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NK19191
03-02-2013, 08:39 PM
To understand the history of a country properly, it always helps to know something about its geography as well; such is the case with China. The land where the Chinese civilization first arose was in the valley of the Yellow River (Huang He in Chinese). The climate is cold and semiarid, where the only reliable water supply is the river itself. The soil, however, is extremely fertile; it is a very soft, stoneless yellow soil called loess (pronounced "loose") by geologists. Both the Yellow River and the Yellow Sea are stained by it, giving them their names; the Chinese idea that yellow is the color of emperors may have also come from the loess. Unfortunately the Yellow River is not an easy river to tame. The loess erodes easily and fills up river beds, raising the water level steadily until it breaks out of its banks and causes floods. And because China's rain pattern follows a monsoon-type seasonal cycle, if enough rain falls on one area to cause flooding, then there will be drought and famine elsewhere. To make matters worse, dams, levees, and other flood-control devices do not work for long on the Yellow River, because when it flows out of its banks it sometimes finds a completely new channel to follow, meaning that the river has changed course several times since the beginning of history.(1) Because of all these problems, the river has been called "China's sorrow."(2)

South of the Yellow River is the Yangtze, the most important river of modern China. Because the north China plain is too cold to grow rice, the Yangtze valley has become China's main agricultural area. Also, the Chinese have always preferred traveling on water over other forms of transportation, so the rivers are the country's east-west highways. To make boating more convenient, the Grand Canal, a 1,000 mile-long north-south waterway, was dug to connect the Yellow & Yangtze Rivers in the sixth century A.D.

South of the Yangtze River the terrain becomes more rugged, and the vegetation changes from deciduous forest to jungle. Communication in this region is difficult, and the Chinese have settled here slowly. These Chinese speak many dialects that are different from Mandarin, the dialect spoken in the north; in fact, northerners and southerners cannot understand each other's speech, only their writing is the same! In addition, there are several non-Chinese ethnic groups living here like the Miao, Yi, and Zhuang; like the American Indians, they are trying to maintain their culture while modern civilization surrounds them. Among these tribes the Yi enjoy a privileged status, because they were the first non-Chinese group to support the communists (1935).

It is not only to the south that the Chinese have found natural barriers hindering their settlement. To the west rise up the mountains that form the Tibetan Plateau, "the roof of the world." To the north lies the desolate Gobi desert, home of the Huns, Mongols, and other nomadic tribes that have rarely given China peace for long. To the northeast is Manchuria, a land rich with minerals (and the center of modern Chinese industry) but with a climate cold enough to experience snow up to nine months of the year. Not until 1830 did large numbers of Chinese begin leaving their homeland to live in other countries; their isolation from other centers of civilization such as India, the Middle East, and Europe convinced them that they were the most civilized nation on earth and that China was the best place to live. This egocentric view pictured China as the center of the earth, around which all other countries revolve, and even the Chinese name for China, Zhongguo, means "the Middle Kingdom." Their attitude toward foreigners is affected the same way; foreigners who do not accept the Chinese way of life are "barbarians."(3)


http://www.ezilon.com/maps/images/asia/China-physical-map.gif

DMXX
03-02-2013, 09:12 PM
China's geographical diversity certainly compliments its size. History-of-Things stated on the forum he's currently in the south; I wonder if he's travelled much through the rest of the country?

I recently came across the Daxia river near Gansu. As your map shows, Gansu is essentially in the very middle of the country and sits on the eastern slopes of the Tibetan plateau. The entire mountain zone from Central Asia to this part of China represents one continuous feature, much like the mountain arc formed from the Zagros all the way through to the Hindu Kush. One could be forgiven for thinking this was somewhere in Tajikistan's Ferghana valley. (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Daxia-River-Valley-panorama-fisheye-5900+5901.jpg)

History-of-Things
03-03-2013, 02:22 AM
Hi there. I have been to Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Shaoxing, and Ningbo, but the places I know better are in the southeast corner--Guangdong and Fujian provinces. Here is a map that may clarify some things:

http://depts.washington.edu/chinaciv/1xarsong.jpg

This is China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE). The part within the solid line is much of what was traditionally China. Of course during this dynasty the peoples of the north were emboldened, with the Liao and Jin applying pressure, the latter eventually capturing the Song capital, and of course they were overthrown by Mongols in return who spelled the end of any ethnic Chinese dynasty for a short while. Of course there were periods, like the Han (illustrated below circa 2 CE) and the Tang, when China spilled over its traditional borders:

351

The western provinces of Xinjiang, Qinghai, and Tibet, and the island of Taiwan were not really a permanent part of the Chinese state until the 17th century per se, though.

