Official name: People's Republic of China
Population: 1. 357 billion (2013) There are 56 ethnic groups and 91.96 per cent of the country's population are from the largest ethnic group, the Han people.
Currency: (money) Renminbi (RMB) or people's money. The main unit is the yuan. There are about 5 yuan to the Australian dollar.
Government: Communist state
Head of state: President of the People's Republic of China on March 15, 2003. Read about him here
Go here the listen to the Chinese National Anthem
National Day: 1 October
Official Language: Standard Chinese or Mandarin
This flag became the flag of China on October 1, 1949. The red of the Chinese flag symbolizes the communist revolution. It is the traditional color of the people. The large gold star represents communism, while the four smaller stars represent the social classes of the people.
Borders: China has borders with the East China Sea, Korea Bay, the Yellow Sea, and the South China Sea between North Korea and Vietnam
Climate and geography:
Area: 9.6 million sq km. China is the third largest country after Canada and Russia.
China is such a large country that there are great differences in climate from north to south and east to west. In China there are many different types of land. There are stony deserts, snow covered mountainous regions, rainforests, fertile valleys and wetlands. Two thirds of the country is either mountain or desert.
Melting snow from the mountains in the west provides water for the country's rivers. The longest at 6 300 kilometres is the Chang Jiang (Yangtze River). It is the third longest river in the world.
The Huang He (Yellow River) is the second longest and is about 5 460 kilometres long
The highest mountain is Mount Everest on the Chinese border with Nepal. The Chinese call Everest Qomolangma Feng.
5 000 islands along the coast are also part of China.
In the north of China the winters, between December and March, are cold and snowy. The summers are hot and dry. In Beijing the summer temperature can reach 38º C.
In the south, the weather is hot and humid in summer with temperatures reaching 38º C. Strong winds called typhoons bring heavy rains to southern parts of China between July and September. Winters in the south are short, cold and wet.
Read more about the climate
Some agricultural products: 300 million farmers produce rice, wheat, potatoes, peanuts, tea, millet, barley, cotton, oil seed.
Meat raised includes pork, goats, ducks and sheep. There are turtle farms and fish farms where the fish are grown in netted ponds and lakes.
Some manufactured goods: machinery and equipment; motor cars, bicycles, textiles and clothing, footwear, toys and sporting goods; fuels, chemicals.
Silk in China
In China, the city of Suzhou is famous for its fine silk. Silk has been made here for over 4000 years. In earlier times it was shipped to other parts of China, including to the emperors in Beijing, along the Grand Canal. The Grand Canal was an 1800 kilometres long man-made waterway.
On silk farms in the countryside around the city of Suzhou, silkworms are kept on trays and fed leaves from mulberry bushes which are grown especially to feed them. Mulberry leaves are the only leaves the silkworms eat.
Silkworms are caterpillars, not worms. They eat and grow, and about every five days they moult. This means that their old skins split and fall off, revealing a larger, new skin underneath.
After about 45 days, the silkworm is ready to become a pupa. It stops eating and spins a cocoon made from a single thread of silk. Inside the cocoon, the silkworm changes and develops into a moth. The moths cut their way out of the cocoon. They mate and the females lay the eggs that will hatch into silkworms to continue the cycle of silk production.
At the silk farm, about 3/4 of the cocoons are taken into a steam room where the pupae die inside the cocoons before they change into moths. (Some pupae are are kept alive so that they can change into moths, mate and lay eggs that will become the next lot of silkworms)
The cocoons are soaked in hot water to soften the sticky gum that holds the single thread of each cocoon together. Brushes help the workers to find the end of the single thread.
The threads of eight cocoons are unwound, all at the same time by a reeling machine. The eight threads are twisted together to form one silk thread.
Threads are twisted (plied) together into thicker, stronger threads. These thicker threads can then be dyed and woven into cloth.
Silk cloth is used to make clothing such as shirts, blouses, dresses, pyjamas, and underwear. It is used for upholstery on furniture and to make curtains.
Beijing: the capital city
Beijing is the capital of China. It is in the northern part of the country. Beijing is the second largest city in China after Shanghai. About 12 million people live in and around the city.
The city was first settled more than 2000 years ago. It has been the capital of China for most of the last 700 years and was known as Peking.
The city has hot summers and cold winters. Temperatures can climb as high as 38° C in July and drop lower than -15° C in January.
The main city area has two older sections in the centre. The oldest sections include buildings constructed between 1409 and 1566. Once, a 24 kilometre wall encircled the city and inside this wall was another walled city, the Forbidden City which was the home for the Emperor.
The Forbidden City is in the centre of Beijing. Behind the 10 metre high walls and the moat there hundreds of meeting halls, houses (there are 9000 rooms in the Forbidden City), shrines, libraries, courtyards large enough to hold 100 000 people, and a garden.
The Forbidden City, completed in 1420, was home for 24 emperors of two dynasties, the Ming and the Qing (say ching) The emperors lived here with with their families, court ladies and gentlemen and servants. Inside the Forbidden City they held court sessions with government ministers to make rules, plan for wars and expeditions and met important people from other countries. No ordinary people could enter the city. Over the hundreds of years since it was first built, most parts of the Forbidden City have been rebuilt many times.
In modern times, The Forbidden City has been renamed the Palace Museum and is open to the general public.
Tiananmen Square with buildings including the Great Hall of the People, built in 1959, is in the heart of Beijing.
Tian'anmen Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) was built in the 15th century and restored in the17th. The tower has five doors and in front of it are seven bridges spanning a stream. On the top of the central door is a portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong who on October 1,1949 proclaimed the founding of the new China. The Chairman Mao Memorial Hall is on the opposite side of the square. A 36 metre high obelisk, The Monument to the People's Heroes stands in the centre of the square. It is a memorial to people who have lost their lives in wars. The Great Hall of the People is on the western side of the square. The National People's Congress meets here in the 10 000 seat auditorium. There is also a banquet room which seats 5000 people.
Religions: Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism
Taoism teaches people that everyone is as important as each other and that people should live in harmony together and in harmony with nature. It is said that Taoism was founded by Laotzu, a man who was born around 604 BC. But some people doubt that he ever existed. Taoism became a religion in about 143 BC.
China now has over 1,500 Taoist temples and more than 25,000 Taoist priests and nuns
Buddhism is another of the main religions in China. Buddhists respect all forms of animal life, including insects. Buddhists eat only fruit and vegetables. Buddhism began in India and developed in China from 300 - 600 AD. Hundreds of years later, Buddhist monks went to India and returned with Buddhist writings which they translated into Chinese.
Confucianism is not really a religion. It is the teachings of Confucius, a man who lived around 551 BC. Confucianism teaches people to behave well, to be unselfish, and to respect parents, ancestors and old people.
There are also Chinese Christians, Muslims and Jews.