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A Brief Introduction to China

Chinais the short name of the People's Republic of China. The "Five-Star Red Flag" is its national flag while the national emblem has Tian'anmen at its center, illuminated by five stars and encircled by ears of grain and a cog wheel. Beijing is the capital of the People's Republic of China.

(1) Geology and climate

Chinais situated in eastern Asia on the west coast of the Pacific Ocean. China has a varied topography, with highlands in the west and plains in the east. Sprawling over an area of approximately 9.6 million square kilometers, it comprises 6.5 percent of the earth's landmass, making it the largest country in Asia and the third largest in the world. Of its territory, mountainous areas account for about 33 percent, plateaus 26 percent, rolling land 10 percent, basins 19 percent, and plains 12 percent. Its land borders extend to about 200,000 kilometers and it shares frontiers with the following neighbors - the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakstan, Tadzhikistan, Kirghizstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos and Viet Nam. Its coastline stretches over 180,000 kilometers from the outlet of the Yalu River in the north to the outlet of the Beilun River in the south. The long coast it lashed by the salty waters of the Bohai Bay (inland sea), the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea. China's maritime neighbors are the Republic of Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia. Off the coast are no fewer than 5,000 islands, the biggest being Taiwan Island, and the second largest Hainan Island.

With a total length of 6,300 kilometers, the Yangtze is China's longest river and the third longest in the world. The Yellow River, with a total length of 5,464 kilometers, is the country's second longest river. Other major rivers include the Heilongjiang River, the Haihe River, the Huaihe River, the Qiantangjiang River and the Pearl River, etc..

Lakes in China cover a total area of 80,000 square kilometers. The major fresh-water lakes are the Boyang Lake, the Dongting Lake, the Taihu Lake and the Hongzehu Lake. Major salt-water lakes include the Qinghai Lake, the Namu Lake, the Qilin Lake and the Luobupo Lake.

The Himalayan is the biggest and highest mountain range in the world, on the eastern section of which looms the 8,848.13 meter high Mount Qomolangma (Everest), the world's loftiest peak rising between China and Nepal.

Other major mountainous ranges in China include: the Tianshan, the Kunlun, the Karakorum, the Hengduan, the Qilian, the Gangdise, the Yinshan, the Qinling, the Greater Xing'anling, the Changbai, the Nanling and the Taiwan. The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, the Loess Plateau and the Inner Mongolia Plateau are the four major plateaus in China. The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, with an altitude of over 4,000 meters and known as the "Roof of the World", is the highest plateau in the world. The Northeast China Plain, the North China Plain and the Yangtze River Plain are China's three major plains.

Because of the immense size of the country, the climate varies widely from one region to another, ranging from tropical, subtropical, warm-temperate, temperate to cool-temperate in character. A great part of China, however, lies within subtropical and temperate climatic zones and has a monsoon climate. The northern part of the northern Heilongjiang Province, for instance, has no summer while inhabitants in southern Hainan Island never experience winter conditions. Every winter from October to March, frigid winds sweep across China. As a result, winters in China are cold and dry. Between April and September, rainfall, high temperature and winds dominate. The rainfall in different parts of China also varies a great deal. The annual precipitation on the southeastern seaboard is 1,500 millimeters, but is below 500 millimeters in northwestern China.

(2) Administrative division system

China's administrative units are currently based on a three level system dividing the nation into provinces, counties and townships as follows:

The country is divided into provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government;

A province or an autonomous region is divided into autonomous prefectures, autonomous counties, and/or cities;

A county or an autonomous county is divided into townships, national minority townships, and/or towns.

Municipalities directly under the Central Government and other large cities are divided into districts and counties. regions, autonomous prefectures, and autonomous counties. Autonomous prefectures are divided into counties, autonomous regions, autonomous prefectures, and autonomous counties are national autonomous areas.

The Constitution of the People's Republic of China specifically empowers the State to establish special administrative regions when necessary. A special administrative region is a local administrative area directly under the Central Government.

At the end of 1999, China was divided into 23 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, 4 municipalities directly under the central Government, and 2 special administrative regions (see the following table).

China's Provinces, Autonomous Regions, Centrally Administered

Municipalities and Special Administrative Regions

Name

Capital

Area(10,000 sq.km)

