The superior military tactics of the Communists and the social revolution they conducted in the countryside gradually turned the tide against the Nationalists. After capturing Tianjin and Beijing in January 1949, Mao Zedong’s armies crossed the Yangtze River and drove the Nationalists toward southern China. On Oct. 1, 1949, Mao proclaimed the establishment in Beijing of the People’s Republic of China. In December, Chiang Kai-shek and his followers fled to the island of Taiwan.

The beginning of Communist rule took place under the direction of Mao Zedong, the chairman of the Communist Party. Premier Zhou Enlai directed all government departments and ministries. Military and economic aid from the U.S.S.R. helped support the new government. From 1949 to 1952, the new government firmly established its control over China and promoted the recovery of the nation’s economy. It seized farmland from landlords and redistributed the land among the peasants. This process of land redistribution was a bloody one. Estimates of the number of landlords killed range from 50,000 to several million.

In 1953, China began its First Five-Year Plan for economic development. From 1953 to 1957, Chinese industry grew at the rapid rate of about 15 percent a year. By 1957, the Communists had brought all important industries under the control of the government. In addition, peasants were forced or persuaded to combine their landholdings into agricultural cooperatives. But agricultural production increased much more slowly than industrial output.

The Great Leap Forward was the name given to China’s Second Five-Year Plan. Launched in 1958, this plan was designed to accelerate dramatically China’s economic development. It was based on Mao’s belief that human willpower and effort could overcome all obstacles. Thus, the government tried to speed development by greatly increasing the number of workers and their hours while ignoring China’s lack of capital and modern technology. It combined the agricultural cooperatives into huge communes to improve the efficiency of farmworkers. In industry, laborers worked extra shifts. Machinery was operated continuously, without being stopped even for maintenance.

The Great Leap Forward shattered China’s economy. From 1959 to 1961, China experienced economic depression, food shortages, and a decline in industrial output. By 1962, the economy began to recover. However, the Chinese had not solved the problem of achieving economic growth while maintaining revolutionary values. Disagreement over this issue began to produce a major split within the Communist Party between radicals and moderates. The radicals called for China to strive for a classless society in which everyone would work selflessly for the common good. The moderates stressed the importance of economic development. They believed that the policies of the radicals were unrealistic and hampered the modernization of China.

Break with the U.S.S.R. Friendly relations between China and the U.S.S.R. ended in the early 1960’s. China had criticized the Soviets as early as 1956 for their policy of “peaceful coexistence” with the West. Unlike the Soviets, the Chinese at that time believed that war with the West was inevitable. They also accused the U.S.S.R. of betraying the aims of Communism. In 1960, the U.S.S.R. stopped its technical assistance to China. In 1962, the Soviets refused to support China in its border war with India. The U.S.S.R. signed a nuclear test ban treaty with the United States and the United Kingdom in 1963. The Chinese then broke off relations with the Soviets, whom they accused of joining an anti-Chinese plot. In 1989, officials of China and the U.S.S.R. announced that they had improved relations. The U.S.S.R. was dissolved in 1991. China then began to establish relations with the former Soviet republics.

The Cultural Revolution. In 1966, Mao Zedong gave his support to the radicals in the Communist Party. Mao thus began what he called the Cultural Revolution. The radicals accused many top party and government officials of failing to follow Communist principles and removed them from their positions. Students and other young people formed semimilitary organizations called the Red Guards. They demonstrated in the major cities against those whom they called counterrevolutionaries and anti-Maoists. The universities were closed from 1966 to 1970. Radicals seized control of many provincial and city governments. Violence frequently broke out as competing radical groups struggled for power.

Mao’s attempt to put China back on a revolutionary path wrecked the government and economy so severely that he had to call out the army in 1967 to restore order. In 1969, the Communist Party, the government, and the educational system gradually began to resume their normal activities. But the conflict between radicals and moderates within the party continued.

Improved relations with the West. During the early 1970’s, Canada and several other Western nations established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. The United States continued to recognize the Nationalist government on Taiwan. But in 1971, the United States ended its long-standing opposition to United Nations (UN) membership for the People’s Republic. Instead, it favored UN membership for both the People’s Republic and Taiwan. In October 1971, the UN voted to admit the People’s Republic in place of Taiwan.

In 1972, U.S. President Richard M. Nixon traveled to China and met with Premier Zhou Enlai and Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong. During Nixon’s visit, the United States and China signed the Shanghai Communique, which looked forward to the establishment of normal relations. The two nations sent representatives to serve in each other’s capital.

Deng Xiaoping. Both Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong died in 1976. A power struggle then developed between moderates led by Hua Guofeng and radicals led by Mao’s widow, Jiang Qing. Hua’s group won, and he succeeded Zhou as premier and Mao as chairman of the Communist Party. Hua’s group imprisoned Jiang and three of her followers-the so-called Gang of Four.

