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The People's Republic of China, officially named Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo, or, briefly, Zhongguo, is situated in East Asia. China's total land surface is 9.571.300 km2, which makes it the third largest country in the world, after Russia and Canada. China is about 239 times bigger than the Netherlands.

Greater China comprises the 21 provinces of China proper, the 5 autonomous areas of Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Xingjiang and Yunnan, and the 'special administrative zones' of Hong Kong and Macau. Two-thirds of the country's land surface is hilly or mountainous, or upland plateau. The Qinghai- Xizang plateau, comprising the provinces of Tibet, Qinghai and West-Sichuan, is on an average height of 4000 metres above sea level. Hence it is called the 'Roof of the World'.

China has about 5000 rivers, the Huang He or Yellow River with its 4845 km being the longest, followed by the Yangzi Jiang (5200 km). Almost all rivers flow east and end in the Pacific Ocean or in the Indian Ocean.

The largest part of China has a temperate climate with four distinct seasons, but due to its enormous size, the country has a large variety of regional climates. The north has icy winters with a lot of snow, and in the tropical south temperatures can go up enormously.

Short history
Chinese history goes back a long time, long before our Common Era. It spans 5000 years, starting with the First (Xia) Dynasty between 2200 BC and 1700 BC. The next period (the Zhou period), from 1100 BC to 221 BC, was the Golden Age of Chinese philosophy, the period of Confucianism, which would later bring forth Taoism. During the Qin Dynasty (221 BC – 207 BC) China's first empire was established, with Qin Shi Huang as the first emperor. All small towns and villages were united, and the construction of China's Great Wall was started. The periods that follow are characterized by military unrest, but also by progress and political and cultural development.

When, in 1815, the Portuguese arrived, sea trade with the west developed and was accelerated with the coming of the French, the English and the Dutch.

During the last Chinese dynasty, the Qing Dynasty, confucianism became the state religion. Foreign powers forced the Chinese authorities to open up the country to foreign traders. As a consequence, Macau was turned into a Portuguese colony and Hong Kong became a British possession. After the abdication of Pu Yi, China's last emperor, China became a republic under Sun Yatsen.

After a number of civil wars and the great struggle between the Nationalists, led by Sun Yatsen and Chang Kaishek, and the Communists, under Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong, the People's Republic was established after the communist victory in 1949.

Mao's Great Leap Forward was an attempt to boost China's economy, but the programme was a disaster and was followed by a period of droughts and floods, and a greater political inluence of the Soviet Union. As a reaction, the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s was instigated. Another radical change followed after the death of Mao in 1976. Under Deng Xiaoping, China slowly opened up and was subjected to a number of economic reforms.

By the end of the 1980s, China's economy grew by more than 10%, and western countries became interested in the 'Middle KIngdom'. Massive corruption fed social unrest and led to student demonstrations . In 1997 Jiang Zemin succeeded Deng Xiaoping as the new leader of the Chinese Communist Party and the country's Prime Minister. Technically, China remained a communist nation, but personal and economic liberties grew, and so did the influence of the capitalist West.

Today, China's one-party system remains in force. The People's Republic is governed by the National People's Congress (NPS), with Xi Jinping as president.

Beijing, the capital of China, has a population of c. 13 million people. Its history goes back a long way – close to the city of Beijing, in Zhoukoudian, Peking
Man was found, who lived there half a million years ago. The locality of Beijing has been inhabited for more than three thousand years. In
the 13th century, at the time of the Mongol Empire, Beijing became China's capital. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) Beijing was the 'Northern Capital' and would remain so during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

In 1928 the Nationalists chose Nanjing as their capital, but in 1949 Mao proclaimed the People's Republic of China from his capital Beijing. Because of its rich history, Beijing has a lot of interesting sights, both in the city itself and in its vicinity. At the same time, Beijing is now rapidly developing into a truly modern metropolis.


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