Beijing Municipality

Beijing

1.68

Tianjin Municipality

Tianjin

1.13

Hebei Province

Shijiazhuang

19.00

Shanxi Province

Taiyuan

15.6

Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region

Hohhot

118.30

Liaoning Province

Shenyang

14.57

Jilin Province

Changchun

18.70

Heilongjiang Province

Harbin

46.90

Shanghai Municipality

Shanghai

0.62

Jiangsu Province

Nanjing

10.26

Zhejiang Province

Hangzhou

10.18

Anhui Province

Hefei

13.90

Fujian Province

Fuzhou

12.00

Jiangxi Province

Nanchang

16.66

Shandong Province

Ji'nan

15.30

Henan Province

Zhengzhou

16.70

Hubei Province

Wuhan

18.74

Hunan Province

Changsha

21.00

Guangdong Province

Guangzhou

18.60

Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region

Nanning

23.63

Hainan Province

Haikou

3.40

Chongqing Municiplaity

Chongqing

8.20

Sichuan Province

Chengdu

48.80

Guizhou Province

Guiyang

17.00

Yunnan Province

Kunming

39.40

Tibet AutonomousRegion

Lhasa

122.00

Shaanxi Province

Xi'an

20.50

Gansu Province

Lanzhou

45.00

Qinghai Province

Xi'ning

72.00

Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region

Yinchuan

6.64

Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region

Urunqi

160.00

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Hong Kong

0.1092

Macao Special Administrative Region

Macao

0.00236

Taiwan Province

3.60

(3) Chinese timetable

Office hours are usually between 8:00 - 12:00 in the morning and 2:00 - 6:00 in the afternoon. In Beijing, the working hours are 1: 00 - 5:00 in the afternoon. There may also be local changes for winter and summer seasons elsewhere.

(4) Chinese traditional festivals, public holidays and vacations

Chinais a country with many nationalities. Each nationality has its own customs and traditional festivals and each festival usually has fascinating legends associated with it.

Chun Jie (Spring Festival)

Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, is the most important festival in China, and its celebration dates back to some two thousand years ago. It marks the beginning of the lunar year, and is the time when families get together and are reunited if they have been separated. The date of the festival varies each year, but is usually in late January or early February according to the Gregorian calendar. On Lunar New Year's eve, the sound of firecrackers can be heard throughout the night, signifying "doing away with the old and making way for the new". The practice of letting off firecrackers, however, is on the decline because many cities have banned their use to prevent fires and accidents caused by the paper bombs. It is an old custom for people to stay up late or all night on New Year's eve. In cities, most people stay up late watching TV, playing cards, dancing or preparing food for the next day.

Yuan Xiao Jie (The Lantern Festival)

The Lantern Festival falls 15 days after the Lunar New Year. Traditionally, people hang decorative lanterns in public places and eat "Yuan Xiao", a kind of glutinous rice flour ball with a sweet or savory filling.

Qing Ming Jie (The Pure Brightness Festival)

The Pure Brightness Festival, is the fifth of the 24 solar terms according to the traditional Chinese calendar, which are defined according to the position of the sun in the zodiac. The festival takes place on the fourth or fifth day of the fourth month of the Gregorian calendar, and on this day people usually go to tidy or "sweep" the graves of their departed friends and relatives, and of revolutionary martyrs.

Duan Wu Jie (The Dragon Boat Festival )

The Dragon Boat Festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. It originated as a means to propitiate the river dragon gods, and turned into a popular festival commemorating the suicide of QuYuan, a poet of the Warring States Period (475 -221BC) who could no longer bear the moral degeneration of his state. On the fifth day of the fifth month in the Lunar calendar dragon boat races are held in commemoration of those who tried to save the poet and as an offering to the river gods. Dragon boat racing has now become a popular sport in China.

Zhong Qiu Jie (The Mid-Autumn Festival)

The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth Lunar month, the middle of autumn in the traditional Chinese calendar. It takes place at harvest time on the night of the full moon, which symbolized unity. Moon cakes are eaten on this auspicious day. These are round cakes filled with dried fruits, and are symbolic of the perfect roundness of the moon at the time of the festival.

Chong Yang Jie (Double Nine Festival)

Double Nine Festival is a traditional Chinese festival on the 9th day of the 9th month of the Chinese Lunar calendar. In the "Book of Changes", nine (9) is defined as a positive figure ("Yang"), and "Chong" in Chinese means "double", so it is called "Double-Nine Day". On the day people go outing, climbing, kite-flying, drink wine (chrysanthemum wine) and eat cakes. The day has been appointed as "Senior Citizens' Day"," Nine" pronounces the same sound as "longevity" in Chinese, so on the day when they celebrate the festival people do things to show respect and wishes of longevity to their elderly.

Other festivals:

Water Splashing Festival is New Year's Day of the Dai and some other minority nationalities residing on Hainan Island, which falls on the 15th day of the 6th month of the Dai calendar usually on a mid-April day. Early in the morning during the festival, female villagers would gather to pour water over Buddhist sculptures "to wash the dust off'. After that, villagers, especially boys and girls, would sprinkle water on each other, believing that diseases and germs can thus be eliminated.

Christmas and Easter for Chinese Christians, and Corban Ramadan for Muslims are also observed among some people in some places.

Public holidays

Qing Ming Jie (The Pure Brightness Festival): one day off;

Labour Day (May 1): one day off;

Duan Wu Jie (The Dragon Boat Festival ): one day off;

Zhong Qiu Jie (The Mid-Autumn Festival): one day off;

The National Day (October 1): three days off;

New Year's Day (one day off): one day off;

Spring Festival: three days off.



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