ChinaOne of the world’s oldest and most mysterious civilizations, China’s vast land and history has mesmerized scholars young and old.  The following offerings present a fascinating sampling of China’s rich culture from ancient times to the present.

Historians consider China to be the world’s oldest continuous civilization.  Although various dynasties rose and fell, a basic ruling system held the civilization in place from 221 BC to 1912.

China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, ruled from 221 to 207 BC.  The first emperor’s tomb is famously guarded by life size terra-cotta soldiers.

China’s major rivers are the Yellow River in the north and central regions and the Yangtze in the south and eastern regions of the country.  These two rivers were linked together in the sixth century by the Grand Canal.

The Yellow River has also been termed “China’s Sorrow” because of its propensity for devastating floods. 

Mount Baita is the highest peak in northeastern China at 9,000 feet.

Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism have long been considered the three main religions of China.

It is thought that the Chinese were making silk by 3000 BC.  Eventually the manufacture of silk and trade would give its name to the infamous Silk Road.

The world’s first carpets have been traced to China around 500 BC. 

China’s Great Wall linked many older walls together to become the world’s longest man-made structure spanning both deserts and mountains.  The wall took roughly two hundred years to complete.

A court official named Tsai Lun is credited with the invention of paper in 105 AD.  Other early Chinese inventions include the saddle (25 AD), wheelbarrow (200 AD), and paper money (618 AD). 

Later Chinese inventions include gun powder, the magnetic compass, the mechanical clock and the sternpost rudder.

The first Chinese books were constructed from bamboo strips. There are more than forty thousand characters in the Chinese language.

China’s first major dynasty was a bronze-age civilization known as the Shang Dynasty that ranged between c.1650 and 1027 BC and was centered near the Yellow River. 

Kings of the Shang Dynasty made use of oracle bones to communicate with spiritual ancestors about important matters.

Founders of the Zhou Dynasty are believed to have come from tribes of Tibet and Turkey.  The Zhou ruled from 1027 to 256 BC.

The world’s oldest military book, The Art of War, was written by Sun Zi.

The use of seals dates to the Zhou Dynasty.

By 450 BC the Chinese had invented the crossbow.  

Confucius, the famous Chinese philosopher, was born in 551 BC.

Chinese foot binding for girls began in the tenth century and was practiced into the twentieth century.  Foot binding usually began around the age of six.  The practice was initially practiced by the wealthiest families of the north.

By 500, tea arrived in China from India.  By 793, the tea was being taxed.

Marco Polo arrived in China in 1271 AD. 

The Forbidden City was constructed during the early opulent years of the Ming Dynasty.  This dynasty spanned the years from 1368 to 1644.

The beautiful Summer Palace lies about seven miles from Beijing on the shores of Lake Kunming.  It was built during the Qing Dynasty.

Nanking served as the Chinese capital for six dynasties.  It has always remained a city of great importance for China.

Manchu emperors established a kite flying ceremony known as Tengkao.  People believed that flying kites would bring them good luck.

1839 to 1842 saw the First Opium War fought between China and Great Britain.  China’s defeat forced them to open five port cities to trade including Shanghai and Canton.

Herbs, acupuncture and eating a balanced diet comprise traditional Chinese medicine.  Acupuncture has been practiced in the country for more than two thousand years.

China’s last emperor Puyi stepped down in 1912 when the Chinese Republic was established.  The republic lasted thirty-seven years.

Mao Zedong led the Chinese Communist Party to defeat the Kuomintang during the Chinese Civil War.  He established the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

The United Kingdom transferred their crown colony of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China in 1997.

China’s largest library, The National Library in Beijing, was founded in 1909.

The population of present day China is more than 1.3 billion people.