The history & society of China
Homo erectus inhabited China over a million years ago, evidence of this was found in the 1920’s with the discovery of the ‘Peking Man’.
China was one of the first countries to develop economic activity, centered around the Yellow River valley. People in this area were farming and raising livestock as early as 5,000 – 6,000 years ago and villages sprang up in this area as a result.
The first dynasty to make it to the record books is the Xia dynasty, believed to have started around 4,200 years ago. However not much is known of this dynasty and it’s existence is even doubted by some. More is known about the Shang Dynasty, the longest in Chinese history with 31 kings. The ancient era also includes the Zhou Dynasty, the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States period when seven major states rose to power after taking over smaller surrounding states.
The Qin dynasty emerged during the Imperial era and it was during this time that the fortification walls in various warring states were connected to make the 5,000 km long Great Wall. The wall itself is actually made up of four different walls that were rebuilt during following Han, Sui, Jin and Ming periods.
The Yuan dynasty also ruled during the Imperial era and was the first to rule all of China, with Beijing as the capital. The Opium wars began in 1840 during the Qing dynasty when the British desire to continue trading opium met with imperial prohibition of the addictive drug. The Nanjing treaty saw, among things, Hong Kong ceded to Britain in 1842.
By the dawn of the 19th century, historical personalities like Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong played important roles in establishing the future People’s Republic of China. Mao Zedong emerged as the communists’ new leader during the Long March, and as the 14-year invasion by Japan came to an end, it took only a few years for the communists to take over most of the country. In October 1, 1949 the People’s Republic of China was proclaimed.
Society and Culture
Five thousand years in the making, China’s culture is a rich one. Having the world’s largest population hasn’t stopped the Chinese from being a relatively united race. With some variants, the language, cuisine and philosophical beliefs of the Chinese are roughly the same.
You can get a taste of China’s culture in your own backyard, since many Chinese have migrated to countries all over the world. The distinctive arts and crafts, the cuisine, martial arts, feng shui, music and dance, architecture of China is there to see.
Traditional Chinese clothing, no longer worn day to day, is brought out for festivals and holidays that are still celebrated in full force. The Chinese New Year, Lantern Festival and Dragon Boat Festival are just a few of many festivals when Chinese calligraphy and red paper-cuttings adorn homes, and fireworks, dancing and music fills the streets. Although they are busy times, the festivals are a great way to see the Chinese culture at its cultural best.
The major religions in China are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam and Christianity.
*The small print
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