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Flag of ChinaThe People’s Republic of China lies on the eastern side of the Asian continent and on the west coast of the Pacific Ocean. The Republic covers seven percent of the world’s land area. Many countries share a border with China. They include North Korea, Russia (Siberia), Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar (Burma), Laos and Vietnam. China also has thousands of offshore islands including Hong Kong Island.Â

Over forty percent of the country is mountainous. The mountains are mainly in the west with plains in the east. China also has desert regions. The Yellow River and the Yangtze River, two of the world’s greatest rivers, flow across China. Major rivers flow into the Pacific Ocean. China also has many lakes and wetlands.

Beijing (formerly Peking) is the capital of China with a history of over two thousand years. Shanghai is China’s largest and most prosperous city. Other important port cities are Wuhan, Nanjing and Dalian (Canton).

The climate varies considerably covering a number of climatic regions.

Because of the size of the country and the wide range of regional climates, the flora and fauna of China are very varied. The environment ranges from tropical rain forests, to subtropical and even arctic areas.

China has a variety of forest types. Hardwoods such as teak and mahogany are cultivated as commercial crops, as are pine and other softwoods. Bamboo is a very fast growing plant which can grow up to one metre a day. An interesting tree found in China is the ginkgo or maidenhair tree which is used in Chinese medicine. It is one of the world’s earliest surviving plant species and first grew 160 million years ago.

China has a wide variety of wildlife tigers, leopards, snow leopards, monkeys, yaks and giant pandas. The birdlife includes peacocks, parrots, cranes and storks. Cormorants are used by some fishermen on the rivers to catch fish for them.

China’s natural environment has been adversely affected by human intervention in a number of ways. Deforestation has gone on for many years. In 1978 steps were taken to protect the environment. There is now a programme of tree planting and a national conservation organization looks at the consequences for the environment of using pesticides and chemicals.

Chinese people live in a variety of homes, from modern buildings in the towns and cities to farmhouses built with sun-dried bricks; houses made of bamboo and even caves in the mountains and sampans (houseboats) on the rivers and in harbours.

China has a legacy of beautiful buildings from its past: The Forbidden City, the home of the Emperor with 178 acres of palaces, pavilions and gardens; the Temple of Heaven and many other buildings. The Potala Palace in Lhasa , the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, is one of China’s World Heritage sites.

The Great Wall of China, built to keep out potential invaders, is probably the country’s most famous structure and was started over two and a half thousand years ago. It was expanded in the mid fourteenth century and is more than 5,000 km long.

Feng-shui is an important belief (especially in Southern China) and a significant consideration in architecture. It is the study of the harmonies of location, light, air and water and the alignment of buildings and their elements (doors, windows, etc.) to ensure good luck and harmonious living.

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