Jade Buddha Temple,Sanghai
Yuyuan Gardens, Sanghai
Old Town, Sanghai
China is a cultural region, an ancient civilization, and, depending on perspective, a national or multinational entity occupying a large portion of land in East Asia.
China has one of the world's oldest people and continuous civilizations, consisting of states and cultures dating back more than six millennia. It has the world's longest continuously used written language system, and is the source of such major inventions as what the British scholar and biochemist Joseph Needham called the "four great inventions of Ancient China": paper, the compass, gunpowder, and printing. Historically China's cultural sphere has been very influential in East Asia as a whole, with Chinese religion, customs, and writing system being adopted, to varying degrees, by its neighbors Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.
The stalemate of the last Chinese Civil War has resulted in two political entities using the name China: the People's Republic of China (PRC), commonly known as China, which controls mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau; and the Republic of China (ROC), commonly known as Taiwan, which controls the island of Taiwan and some nearby islands.
Ancient China was one of the earliest centers of human civilization. Chinese civilization was also one of the few to invent writing independently, the others being Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley Civilization, the Mayan civilization, the Minoan Civilization of ancient Greece, and Ancient Egypt.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest humans in China date from 2.24 million to 250,000 years ago. A cave in Zhoukoudian (near present-day Beijing) has fossils dated at somewhere between 300,000 to 550,000 years.
The earliest evidence of a fully modern human in China comes from Liujiang County, Guangxi, where a cranium has been found and dated to approximately 67,000 years ago. Although much controversy persists over the dating of the Liujiang remains, a partial skeleton from Minatogawa in Okinawa, Japan has been dated to 18,250 ± 650 to 16,600 ± 300 years ago, so modern humans must have reached China before that time.
Chinese tradition names the first dynasty Xia, but it was considered mythical until scientific excavations found early bronze-age sites at Erlitou in Henan Province.Archaeologists have since uncovered urban sites, bronze implements, and tombs in locations cited as Xia's in ancient historical texts, but it is impossible to verify that these remains are of the Xia without written records from the period.
The second dynasty, the loosely feudal Shang, definitely settled along the Yellow River in eastern China from the 18th to the 12th century BCE. They were invaded from the west by the Zhou, who ruled from the 12th to the 5th century BCE. The centralized authority of the Zhou was slowly eroded by warlords. Many strong, independent states continually waged war with each other in the Spring and Autumn period, only occasionally deferring to the Zhou king.
The first unified Chinese state was established by the Qin Dynasty in 221 BCE, when the office of the Emperor was set up and the Chinese language was forcibly standardized. This state did not last long, as its legalist policies soon led to widespread rebellion.
The subsequent Han Dynasty ruled China between 206 BCE and 220 CE, and created a lasting Han cultural identity among its populace that would last to the present day. The Han Dynasty expanded the empire's territory considerably with military campaigns reaching Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia and Central Asia, and also helped establish the Silk Road in Central Asia.
After Han's collapse, another period of disunion followed, including the highly chivalric period of the Three Kingdoms. Independent Chinese states of this period also opened diplomatic relations with Japan, introducing the Chinese writing system there. In 580 CE, China was reunited under the Sui. However, the Sui Dynasty was short-lived after a failure in the Goguryeo-Sui Wars (598–614) weakened it.
Under the succeeding Tang and Song dynasties, Chinese technology and culture reached its zenith. The Song dynasty was the first government in world history to issue paper money and the first Chinese polity to establish a permanent standing navy. Between the 10th and 11th centuries, the population of China doubled in size. This growth came about through expanded rice cultivation in central and southern China, along with its production of abundant food surpluses. Within its borders, the Northern Song Dynasty had a population of some 100 million people. The Song Dynasty was a culturally rich period in China for the arts, philosophy, and social life. Landscape art and portrait paintings were brought to new levels of maturity and complexity since the Tang Dynasty, and social elites gathered to view art, share their own, and make trades of precious artworks. Philosophers such as Cheng Yi and Chu Hsi reinvigorated Confucianism with new commentary, infused Buddhist ideals, and emphasis on new organization of classic texts that brought about the core doctrine of Neo-Confucianism.
In 1271, the Mongol leader and the fifth Khagan of the Mongol Empire Kublai Khan established the Yuan Dynasty, with the last remnant of the Song Dynasty falling to the Yuan in 1279. A peasant named Zhu Yuanzhang overthrew the Mongols in 1368 and founded the Ming Dynasty. Ming Dynasty thinkers such as Wang Yangming would further critique and expand Neo-Confucianism with ideas of individualism and innate morality that would have tremendous impact on later Japanese thought. Chosun Korea also became a nominal vassal state of Ming China and adopted much of its Neo-Confucian bureaucratic structure. China's capital was moved from Nanjing to Beijing during the early Ming Dynasty. The Ming fell to the Manchus in 1644, who then established the Qing Dynasty. An estimated 25 million people died during the Manchu conquest of Ming Dynasty (1616–1644).
The Qing Dynasty, which lasted until 1912, was the last dynasty in China. In the 19th century the Qing Dynasty adopted a defensive posture towards European imperialism, even though it engaged in imperialistic expansion into Central Asia itself. At this time China awoke to the significance of the rest of the world, in particular the West. As China opened up to foreign trade and missionary activity, opium produced by British India was forced onto Qing China. Two Opium Wars with Britain weakened the Emperor's control.
