Know China: History and Geography


China enjoyed one of its most productive periods of stability and cultural development during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

The Mongol Empire in the fourteenth century, included all of mainland China and stretched far westwards across Eurasia. Source: William Shepherd, Historical Atlas, Henry Holt and Company, 1911.

From China came the compass, paper, printing, gunpowder (and fireworks), and more. Printing worked better with the western alphabet than with so many more complex Chinese characters.

This is one of the seventh arches across the lake at the Summer Palace.

Chinese children know about the sacking of the Summer Palace (by British and French soldiers) in 1860. In the years that followed European powers sought trade and influence.

China experienced a painful period of instability during and after the decline of the last dynasty, the Qing. It lasted long into the twentieth century, and it still hurts.

Sun Yat Sen, also known as Sun ZhongShan, was the first leader of the Nationalist government after the fall of the last emperor in 1912, and is respected worldwide as a figure of passion and integrity.
A timeline of China

It’s almost ridiculous to try to fit so much history into such a tiny space, but we have to start somewhere.


China’s unique nature owes much to its separation from other cultures by geographical vastnesses. To the north is the tundra of eastern Siberia; deserts of central Asia to the west; the Himalayas and the forested hills of southeast Asia to the south, and the sea in the east.

Administration is based on provinces and autonomous regions, with a few cities outside that system.

Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Donguan, together with Hong Kong, Zhongshan, Zhuhai and Macau, form a conurbation in the Great Bay area. It competes to be the world’s largest megacity.

Mainland Chinese cities by population

  • Shanghai
  • Beijing
  • Tianjin
  • Guangzhou
  • Shenzhen
  • Wuhan
  • Dongguan
  • Chongqing
  • Chengdu
  • Nanjing
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