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This background essay introduce the diversity that China"s natural and also man-made features, and the relative population of its various areas. Supplied as elevator information, learners can check out the plenty of different provides of maps (see connected lesson plans). Road maps to find our way to various other places. Physics maps show various landforms and elevations and also bodies that water. Historical maps help us recognize political boundaries and the activity of people, goods, and ideas. Army leaders need maps together they plan their campaigns, and also tourists require maps in order to figure out interesting places come visit. Plenty of maps display both natural and man-made features. They often reflect values of the civilization who develop them and define their ar in the world. Maps were offered for military and also political purposes and show how China viewed itself in relationship to the rest of the world. In China ownership of a map suggested sovereignty over the land the depicted.

Understanding the interaction between a natural environment and also various human and cultural patterns is an important aspect the geography. To totally appreciate China"s broad geographic and social diversity, one demands to recognize general features that act together guidelines. The technical term offered to describe distinctive locations is "homogeneous regions." this particular day "fingerprint" carries the same idea, specific some thing or place that is distinctive. Just as fingers share general characteristics, each has a distinct "print" or pattern. This very same principle have the right to be offered to facilitate understanding facility cultures and societies, such as those in China.

A unique geographic print can include the adhering to variables: physical and also environmental features, such as climates, soils, topography, and also location; historic patterns and their partnership to the natural environment; the economic tasks and sources that define the area today.

An assist to developing an expertise of the nature of together fingerprints would be tables reflecting each region"s usual (yet distinctive) characteristics. Vital characteristic is vernacular housing (houses constructed without architects and that reflect local materials and also conditions), however today many human being live in apartment buildings, especially in metropolitan areas. Social organization, transportation, and also food are other important elements of a fingerprint.

The north China Plain

Physical characteristics: together its surname indicates, this is an area of gently rolling topography. It is topic to flooding, and also water frequently stands in huge pools and "lakes," as there is no location for drainage. This create marshes and also shallow, reed-filled lakes, i m sorry are great for thatching and weaving and also migratory birds, fish, and also snails. Winter and also summer temperatures can be extreme, and dust storms room common. Highly variable weather means good harvests for only three out of every 5 years.

History: The north China plain was among the cradles of Chinese civilization. China"s earliest farming societies and dynasties created there. Civilization traditionally lived in dispersed communities rather than nucleated settlements due to the fact that food and also water were obtainable everywhere. The primary need to nucleate was together a defense against invaders and also raiders. The earliest archaeological sites of "cities" are at the foot that the Taihang Mountains, whereby there are minerals and also manageable water resources for all seasons.

Economic activities and resources today: even today the phibìc China plain is a floor of dispersed agricultural settlements. There is tiny or no market other 보다 distinctive native handicrafts. New water need to come native wells that frequently are salty because of poor drainage. The absence of topographic relief way seasonal winds are solid and often destructive. The an outcome is that many areas have planted windbreaks to defend the floor of the fields from erosion. Life on the phibìc China Plain is one of self-sufficiency and subsistence. Wheat, cotton, tobacco, peanuts, persimmons, and other seasonal fruits and vegetables room grown there.

Housing: mud-based, single-story frameworks with flat roofs

Social organization: villages and clans

Transportation: walking, wheelbarrows, bicycles, cars

Food staples: wheat-based foods

The Loess Plateau

Physical characteristics: The overwhelming distinctive characteristic of the Loess Plateau is the wind-blown alluvium (dust) the has gathered to depth of end 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) in some places and also is well-known as loess. When loess is affluent in calcium and also thus fertile, the overall aridity that the an ar coupled through the fact that loess walk not host water makes timeless methods the irrigation and farming useless. Ecological conditions, including extremely variable rainfall (when the does occur), method that farmers rarely expect come harvest more than two crops every three years.

History: Two social patterns resulted from the physics environment and location that the Loess Plateau. One was person poverty and isolated communities; the other a dependency upon trade through nomadic peoples and also the empires beyond the great Wall. Financially the Loess Plateau has been dominated by trade and also commercial urban that have actually flourished and also died as routes and the direction of trade have shifted. It has actually never to be a strong food-producing region.