One result was the Taiping Civil War which lasted from 1851 to 1862. It was led by Hong Xiuquan, who was partly influenced by a misinterpretation of Christianity. Hong believed himself to be the son of God and the younger brother of Jesus. Although the Qing forces were eventually victorious, the civil war was one of the bloodiest in human history, costing at least twenty million lives (more than the total number of fatalities in the First World War), with some estimates up to two-hundred million. In addition, more costly rebellions in terms of human lives and economics followed the Taiping Rebellion such as the Punti-Hakka Clan Wars (1855–1867), Nien Rebellion (1851–1868), Muslim Rebellion (1862–1877), Panthay Rebellion (1856–1873) and the Miao Rebellion (1854–1873). These rebellions resulted in an estimated loss of several million lives for each rebellion and in disastrous results for the economy and the countryside. The flow of British opium led to more decline.
On January 1, 1912, the Republic of China was established, heralding the end of the Qing Dynasty. Sun Yat-sen of the Kuomintang (the KMT or Nationalist Party) was proclaimed provisional president of the republic. However, the presidency was later given to Yuan Shikai, a former Qing general, who had ensured the defection of the entire Beiyang Army from the Qing Empire to the revolution. In 1915, Yuan proclaimed himself Emperor of China but was forced to abdicate and return the state to a republic when he realized it was an unpopular move, not only with the population but also his own Beiyang Army and its commanders.
After Yuan Shikai's death in 1916, China was politically fragmented, with an internationally recognized but virtually powerless national government seated in Peking (modern day Beijing). Warlords in various regions exercised actual control over their respective territories. In the late 1920s, the Kuomintang, under Chiang Kai-shek, was able to reunify the country under its own control, moving the nation's capital to Nanking (modern day Nanjing) and implementing "political tutelage", an intermediate stage of political development outlined in Sun Yat-sen's program for transforming China into a modern, democratic state. Effectively, political tutelage meant one-party rule by the Kuomintang.
After its victory in the Chinese Civil War, the Communist Party of China, led by Mao Zedong, gained control of most of the Mainland China. On October 1, 1949, they established the People's Republic of China as a Socialist State headed by a "Democratic Dictatorship" with the CCP as the only legal political party, thus, laying claim as the successor state of the ROC. The central government of the Chinese Nationalist Party led by Chiang Kai-shek was forced to retreat to the island of Taiwan that it had occupied at the end of World War II and moved the ROC government there. Major armed hostilities ceased in 1950 but no peace treaty has been signed.
Beginning in the late 1970s, the Republic of China began the implementation of full, multi-party, representative democracy in the territories still under its control (Taiwan, and a number of smaller islands including Quemoy and Matsu). Today, the ROC has active political participation by all sectors of society. The main cleavage in ROC politics is the issue of eventual political unification with the Chinese mainland vs. formal independence of Taiwan.
After the Chinese Civil War, mainland China underwent a series of disruptive socioeconomic movements starting in the late 1950s with the Great Leap Forward and continued in the 1960s with the Cultural Revolution that left much of its education system and economy in shambles. With the death of its first generation Communist Party leaders such as Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, the PRC began implementing a series of political and economic reforms advocated by Deng Xiaoping that eventually formed the foundation for mainland China's rapid economic development starting in the 1990s.
Post-1978 reforms on the mainland have led to some relaxation of control over many areas of society. However, the PRC government still has almost absolute control over politics, and it continually seeks to eradicate what it perceives as threats to the social, political and economic stability of the country. Examples include the fight against terrorism, jailing of political opponents and journalists, custody regulation of the press, regulation of religion, and suppression of independence/secessionist movements. In 1989, the student protests at Tiananmen Square were violently put to an end by the Chinese military after 15 days of martial law. In 1997, Hong Kong was returned to the PRC by the United Kingdom, and in 1999, Macau was returned by Portugal.
Today, mainland China is administered by the People's Republic of China—a one-party state under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party; while the island of Taiwan and surrounding islands are administered by the Republic of China—a democratic multi-party state. After the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, both states claimed to be the sole legitimate ruler of all of "China". After the Kuomintang retreat to Taiwan in 1949, the Republic of China had maintained official diplomatic relations with most states around the world, but by the 1970s, there was a shift in the international diplomatic circles and the People's Republic of China gained the upper hand in international diplomatic relations and recognition count. In 1971, under resolution 2758, the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek to the United Nations were expelled from the intergovernmental organization. With the expulsion of the Chiang Kai-shek's representatives, and effectively the Republic of China, the representatives of the People's Republic of China were invited to assume China's seat on the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly and other United Nations councils and agencies. Later attempts by the Republic of China to rejoin the UN have either been blocked by the People's Republic of China, who has veto power on UN Security Council, or rejected by the United Nations Secretariat or a United Nations General Assembly committee responsible for the General Assembly's agenda.
Since its retreat to Taiwan, the Republic of China has not formally renounced its claim to all of China, nor has it changed its official maps, which includes the mainland and Mongolia. Following the introduction to full democracy and the electoral victory of DPP's Chen Shui-bian in the presidential elections, the Republic of China has not pursued its claims on the mainland and in Mongolia. The previous DPP Administration has adopted a policy of separating the state's identity from "China", while moving towards identifying the state as "Taiwan". The ROC has not made formal moves to change the name, flag, or national anthem of the state to reflect a Taiwan identity due to pressure from the United States and the fear of invasion or military action from the People's Republic of China against the island. The People's Republic of China claims to have succeeded the Republic of China as the sole legitimate governing authority of all of China, which, from the official viewpoint of People's Republic of China, includes the island of Taiwan. Over the last 50 years, both the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China have used diplomatic and economic means to compete for recognition in the international arena. Because most international, intergovernmental organizations observe the One-China policy of the People's Republic of China, the PRC has been able to pressure organizations, such as the World Health Organization and the International Olympic Committee, to refuse official recognition of the Republic of China. Due to the One-China policy, states around the world are pressured to refuse, or to cut off, diplomatic relations with the Republic of China. As a result, 23 U.N. member states currently maintain official diplomatic relations with the Republic of China while the vast majority of the U.N. member states maintain official diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China.
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