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China Overview

  • Population: 1.3 billion
  • Currency: yuan
  • Guinness World Records: most people painting each other's faces simultaneously in one location (13,413), largest bottle of cooking oil (containing 3212 litres), most couples hugging (3009 couples).
  • Internet users: 135 million
  • Milk beer: from Inner Mongolia, an alternative to the traditional mare's-milk wine.
  • Squirrel fish: whole mandarin fish deep-fried and manipulated to resemble a squirrel.
  • Number of chinese characters: over 56,000

Languages In China

Brief introduction to languages in China

The Han people have their own spoken and written languages, namely Chinese. It is the most commonly used language in China, and one of the most commonly used languages in the world. All China's 55 minority peoples have their own languages except the Hui and Manchu who use Chinese; 22 of them have their own scripts, in which 28 languages are written. Nowadays, school classes in predominantly ethnic minority areas are taught in the local language, using local-language textbooks. Meanwhile courses are also set up to popularize Putonghua Chinese - the official national language, which is commonly used throughout the country.
The official Chinese language is Mandarin (or Putonghua). There are also numerous dialects spoken throughout different parts of China, including Cantonese. The Lonely Planet phrasebook is recommended for those wanting to learn more about Chinese languages. To help you get the most out of your contact with the Chinese, try learning how to say these key phrases:
Mandarin Chinese English
Ni Hao Hello (or hi)
Ni Hao Ma? How are you?
Wo Hen Hao I’m fine
Xie Xie Thank you
Duo Shao Qian? How much is …?
Bu No
Dui Yes
Dui Bu Qi Excuse me / I’m sorry
Mei Guangxi No need
Zai Jian Good-bye!

Spoken Chinese

Language, whether of the East or the West, serves solely as a communication means. But the languages of different nations have vastly different characteristics.
The Chinese language group

The Chinese languages are those of the Han people, the major ethnic group of China, including both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China. Approximately 95 percent of the Chinese population speak Chinese, as opposed to the non-Chinese languages such as Tibetan, Mongolian, Lolo, Miao, and Tai spoken by minorities. The vast majority of the Chinese-speaking population is in China (over 980 million), Hong Kong, and Taiwan (19 million), but substantial numbers are also found throughout the whole of Southeast Asia, especially in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Important Chinese-speaking communities are also found in many other parts of the world, especially in Europe, North and South America, and the Hawaiian Islands.

Putonghua or Guoyu

Differences between Putonghua and Guoyu
Obviously, there are some slight deviations between the Mandarin variants spoken in Beijing, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong SAR. These include deviations in grammar, vocabulary, stylistic aspects, and loan words. For example, there is a 23% discrepancy in standard pronunciation between the 3,500 most commonly used characters in the 'Xinhua zidian' of the mainland and 'Guoyu cidian' of Taiwan. All radio and television broadcast announcers in Beijing, both men and women, broadcast in a pitch range noticeably higher than that of their normal speaking voices. Each sentence begins high and shrill. Then pitch falls gradually, reaching a lower key by the end of the sentence. Pauses are exaggerated and more drawn out. This special type of intonation seems intended to arouse in the audience an impression of struggle and determination. In Taiwan, by contrast, announcers broadcast in a more conversational speaking voice.

Written Chinese

With a view to examine the cultural traits of a nation it is imperative to acquire a perspective through a window of its language and script. Language and script faction, as a threshold, lead human beings from ignorance to civilization. The language and script of every nation are not molded at random, but hinge on the features and patterns of thinking of that nation, and carry its rich cultural contents.
The number of Chinese characters
Number of characters Dictionary Period Date
3,300 Cangjiepian, Yuanlipian, Boxuepian Qin 221-206 BC
9,535 Shuowen jiezi Eastern Han 100 AD
16,917 Yupian Liang 543
26,149 Guangyun Northern Song 1011
32,200 Hongwu zhengyun Ming 1375
47,043 Kangxi zidian Qing 1716
48,000 Zhonghua da cidian ROC 1916
56,000 Xiandai Hanyu da zidian PRC 1986-90
Although around 56,000 characters have been accumulated in Chinese, only a few thousand are needed to write Modern Chinese. A large part of the 56,000 characters (40 percent) are variants of a same character (yiti).
Number of characters Coverage rate (per cent)
500 80
1,000 91
2,400 99
3,800 99.9
5,200 99.99
6,600 99.999

