COUNTRY Formal Name: People’s Republic of China (Zhonghua Renmin Gonghe Guo — 中华人民共和国 ). Short Form: China (Zhongguo — 中国 ).
Term for Citizen(s) Chinese (singular and plural) (Huaren — 华人 ). Capital: Beijing (Northern Capital — 北京 ).
Prehistory: Hominid activity dates back 4 to 5 million years in China, and evidence has been found of early Paleolithic hominids living some 1 million years ago. Found in southwest of Beijing in 1927, date from around 400,000 years ago. Some 7,000 Neolithic sites (some as old as ca. 9000 B.C.) have been found in North China, the Yangzi (Changjiang or Yangtze) River Valley, and southeast coastal areas. These sites include a Neolithic agricultural village in Shaanxi Province dating from around 4500 B.C. to 3750 B.C., which had a moat for security and evidence of wood-framed, mud and straw houses, colored pottery, slash-and burn farming, and burial sites in nearby cemeteries. Early History: The first recognized dynasty—the Xia—lasted from about 2200 to 1750 B.C. and marked the transition from the late Neolithic age to the Bronze Age. The Xia was the beginning of a long period of cultural development and dynastic succession that led the way to the more urbanized civilization of the Shang Dynasty (1750–1040 B.C.). Hereditary Shang kings ruled over much of North China, and Shang armies fought frequent wars against neighboring settlements and nomadic herders from the north. The Shang capitals were centers of sophisticated court life for the king, who was the shamanistic head of the ancestor- and spirit-worship cult. Intellectual life developed in significant ways during the Shang period and flourished in the next dynasty—the Zhou (1040–256 B.C.). China’s great schools of intellectual thought—Confucianism, Legalism, Daoism, Mohism, and others—all developed during the Zhou Dynasty. The Imperial Period: Over several millennia, China absorbed the people of surrounding areas into its own civilization while adopting the more useful institutions and innovations of the conquered people. Peoples on China’s peripheries were attracted by such achievements as its early and well-developed ideographic written language, technological developments, and social and political institutions. The refinement of the Chinese people’s artistic talent and their intellectual creativity, plus the sheer weight of their numbers, has long made China’s civilization predominant in East Asia. The process of assimilation continued over the centuries through conquest and colonization until the core territory of China was brought under unified rule. The Chinese polity was first consolidated and proclaimed an empire during the Qin Dynasty (221–206 B.C.). Although short-lived, the Qin Dynasty set in place lasting unifying structures, such as standardized legal codes, bureaucratic procedures, forms of writing, coinage, and a pattern of thought and scholarship. These were modified and improved upon by the successor Han Dynasty. China has had lots of ups and downs in history and faced lots of dynasties as well, in earlier century, when Europeans began arriving in increasing numbers, Chinese courtiers expected them to conduct themselves according to traditional tributary relations that had evolved over the centuries between their emperor and representatives of Central Asian states who came via the Silk Road and others who came from Southeast Asia and the Middle East via the sea trade. The Western powers arrived in China in full force at a time of tremendous internal rebellion and rapid economic and social change. By the mid-nineteenth century, China had been defeated militarily by superior Western technology and weaponry, and the government was plagued with ever mounting rebellions. As it faced dynastic breakdown and imminent territorial dismemberment, China began to reassess its position with respect to its own internal development and the Western incursions. By 1911 the millennia-old...