NK19191
03-03-2013, 03:04 PM
Contemporary China is an island. Although it is not surrounded by water (which borders only its eastern flank), China is bordered by terrain that is difficult to traverse in virtually any direction. There are some areas that can be traversed, but to understand China we must begin by visualizing the mountains, jungles and wastelands that enclose it. This outer shell both contains and protects China.

http://kk.org/ct2/china-island-400_2.jpg


Internally, China must be divided into two parts: The Chinese heartland and the non-Chinese buffer regions surrounding it. There is a line in China called the 15-inch isohyet. On the east side of this line more than 15 inches of rain fall each year. On the west side annual rainfall is less than that. The bulk of the Chinese population lives east and south of this line. This is Han China, the Chinese heartland. It is where the vast majority of Chinese live and the home of the ethnic Han, what the world regards as the Chinese. It is important to understand that over a billion people live in an area about half the size of the United States.

http://www.vietnamica.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/china02.jpg

http://www.vietnamica.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/china05.jpg

The Chinese heartland is divided into two parts, northern and southern, which in turn is represented by two main dialects, Mandarin in the north and Cantonese in the south. These dialects share a writing system but are almost mutually incomprehensible when spoken. The Chinese heartland is defined by two major rivers -- the Yellow River in the north and the Yangtze in the South, along with a third lesser river in the south, the Pearl. The heartland is China's agricultural region. However -- and this is the single most important fact about China -- it has about one-third the arable land per person as the rest of the world. This pressure has defined modern Chinese history -- both in terms of living with it and trying to move beyond it.
A ring of non-Han regions surround this heartland -- Tibet, Xinjiang province (home of the Muslim Uighurs), Inner Mongolia and Manchuria. These are the buffer regions that historically have been under Chinese rule when China was strong and have broken away when China was weak. Today, there is a great deal of Han settlement in these regions, a cause of friction, but today Han China is strong.

http://www.vietnamica.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/china03.jpg

These are also the regions where the historical threat to China originated. Han China is a region full of rivers and rain. It is therefore a land of farmers and merchants. The surrounding areas are the land of nomads and horsemen. In the 13th century, the Mongols under Ghenghis Khan invaded and occupied parts of Han China until the 15th century, when the Han reasserted their authority. Following this period, Chinese strategy remained constant: the slow and systematic assertion of control over these outer regions in order to protect the Han from incursions by nomadic cavalry. This imperative drove Chinese foreign policy. In spite of the imbalance of population, or perhaps because of it, China saw itself as extremely vulnerable to military forces moving from the north and west. Defending a massed population of farmers against these forces was difficult. The easiest solution, the one the Chinese chose, was to reverse the order and impose themselves on their potential conquerors.

http://www.vietnamica.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/china05.jpg

There was another reason. Aside from providing buffers, these possessions provided defensible borders. With borderlands under their control, China was strongly anchored. Let's consider the nature of China's border sequentially, starting in the east along the southern border with Vietnam and Myanmar. The border with Vietnam is the only border readily traversable by large armies or mass commerce. In fact, as recently as 1975, China and Vietnam fought a short border war, and there have been points in history when China has dominated Vietnam. However, the rest of the southern border where Yunnan province meets Laos and Myanmar is hilly jungle, difficult to traverse, with almost no major roads. Significant movement across this border is almost impossible. During World War II, the United States struggled to build the Burma Road to reach Yunnan and supply Chiang Kai-shek's forces. The effort was so difficult it became legendary. China is secure in this region.

http://www.vietnamica.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/china04.jpg

Hkakabo Razi, almost 19,000 feet high, marks the border between China, Myanmar and India. At this point, China's southwestern frontier begins, anchored in the Himalayas. More precisely, it is where Tibet, controlled by China, borders India and the two Himalayan states, Nepal and Bhutan. This border runs in a long ark past Pakistan, Tajikistan and Kirgizstan, ending at Pik Pobedy, a 25,000-foot mountain marking the border with China, Kirgyzstan and Kazakhstan. It is possible to pass through this border region with difficulty; historically, parts of it have been accessible as a merchant route. On the whole, however, the Himalayas are a barrier to substantial trade and certainly to military forces. India and China -- and China and much of Central Asia -- are sealed off from each other.