Economic activities and resources today: together in the past, an essential cities in the Loess Plateau are those the facilitate trade and transport to and also from eastern China and also the north China Plain. Cities such together Xi"an and also Lanzhou space trade hubs stemming from a reinvigorated economy in Xinjiang and the previous Soviet countries of central Asia. Today, however, oil has actually replaced silk together the major economic commodity. Oil is a major resource in Gansu, Xinjiang, and the contiguous country of Kazakhstan.

Housing: caves sculpted into the loess cliffs and also mud-brick houses in countryside areas, apartments in city areas

Social organization: atom families

Transportation: walking, mule, and also horse in countryside areas; cars, buses, and bicycles in metropolitan areas

Food staples: wheat-noodles and also sour cabbage

The southeast Coast and Shanghai

Physical characteristics: This an ar shares the whole Yangzi Valley"s dominant characteristics of water, wetlands, and also hot and humid summers. However, the influence of the Pacific Ocean as well as access thereto make the area distinctive. The ocean"s warm present creates milder winter temperatures than in the interior. In addition the nearby mountains (Huangshan and also Wuyi) space favorable for plants other 보다 aquaculture (rice, shrimp, ducks, and so on), i m sorry is prominent in the lowlands. Gentle climates and abundant rainfall median farmers in this area usually expect to achieve three or more crops every year. Some form of food, even if it is from land or sea, is always abundant and in surplus.

History: This to be the an initial region to feel the influence of the West with the minus War and "Treaty Ports" that the eighteenth century. That has had the greatest number of Christian missionaries, Chinese Christians, and Christian churches in China. Choose so plenty of of China"s distinctive physical environments, the is dominated by ethnic peoples not totally identifiable as "Han," who speak distinctive languages and often have actually closer ties come Chinese overseas.

Economic activities and sources today: Shanghai is the significant city of this region. Located at the mouth the the Yangzi, it is a growing port and a center for steel, telecommunications, automobiles, power production equipment, petrochemicals and also electric appliances. Having actually a solid service industry, the city is also focused on finance and also insurance, commerce, real estate, tourism, and information. Top top the coastline fishing and also shipping are essential industries. Various other cities along the coast likewise have been designated "special financial zones." In the internal regions rice is critical cash crop, other than in the mountainous areas, wherein fishing and forestry take it place. Various other specialty crops, such as tea and citrus fruits, space grown, yet the shore is subject to typhoons.

Housing: plaster or brick to balance out rain in countryside areas, apartment structures in city areas

Social organization: class, family, or organization compounds

Transportation: boats and ships top top rivers and canals, cars, buses, and bicycles

Food staples: rice, seafood, and also tropical fruits

The Yangzi Valley

Physical characteristics: be separated from other regions by mountains and also extensive wetlands is the Yangzi (Yangtze or Changjiang-"long river"); that tributaries and lakes room the emphasis of life and also economics in the valley. Summers tend to be hot, humid, and also rainy along the river, while winter are brief but cold.

History: The Yangzi Valley has actually traditionally been vital food producer. The river has been the center of economic life, happen trade and influences from far-off places. During the twenty century, initiatives to dam the Yangzi have brought about drastic alters in the landscape, economy, and lives of the civilization living in the Yangzi Valley, forcing many to relocate.

Economic tasks and sources today: Fishing and boat commerce dominate life and culture. Cities, such as Chongqing (in Sichuan province), Wuhan, and also Nanjiang, are pushed by economic climates tied come water-borne transportation and commerce-not farming or even food processing. Significant manufacturing centers exist follow me the river since it is a cheap means of transport. Over there are big numbers of people who invest their entire lives on small or medium boats, make a living relocating goods and also people via the plenty of lakes, canals, and also rivers the the whole Yangzi valley.

Housing: white-plastered, multistoried houses with black color tiled roofs, houseboats, apartments in cities

Social organization: commercial/trade "families"

Transportation: river and canal boats, trucks, cars, bicycles in cities

Food staples: rice and fish

The Sichuan Basin

Physical characteristics: The defining physical feature of this an ar is the big Sichuan Basin, which is divided into two parts, Chengdu and Chongqing. High and an overwhelming mountains surround the basin. Primary access to eastern China is via the Yangzi River, i beg your pardon traverses the famous Three Gorges. This geographic setup creates a soft climate. Incredibly fertile soils space largely obtained from old lake sediments. Farmers no only have the right to count top top several plants every year, they have the right to depend top top a diversity that food crops as well as specialties.

