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China is a geographical region in East Asia and Central Asia. With over one-fifth of the world's population, the majority of China exists today as a state known as the People's Republic of China, but it also refers to a long-standing civilization comprising successive states and cultures dating back more than 4,000 years.

With one of the world's longest periods of mostly uninterrupted civilization and the world's longest continuously used written language system, China's history has been largely characterized by repeated divisions and reunifications amid alternating periods of peace and war, and violent imperial dynastic change. The country's territorial extent expanded outwards from a core area in the North China Plain, and varied according to its changing fortunes to include multiple regions of East, Northeast, and Central Asia. (The term "China proper" is used by some observers and historians to describe the core territory historically home to the majority Han Chinese, as opposed to lands associated later with China such as what is now Xinjiang.) For centuries, Imperial China was also one of the world's most technologically advanced civilizations, and East Asia's dominant cultural influence, with an impact lasting to the present day.
Background Information
China was one of the earliest centers of human civilization. Chinese civilization was also one of the few to invent writing independently, the others being ancient Mesopotamia (Sumerians), India (Indus Valley Civilization), the Mayan Civilization, and Ancient Egypt. The Chinese script is still used today by the Chinese and Japanese, and to a lesser extent by Koreans and Vietnamese. This script is the only logographic script still used in the world.

The first dynasty according to Chinese sources was the Xia Dynasty, but its references have traditionally been believed to be legendary. Until scientific excavations were made at early bronze-age sites at Erlitou in Henan Province, it was difficult to separate myth from reality in regard to the existence of the Xia Dynasty. But since then, archaeologists have uncovered urban sites, bronze implements, and tombs that point to the possible existence of the Xia dynasty at the same locations cited in ancient Chinese historical texts.

However, the first reliable historical dynasty is the Shang, who settled along the Huang He River from eastern China, dating from the 18th to the 12th centuries BC. The Shang were in turn invaded from the west by the Zhou (12th to 5th centuries BC), whose centralized authority was slowly eroded by the ceding of state-like authority to warlords ruling small states; eventually, in the Spring and Autumn period, many strong independent states, in continuous war, paid but nominal deference to the Zhou state as the Imperial centre. They were all unified under one emperor in 221 BC by Qin Shi Huang, ushering in the Qin Dynasty, the first unified centralized Chinese state.
The climate of China varies greatly. The northern zone (within which lies Beijing) has a climate with winters of Arctic severity. The central zone (within which Shanghai is situated) has a generally temperate climate. The southern zone (within which lies Guangzhou and other southern provinces) has a generally subtropical climate.

The Palaeozoic formations of China, excepting only the upper part of the Carboniferous system, are marine, while the Mesozoic and Tertiary deposits are estuarine and freshwater or else of terrestrial origin. Groups of volcanic cones occur in the Great Plain of north China. In the Liaodong and Shandong Peninsulas, there are basaltic plateaux.
The Square, Beijing
Modern architecture mixed with ancient, Beijing
Map of China