The one exception is the next section of the border, with Kazakhstan. This area is passable but has relatively little transport. As the transport expands, this will be the main route between China and the rest of Eurasia. It is the one land bridge from the Chinese island that can be used. The problem is distance. The border with Kazakhstan is almost a thousand miles from the first tier of Han Chinese provinces, and the route passes through sparsely populated Muslim territory, a region that has posed significant challenges to China. Importantly, the Silk Road from China ran through Xinjiang and Kazakhstan on its way west. It was the only way to go.

There is, finally, the long northern border first with Mongolia and then with Russia, running to the Pacific. This border is certainly passable. Indeed, the only successful invasion of China took place when Mongol horseman attacked from Mongolia, occupying a good deal of Han China. China's buffers -- Inner Mongolia and Manchuria -- have protected Han China from other attacks. The Chinese have not attacked northward for two reasons. First, there has historically not been much there worth taking. Second, north-south access is difficult. Russia has two rail lines running from the west to the Pacific -- the famous Trans-Siberian Railroad (TSR) and the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM), which connects those two cities and ties into the TSR. Aside from that, there is no east-west ground transportation linking Russia. There is also no north-south transportation. What appears accessible really is not.

The area in Russia that is most accessible from China is the region bordering the Pacific, the area from Russia's Vladivostok to Blagoveschensk. This region has reasonable transport, population and advantages for both sides. If there were ever a conflict between China and Russia, this is the area that would be at the center of it. It is also the area, as you move southward and away from the Pacific, that borders on the Korean Peninsula, the area of China's last major military conflict.

Then there is the Pacific coast, which has numerous harbors and has historically had substantial coastal trade. It is interesting to note that, apart from the attempt by the Mongols to invade Japan, and a single major maritime thrust by China into the Indian Ocean -- primarily for trade and abandoned fairly quickly -- China has never been a maritime power. Prior to the 19th century, it had not faced enemies capable of posing a naval threat and, as a result, it had little interest in spending large sums of money on building a navy.

China, when it controls Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Manchuria, is an insulated state. Han China has only one point of potential friction, in the southeast with Vietnam. Other than that it is surrounded by non-Han buffer regions that it has politically integrated into China. There is a second friction point in eastern Manchuria, touching on Siberia and Korea. There is, finally, a single opening into the rest of Eurasia on the Xinjiang-Kazakh border.

China's most vulnerable point, since the arrival of Europeans in the western Pacific in the mid-19thcentury, has been its coast. Apart from European encroachments in which commercial interests were backed up by limited force, China suffered its most significant military encounter -- and long and miserable war -- after the Japanese invaded and occupied large parts of eastern China along with Manchuria in the 1930s. Despite the mismatch in military power and more than a dozen years of war, Japan still could not force the Chinese government to capitulate. The simple fact was that Han China, given its size and population density, could not be subdued. No matter how many victories the Japanese won, they could not decisively defeat the Chinese.

China is hard to invade; given its size and population, it is even harder to occupy. This also makes it hard for the Chinese to invade others -- not utterly impossible, but quite difficult. Containing a fifth of the world's population, China can wall itself off from the world, as it did prior to the United Kingdom's forced entry in the 19th century and as it did under Mao Zedong. All of this means China is a great power, but one that has to behave very differently than other great powers.

Goujian
07-28-2015, 04:16 PM
^This linguistic map above is a gross simplification.

http://www.zonu.com/images/0X0/2011-08-08-14265/The-Sinitic-languages-2003.jpg

This is a more accurate picture, but not the most accurate in my opinion.