Chinese Characteristic: Square Han Script

The Chinese Han characters , are neat in appearance and all occupy the same spacing in printing , whether the characters are written with only one or two strokes , such as “一 ”(one) , “二” (two) , “了” (already) and “又” (again), or with over ten strokes , such as “骤” (sudden) and “罐” (jar) , or in square forms , such as “田” (fields) and “非” (not) or in crooked forms , such as “戈” (dagger-axe) “夕” (night) and “瓦” (tile) in crooked and askew form , therefore , Chinese Han characters are figuratively referred to as “square script”.
Han characters were developed over a long course of history.
Compared with other scripts in the world, Chinese characters appeared earlier with a history of over 4,000 years. According to the archaeological finding, in the Banpo-Yangshao cultural ruins in Xi’an of Shaanxi Province were discovered 113 specimens of different simple signs carved on the outer rim of vertical-triangle patterns. The more than thirty signs have simple strokes and regular shapes, including the horizontal stroke, the vertical stroke, the bevel stroke and the angular stroke. According to the researches of the archaeologists, these carved signs could be the relics of primitive Chinese Ruins dated back 5,000 years were found some carved pictographic signs. In fact, these signs became the later pictograms.
Since their appearance, the Chinese characters developed along different ways, such as the pictographic, indicative, associative, pictographic-phonetic, referential and synonymic ways. What is meant by pictographic? The pictograms are the basic Chinese characters, which originated the earliest and developed from pictures. They are characterized by having meanings expressed through the images of things. Such characters base themselves on pictures formed by dots and strokes.
Chinese Characteristic: Special Properties
In comparison with the Western words, the Chinese words have the following special properties:
1) The Chinese words are ideographs that are not connected directly with pronunciation.
2) the Chinese language has many homophonous words. So, tones are an added feature of the Chinese words. Tones provide a wider range for the use of the words in the Chinese language.
3). Of the Western words a single letter bears no meaning, but of the Chinese words, a character has in itself an actual meaning; and phrases, sentences and articles composed of meaningful characters can make their contents richer and more effective.
In brief, the not-alphabetic square script of the Chinese words has become an important characteristic of the Chinese culture. The Chinese words combine forms and meaning, and by looking at them, they give the reader an intense, direct stimulus, which influences the traditional way of thinking that stresses intuition and wholeness. This influence can often enhance the effects of the literary works.
This characteristic of the Chinese words influences not only literature but fine arts as well, a principle of coining the Chinese words is: “Making pictographs based on shapes of things and finding origins from nature”. Therefore the Chinese words are both practical and aesthetical. In the legend of “Cang Ji Coining Characters”, it is stated that “he adopted the fine aspects and combined them into characters”. This legend has the implication of aesthetics. So, the forms of the Chinese characters have been developing through several thousand years.

Ancient Times (from Antiquity to A.D. 1840)) Modern Period (1840-1919) New Democratic Revolution Period (1919-1949) Contemporary Period (1949- )

Ancient Times (from Antiquity to A.D. 1840))

China, one of the world’s most ancient civilizations, has a recorded history of nearly 4,000 years.
The Zhoukoudian Peking Mansite(400,000-500,000 years old)

Anthropologists working in Yuanmou, in Yunnan Province, have uncovered the remains of China’s earliest discovered hominid, "Yuanmou Man," who lived in this area approximately 1.7 million years ago. "Peking Man," who lived in Zhoukoudian, to the southwest of modern Beijing 400,000 to 500,000 years ago, had the basic characteristics of Homo Sapiens. Peking Man walked upright, made and used simple tools, and knew how to make fire. Man in China passed from primitive society to slave society in the 21st century B.C., with the founding of China’s first dynasty, that of the Xia. The subsequent dynasties, the Shang (16th-11th century B.C.) and the Western Zhou (11th century-770 B.C.) saw further development of slave society. This era was followed by the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods (770-221 B.C.), marking the transition from the slave society to feudal society.

China was one of the countries where economic activity first developed. As early as 5,000 to 6,000 years ago, people in the Yellow River valley had already started farming and raising livestock. During the Shang Dynasty (more than 3,000 years ago), people learned how to smelt bronze and use iron tools. White pottery and glazed pottery were produced. Silk production was well developed, and the world’s first figured inlaid silk weaving technique was being used. During the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C.), steel production technologies appeared. During the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.), Li Bing and his son directed the construction of the Dujiang Dam near present-day Chengdu in Sichuan Province. This brilliant achievement in water conservancy made possible rationalized irrigation supply, flood diversion and sand discharge, and is still playing a tremendous role in this regard even today. During the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, philosophy and other branches of scholarship were unprecedentedly thriving, with the representatives of various schools vying with each other in writing books to discuss politics and analyze society. Hence the appearance of a situation in which "a hundred schools of thought contended." Famous philosophers in this period included Lao Zi, Confucius, Mo Zi and Sun Zi.

Modern Period (1840-1919)

The Opium War of 1840 marked a turning point in Chinese history. From early in the 19th century, Britain started smuggling large quantities of opium into China, causing a great outflow of Chinese silver and grave economic disruption in China. In 1839, the Qing government sent Commissioner Lin Zexu to Guangdong to put into effect the prohibition on opium trafficking. When, in an effort to protect its opium trade, Britain initiated the First Opium War in 1840, the Chinese people rose in armed struggle against the invaders under the leadership of Lin Zexu and other patriotic generals. But the corrupt and incompetent Qing government capitulated to the foreign invaders time and again, and finally signed the Treaty of Nanjing with Britain, a treaty of national betrayal and humiliation. From then on, China was reduced to a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country.

After the Opium War, Britain, the United States, France, Russia and Japan forced the Qing government to sign various unequal treaties, seized "concessions" and divided China into "spheres of influence." To oppose the twin evils of feudal oppression and foreign aggression, the Chinese people waged heroic struggles, with many national heroes coming to the fore. The Revolution of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom in 1851, led by Hong Xiuquan, was the largest peasant uprising in modern Chinese history. The Revolution of 1911, a bourgeois-democratic revolution led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, ended the rule of the Qing Dynasty. The monarchical system that had been in place in China for more than 2,000 years was discarded with the founding of the provisional government of the Republic of China. The Revolution of 1911 is of great significance in modern Chinese history. But the fruits of victory were soon compromised by concessions on the part of the Chinese bourgeoisie, and the country entered a period of domination by the Northern Warlords headed by Yuan Shikai. The people lived in an abyss of misery in this period.

New Democratic Revolution Period (1919-1949)

Under the influence of the October Revolution in Russia, China’s May 4th Movement arose. During this great anti-imperialist, anti-feudal revolutionary movement led by patriotic students, the Chinese proletariat for the first time mounted the political stage. The May 4th Movement marked the change of the old democratic revolution to the new democratic revolution. It enabled Marxism-Leninism to further spread and link up with the Chinese people’s revolutionary practice, and prepared the ideology as well as the cadres necessary for the founding of the Communist Party of China. In 1921, Mao Zedong, Dong Biwu, Chen Tanqiu, He Shuheng, Wang Jinmei, Deng Enming and Li Da, representing the communist groups in different places throughout the nation, held the First National Congress in Shanghai, founding the Communist Party of China (CPC). In 1924, Sun Yat-sen, pioneer of China’s democratic revolution and the founder of the Kuomintang (KMT), worked together with the Communist Party of China to organize workers and peasants for the Northern Expedition (historically known as the Great Revolution). After Sun Yat-sen passed away, the right-wing clique of the KMT headed by Chiang Kai-shek staged a counter-revolutionary coup d’etat in 1927, murdering Communists and revolutionary people, and founded the Kuomintang regime in Nanjing. Thus the Great Revolution ended in failure. After that, the CPC led the Chinese people to wage the 10-year Agrarian Revolution War against the reactionary rule of the Kuomintang, which is also known as the "10-Year Civil War."

In July 1937, Japan launched all-out aggression against China. The Kuomintang armies started a series of battles, which gave relentless blows at the Japanese invaders. In the enemy’s rear area, the Eighth Route Army and the New Fourth Army, under the leadership of the CPC, fought against most of the Japanese forces, and almost all the puppet armies under extremely difficult conditions, thus playing a decisive role in the victory of the War of Resistance Against Japan.

From June 1946, the Kuomintang armies launched an all-round attack on the Liberated Areas led by the CPC, and an unprecedented large-scale civil war started. To thoroughly emancipate the Chinese people, the CPC led the army and people in the Liberated Areas to start the nationwide War of Liberation.

Through the Liaoxi-Shenyang, Huai-Hai and Beiping-Tianjin campaigns, the CPC overthrew the rule of the Kuomintang and won a great victory in the new democratic revolution in 1949.

Contemporary Period (1949- )

On October 1, 1949, Chairman Mao Zedong declared the founding of the People's Republic of China on the forum of Tian'anmen Square. In 1992, Deng Xiaoping inspected the Shen Zhen Special Economic Zone of Guangdong Province.

From September 21 to 30, 1949, the First Plenum of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) was held in Beijing, with the participation of various political parties, popular organizations, non-Party democrats and representatives from all walks of life. The CPPCC drew up a Common Program, which served as a provisional constitution. It elected a Central People's Government Council, with Mao Zedong as Chairman, and appointed Zhou Enlai Premier of the Government Administration Council and concurrently Minister of Foreign Affairs. On October 1, 1949, a grand ceremony inaugurating the People’s Republic of China was witnessed by 300,000 people in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. On that day, Chairman Mao Zedong solemnly proclaimed the formal establishment of the People’s Republic of China.

The early days of New China were a period of economic recovery. While developing production, China gradually established socialist public ownership of the means of production. From 1953 to 1956, large-scale socialist transformation of the national economy was implemented, the First Five-Year Plan (1953-1957) for the development of the national economy was achieved ahead of schedule, and China established and expanded basic industries necessary for full industrialization, hitherto non-existent domestically, producing airplanes, automobiles, heavy machinery, precision machinery, power-generating equipment, metallurgical and mining equipment, high-grade alloy steels and non-ferrous metals.

There are many fantastic destinations and attractions for you to explore in China. The hot tourism cities as followed Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai, Lhase,Guilin, Hangzhou, Sanya, Dalian, Harbin, Lijiang , and the hot attractions as followed The Great Wall , Terracotta Warriors and Horses, Jiuzhaigou National Park, Li River Cruise, Lama Temple

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