History: it is regularly said that "Sichuan in the first province to explain independence and the last to be reunited after there is peace." located in a very protected, productive setting and surrounding to essentially every major region of historical China, Sichuan is qualified of being wholly independent native the rest of China. Yet, control of Sichuan and also its agricultural riches listed access to every other major political and also economic realm, making the the target of many outside warlords and also emperors.

Economic tasks and sources today: Sichuan has always been well-known for that is tea, silk, flowers, medicinal herbs, and also diverse wildlife, consisting of pandas, deer, and also tigers. These resources stay a significant staple the its modern economy as carry out the increasing of sheep, pork, and also grain. Tourism is also an essential to Sichuan"s economy. Popular tourist sites encompass the Thousand-Buddha Cliff, Qingcheng Mountain, the Bamboo Forest, the Corridor the Cypresses, Woolong Nature reserve (for panda conservation), and Xiling National woodland Park. The Yangzi flow is a thoroughfare the trade, an interpretation that Sichuan is rapidly an altering with the flow of international investors and also developers.

Housing: timber, stone, or straw homes in landscape areas; big apartment buildings in the cities

Social organization: town clusters in landscape areas

Transportation: walking, mule, horses, in the mountains; bicycles and also cars ~ above the plains, boats on rivers

Food staples: varied

Southwest Uplands

Physical characteristics: Nothing therefore dominates and defines southwest China together its rugged, extremely eroded topography. Since it is close to the dry cyclones that the bay of Bengal and the southern China Sea it has abundant rainfall (often causing erosion or denuded slopes). This location and terrain create many distinctive local "niches" that regularly are self-sufficient, which subsequently support an abundance of distinctive ethnic groups, countless of which likewise live in the neighboring nations of Laos, Vietnam, Burma, and even Thailand.

History: This region very first came right into the Chinese sphere throughout the Mongol Yuan empire (1279-1368). Its history reflects both its rough topography as well as its proximity come the contemporary countries and peoples of south-east Asia, such as Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and also Myanmar (Burma). Trade in between these countries and the Southwest Uplands regularly has to be illegal and generally consists of tiny items of great value, such together jade or opium.

Economic tasks and resources today: Land for grazing and also the cultivation of rice, winter wheat, tea, and also beans is easily accessible in the region. The dry plateau follow me the border the Vietnam and also Laos is best for cultivating rubber and also bananas. The mining that tin, another major industry the this region, is the only distinctive economy that is both traditional and modern. Much more valuable, however, has been the cultivation and also export that opium, an activity developed as a result of Britain"s minus War v China.

Housing: caves carved into the loess cliffs and mud-brick homes in landscape areas; apartments in metropolitan areas

Social organization: atom families

Transportation: walking, mule, and also horse in landscape areas

Food staples: vegetables, rice, ducks and geese


Physical characteristics: China"s largest district is a landscape of deserts, mountains, and oases. Many of the an ar is overcame by the Tarim Basin, which is filled largely by the formidable Taklamakan desert and rimmed by high mountains-the Kunlun Shan come the south, the Karakorum to the west, and the Tian Shan come the north. The alpine beauty beauty of the Tian Shan the end the Tarim basin from the smaller Junggar Basin, which is characterized by more moisture and also grass.

History: The residents of the Junggar container have a lengthy association with various Mongol peoples, however they are much more pastoral than nomadic. Located in between the social empires of China in the eastern and central Asia in the west, Xinjiang was an important historic connect along the Silk Roads. The peoples living along oases approximately the in salt of the Tarim basin had closer ties come Persia and also the Islamic influences of the center East. The Uighurs, Xinjiang"s biggest minority, are mostly Muslim and also Turkic in ethnicity and language. Their economic history is more closely connected to the mercantile cities and also trade that the ancient Silk roadway than to the watering practices of eastern China. The trade and also traffic along this famous route combined people and also cultures and also introduced distinctive formats of music and also musical instruments, especially the suona and also pipa, or Chinese-style lute. The start of the twenty century found the British, Germans, American, Japanese, and also Russians vying for manage of this strategically important location.