In 1977, Deng Xiaoping, a moderate, became vice premier and vice chairman of the Communist Party. On Jan. 1, 1979, China and the United States established normal diplomatic relations.

By 1980, Hua had lost most of his power. Deng had become China’s most powerful leader. Hua resigned as premier in 1980 and as party chairman in 1981. Deng helped Zhao Ziyang become premier and helped Hu Yaobang, who was then general secretary of the party, also become chairman. Zhao and Hu were moderates.

Deng resigned as vice premier in 1980. In 1982, the party’s new constitution abolished Deng’s post of vice chairman and Hu’s post of chairman. The position of general secretary became the top party post, and Hu continued in that office. However, Deng remained China’s most influential leader.

Deng and the other moderates sought to reduce the people’s admiration of Mao. Many people admired Mao so much that they believed China should follow all his policies. The moderates praised Mao’s leadership, but denounced the idea that all his policies should be followed. They greatly increased trade and cultural contact with foreign countries. They set out to modernize China’s economy with technical help from abroad.

Protests. In the late 1980’s, uprisings against Chinese rule broke out in Tibet. In March 1989, China sent troops there to restore order.

In December 1986, many Chinese university students began demanding increased freedom of speech and a greater voice in the selection of officials. Students held demonstrations in a number of cities to promote their demands. In January 1987, Hu Yaobang was removed from his post of Communist Party general secretary. Conservative leaders had criticized Hu for his liberal views on freedom of expression and political reform. Zhao Ziyang became acting general secretary of the Communist Party. He also remained as premier. In November 1987, Zhao became general secretary of the party, and Li Peng became acting premier. Li became premier in April 1988.

Hu died in April 1989. University students held marches to honor Hu and mourn his death. They called for a reevaluation of Hu by the country’s leaders. These events led to large demonstrations by students and other citizens in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and on the streets of a number of other Chinese cities. The protesters called for more democracy in China and an end to corruption in government. The military crushed the demonstrations and killed hundreds of protesters. After the demonstrations, the government arrested many people who were suspected of being involved in the prodemocracy movement. The government executed a number of those arrested. In addition, the Communist Party dismissed Zhao from his post for showing support of the prodemocracy movement. Jiang Zemin replaced Zhao as general secretary. In 1993, Jiang was also named to the largely ceremonial post of China’s president.

In 1989, Deng had resigned from his remaining party and government posts. But he continued to have influence until the early 1990’s. Deng died in 1997.

Hong Kong. In 1984, China and the United Kingdom signed an agreement regarding the return of Hong Kong to China when the United Kingdom’s lease expired. China agreed that Hong Kong would retain a high degree of autonomy (self-rule) and keep its free-enterprise economy for at least 50 years after 1997. In 1990, the Chinese government approved the Basic Law, the new framework for Hong Kong’s administration. On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong became a special administrative region of China.

Recent developments. In 1998, Zhu Rongji succeeded Li Peng as premier. Zhu had been a vice premier in charge of economic policy. Li Peng was named chairman of China’s national legislature.

Construction of Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River began in 1994. The dam, which is scheduled for completion in 2009, will be the world’s largest. Its huge reservoir will cover areas now occupied by several cities and towns and will require the resettlement of more than 1 million people. The dam will generate electric power and control flooding.

Portugal returned control of Macao to China in 1999 under an agreement signed by both countries in 1987. Like Hong Kong, Macao is considered a special administrative region of China and maintains separate political, judicial, and social systems.

In the late 1990’s, a spiritual movement known as Falun Gong began publicly protesting its repression by the Chinese government. The protests resulted only in further repression of the movement.

In 2001, China became a member of the World Trade Organization, which promotes trade among its members. China’s entry into the organization marked progress in freeing the Chinese economy from government control.

Contributor: Frederic Wakeman, Jr., Ph.D., Haas Professor of Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley.


How has family life in China changed since the Communists came to power?

What three groups dominate China’s government?

When was the People’s Republic of China established?

Why did the Chinese have a high regard for education in the past? Why do the Communists prize it today?

How does the government control China’s economy?

Which dynasty established China’s first empire controlled by a strong central government?

How does China rank in the world in population? In area?

                Additional resources

                Level I

Cotterell, Arthur.Ancient China. Knopf, 1994.

Dramer, Kim. China. Childrens Pr., 1997.

Shemie, Bonnie.Houses of China. Tundra, 1996.

Tao, Wang.Exploration into China. Silver Burdett, 1996.

                Level II

Ebrey, Patricia B. The Cambridge Illustrated History of China. Cambridge, 1996.

Hudson, Christopher, ed.The China Handbook. Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997.

Mackerras, Colin, and others, eds.Dictionary of the Politics of the People’s Republic of China. Routledge, 1998.

Wang, Ke-wen, ed. Modern China: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Nationalism. Garland, 1998.


(978-0716601036 WBE)


Fair Use Sources: