Here an ancient civilization was already flourishing when Europe was not yet in the Bronze Age. The ancient Chinese called their state "Empire of the Middle", since they believed it was centre of the inhabited world. This huge empire and its fertile lands were often attacked by invaders, so an ancient Emperor in the 3rd century BC ordered a huge wall to be built along the northern boundary, a wall that at the time extended for 2,450km. Today China is a modern country, a new frontier for tourism and trade.

In short

Area: 9,598,086 km² -- Population: over 1.3 billion inhabitants -- Government: Socialist Republic -- Capital: Bejijng -- Language: Chinese (mandarin) -- Religion: 59% do not follow a religion; the two traditional religions, Taoism e Confucianism, account for 33%; 8% Buddhism -- Currency: Yuan -- Phone Area Code: +86 -- internet suffix: .cn -- Member of: UNO since 1945, and permanent member of the Security Council | See also: Postcards of China


Administrative division

The People's Republic of China is formed of 22 provinces (the 23rd would be Taiwan if reunited to China), 5 autonomous regions, 4 municipalities and 2 specially administered regions.
  • Provinces: Anhui, Fujian, Gansu, Guangdong, Guizhou, Hainan, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Jilin, Liaoning, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, Sichuan, Yunnan, Zhejiang
  • Autonomous Regions: Guangxi, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Tibet
  • Municipalities: Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai (Nanxiang), Tianjin
  • Special statute regions: Hong Kong, Macau

The Population

The Chinese character was strongly influenced by its three traditional religions: The Yu, which rose from the philosophy of Confucius, the Fo, that is Buddhism, and the Tao, the most ancient, that worshipped the sky and the land in all their forms. The religious leader of the Yu religion was the Emperor, and under him was a Hierarchy of viceroys, governors, mandarins and lama (the State priests). In Bejing was the Great Temple of Heaven, where the emperor presided over the religious rites. After the 1912 revolution when the Empire was transformed into a republic this official state religion lost many of its rites, though all around Beijing there are still over 10,000 pagodas, where the Yu official state religion coexisted with Buddhism.

The population developed in thousands of years customs which are absolutely unique. The typical Chinese house for example was a long succession of connected rooms, opening into a gallery. The walls were painted with bright colors and with figures representing flowers, birds, women, sentences of philosophers and poets. Windows were all to the south, and instead of glasses were closed by transparent paper, the doors and furniture precious and brightly colored.

Another unique feature of the Chinese human landscape was the Lantern. Traditionally there was a lantern before any house or shop. One of the main Chinese festivals, the day of the first moon, is also known as the Festival of Lanterns. All China is lit by lanterns, beautiful, elegant, of all colors, shapes and material, some as huge as rooms - inside which the Chinese shadow art is practiced.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

logo Unesco
The Great Wall | Mount Taishan (Shandong) | Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing (the Forbidden City) and Shenyang (Mukden Palace) | Mogao Caves, Dunhuang (Gansu) | Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor in Xi'an (Shaanxi) | Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian (Beijing) | Mount Huangshan (Anhui) | Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area (Sichuan) | Huanglong Scenic and Historic Area (Sichuan) | Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Area (Hunan) | Mountain Resort and Temples in Chengde (Hebei) | Temple and Cemetery of Confucius, and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu (Shandong) | Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains (Hubei) | Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa (Tibet) | Lushan National Park, Jiangxi province | Mount Emei Scenic Area and Leshan Giant Buddha (Sichuan) | Old Town of Lijiang (Yunnan) | Ancient City of Ping Yao (Shanxi) | Classical Gardens of Suzhou (Jiangsu) | Summer Palace (Beijing) | Temple of Heaven (Beijing) | Mount Wuyi (Fujian) | Dazu Rock Carvings (Chongqing) | Mount Qingcheng and the Dujiangyan Irrigation System (Sichuan) | Ancient Villages Xidi and Hongcun (Anhui) | Longmen Grottoes near Luoyang (Henan) | Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, including the Ming Dynasty Tombs and the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum | Yungang Grottoes near Datong (Shanxi) | Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas | Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Goguryeo Kingdom (Jilin and Liaoning) | Historic Centre of Macau | Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries | Yin Xu (Henan) | Kaiping Diaolou and Villages (Guangdong) | South China Karst (Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi) |

Useful Links

Official website of the Chinese Tourist Board