Economic activities and sources today: Xinjiang is affluent in oil. The Taklamakan is also barren for agriculture but is often used as a nuclear check site. Despite the reality that the rail does not extend an extremely far west into the province, travel is gaining in this remote region of spectacular scenery through a wide range of archaeological treasures, including Buddhist cavern temples, ruined cities and also fortresses, petrogylphs, and 4,000-year-old mummies.

Housing: earth/adobe houses, two-storied with level roofs. Nomads live in tents, when apartments are typical in city areas. Mosques and also some residential architecture have central Asian or Persian-style influences.

Social organization: nuclear households in urban areas; groups of households for nomads

Transportation: long-distance trucks and also buses in rural areas; bicycles in ~ cities. Mules are provided in cities, and also horses and camels in countryside areas.

Food staples: wheat noodles, flat wheat bread (nan), and mutton

Northeast (Manchuria)

Physical characteristics: The dominant physical feature of this region is that is winter cold and also ice. Same distinctive and also important room its two extensive wetlands-the northernmost linked with the Songari River and the southern with the Liao River. Nevertheless, its an easy natural resources of steel ore and also coal have made that economically an essential to the rest of China.

History: The Manchus got into China in the seventeenth century, establishing the Qing dynasty in 1644. The floor of Manchuria, however, to be not open up to Han negotiation until the dynasty"s end in 1911. Many Chinese migrants worked in present industry and also on big commercial farms developing mostly soybeans and corn.

Economic tasks and sources today: Manchuria is China"s many important an ar for hefty industry. Coal and iron mining space also central to the region"s economy, and ginseng, soybeans, and timber are significant products.

Housing: caves sculpted into the loess cliffs and also mud-brick homes in countryside areas; apartments in metropolitan areas. Part Russian affect in the architecture.

Social organization: atom families

Transportation: walking, mule, and also horse in countryside areas

Food staples: meat and soybean curds

Qinghai and also the Tibetan Plateau

Physical characteristics: Altitude, which can average 3962.4 meters (13,000 feet), best defines the physical atmosphere of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. Other than in the bright sunlight, it constantly is very cold. Located mainly in the rain shadow of the Himalayas, the region is arid come semi-arid. This means that regardless of a latitude close to the Tropic the Cancer, Qinghai and also Tibet are nontropical because that the many part. Still, over there are locations along the southern and also western boundaries, where rhododendron and also banana trees thrive in the shadow of energetic glaciers. This is attributable come the hefty rainfall and also temperatures connected with the Indian monsoon.

History: because of the region"s adjacence come India and main Asia, the people, economies, and also even religion of Qinghai and also Tibet have actually seldom been impacted by those of China in the east. Even Mongolia had actually closer cultural links to this region than did China proper. Pet husbandry and nomadism are classic ways that life. Until the 1950s, one the end of every five Tibetans to be a buddhism nun or monk. Monasteries have been at the facility of society since at the very least the eighth century.

Economic tasks and sources today: Qinghai and Tibet stay remote and largely unpopulated. Where problems permit, the Chinese have urged the westward migration of farmers from overpopulated locations to the east. Animals continue to be raised, and wool weavings are another important product. Goods are additionally produced from aboriginal gold and turquoise.

Housing: nomads live in yak-felt tents. Dwellings are 2 stories with inward-slanting mud, earthen, brick, or rock walls and also earthen floors.

Social organization: abbeys play a function in buddhism communities, mosques in Islamic ones. Wanderers gather in family members clusters.

Transportation: walking, caravans, trucks and also buses, horses in countryside areas; bicycles and also cars in urban areas

Food staples: yak butter, tea, barley, vegetables, yak, or lamb

Tying It all Together: From empire to State

Clearly, to create political "China," it is still crucial to tie these different regions together. Transportation remains the most crucial factor. Together the way of tie the country and also its regions together proceeded, a typical written language and also shared cultural values evolved. The composed language and the governmental class that used it were pivotal in creating a network of a shared experience and social values that bonded the disparate geographies and talked languages of China and also linked the past to the present.

Because the beginnings of China"s realm lay in the interior, royal highways were at first the most vital features of the transportation system. The network of imperial highways was first established by Qin Shihuangdi (258-210 B.C.E.), who unified the kingdoms the China in 221 B.C.E. He also initiated the building of a canal system. Through the Song empire (960-1279 C.E.), canals linked the lower Yangzi Valley and regions south of it to the phibìc China Plain. Organic lakes and rivers additionally helped unify the Chinese Empire, v the Yangzi and its tributaries tie together coastal and internal regions. Other than in Qinghai and the Tibetan Plateau and Xinjiang, comprehensive rail system web links China and also is the most common form of long-distance travel.

One cannot underestimate the importance of television and also telephones as well as the airlines in fostering the Chinese view of themselves as one people and also culture. Their worth in political manage was demonstrated in 1989 once televised "wanted" posters were transfer instantaneously throughout China, and in June 1997 as soon as the reunification that Hong Kong came to be an country rallying point. The images and also issues to be simultaneously mutual with Han Chinese throughout the People"s Republic as well as in various other parts the the world. The web is obtaining popularity, though chiefly in urban areas. However, the central government is fearful of its i can not qualify to actually monitor and also control together communication.

Political Organization

Political organization has actually been as necessary in producing a usual culture. No realm or state have the right to exist without both teamwork and means of put on impose order among disparate geographical areas and also peoples. This was the primary success of Qin Shihuangdi. This first emperor characterized the empire"s boundaries within central Asia and established common laws for everyone within every geographical sector of the country. In modern times the reunification of China"s geographic regions (often historically elevation kingdoms or "states") under a typical Communist ideological background was a major achievement of the Chinese Communists and also the People"s Liberation Army.

Political organization in China has been successful in component because it establish the distinctiveness that various geographic areas. Huge cities, such together Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Chongqing, and also Hong Kong, have special politics status. Likewise, vital economic cities have actually been created and accorded such standing to administer controlled accessibility to minor economics and also world trade. Lastly geographic areas dominated by non-Han cultures and peoples, such as Xinjiang, Ningxia, Tibet, inside Mongolia, and Guangxi, have been asserted (at the very least on paper) "Autonomous Regions." also at the local level, special standing is generally given to cities or even geographic areas that require it to preserve political peace and also order-a kind of political geography "gerrymandering.""

Given the the Chinese have long recognized their geographical distinctions, that seems only reasonable that we should teach around China with the exact same awareness and also sensitivity to diversity.

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Selected sources and also suggested further readings

Buxton, Leonard H. China: The Land and also the People. Brand-new York: gallery Books, W.H. Smith, Pub., 1988. (Note: A good collection of photographs and also short descriptions of people and places.)Hsieh Chiao-min and also Jean Kan Hsieh. China: A Provincial Atlas. Brand-new York: Macmillan Publishing, U.S.A., 1995.Knapp, Ronald G. China"s Vernacular Architecture: House form and Culture. Honolulu: university of Hawaii Press, 1989.---. The Chinese Houses. Hong Kong: Oxford college Press, 1990.---, ed. "Chinese Landscapes." The town as Place. Honolulu: university of Hawaii Press, 1992.McColl, Robert W. "House and also Field in the Karakorams." FOCUS, 37, no. 4 (1989).---. "By Their homes Shall We recognize Them-An analysis of Housing kind and function Among inner Asians." FOCUS, 39, no. 4 (1989).---. "China"s modern Silk Road." FOCUS, 44, no. 2 (1991).Sivin, Nathan, ed. The modern-day Atlas that China. Boston: houghton Mifflin, 1988. (Note: contains excellent regional maps showing topography and cities; numerous photographs specify each region and administer a feeling of place.)Whitehouse, Patrick, and Maggy Whitehouse. China through Rail. New York: Vendome Press, 1989.Zhao, Songqiao. Geography the China: Environment, Resources, Population, and Development. Brand-new York: john Wiley and Sons, 1994.