Eastern China (particularly the Lower Yangtze region of southern Jiangsu, Shanghai and northernmost Zhejiang) is ethnically far more related to northern China than to the rest of southern China. Anyone with a background of Chinese history knows that the population of the Lower Yangtze is more or less completely replaced by northern migrants during the fall of the western Jin and northern Song dynasties. Phenotypically most people there are in between northern Chinese and central Chinese, with rural folks resembling central Chinese and urban folks resembling northern Chinese. In terms of culture, they are neither northern nor southern, exhibiting both traits but also with their own traits including retentions of semi-aristocratic Central Plain/Northern Chinese culture and adaptations to native traditions. In terms of identity, most identify either as southern or eastern. Most of the stories about how northern migrants settled in places like Guangdong and Fujian are more or less half-truths, not telling the complete story. Since they are based on family stories rather than first-hand accounts in census books.

Webb
07-29-2015, 02:47 AM
My wife is from Kaifeng, in Henan. We will be traveling there for the next New Years. It will be my first trip to China.

Zionas
08-04-2015, 03:58 PM
[Inappropriate material deleted by moderator]

Zionas
08-04-2015, 04:07 PM
Best wishes to you and your wife! I bet she is sweet and takes care of you!

Some Chinese people actually have lighter colored eyes. Someone on a Chinese anthropology forum wrote that from what he's seen, grey eyes (perhaps a rare mutation / gene sequence) can be found from the northwest regions to the Huabei and even further south. One time I saw a security guard here in Beijing with yellowish-brown eyes. China is certainly a very diverse place geographically, linguistically, culturally and genetically.

I also love Southeast Asia, especially Vietnam, Thailand (not Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya etc.) and the Philippines (Cebu, sub-urban and rural Luzon). I'm 0.6% Southeast Asian in speculative and 0.4% in standard, so could this be the reason why I feel a connection to the region?

Webb
08-04-2015, 08:54 PM
Thank you Zionas. She has been in the U.S. for three years, so we met here. She has not been home since, so the plan is to go to China for New Years. She is really the best. This is my second marriage, my first was to an American. The difference between the two is amazing. She really likes to take care of me. She tells me I am her older, good son, as I do as she asks. She is an amazing cook, and tells me that the few friends she knows who came to the U.S. and married Americans can not get their husband's to eat chinese food. I, however, eat whatever she cooks. She really likes the U.S. and western culture. We always talk family matters through, and make decisions together. She was previously married as well in China, and did not enjoy that type of partnership with her former husband. We are both intelligent, so cultural differences have not been an issue too much, as we talk things out. She has told me that in China, men put their mother before their wife. In the U.S it is the opposite, generally. Wife comes before mother. She thinks this is the best thing.

Zionas
08-05-2015, 02:18 AM
I'm Christian so I definitely put spouse before parents. The list of priorities is mentioned very early in Genesis. About her previous marriage, when it comes to Western and Chinese men I don't believe one is necessarily better than the other, but men in China can be quite chauvinistic. I think and behave differently from both native Chinese and Chinese-British / Americans / Canadians / Australians, so I'm quite a rare breed.

You should join www.happierabroad.com. The founder is Taiwanese-American and he explains everything that's wrong with the West.

Zionas
08-05-2015, 02:24 AM
Looks like the OP is from Iran / Persia. Historically China's relationship with imperial Iran has been a good one. After the fall of the last Persian dynasty, the exiled Persian royal court fled to Tang China. Narsieh, son of the last Persian emperor, grew up in the Tang capital Chang'an and became a Tang official. In the south of China, many Iranian traders settled down in the port city of Quanzhou, arriving in China via the maritime Silk Road. Chinese Muslims (Hui) have some Persian and Arab roots.

Webb
08-05-2015, 03:25 PM
Looks like the OP is from Iran / Persia. Historically China's relationship with imperial Iran has been a good one. After the fall of the last Persian dynasty, the exiled Persian royal court fled to Tang China. Narsieh, son of the last Persian emperor, grew up in the Tang capital Chang'an and became a Tang official. In the south of China, many Iranian traders settled down in the port city of Quanzhou, arriving in China via the maritime Silk Road. Chinese Muslims (Hui) have some Persian and Arab roots.

My wife also happens to be Muslim.

parasar
08-05-2015, 06:51 PM
Hi there. I have been to Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Shaoxing, and Ningbo, but the places I know better are in the southeast corner--Guangdong and Fujian provinces. Here is a map that may clarify some things:

http://depts.washington.edu/chinaciv/1xarsong.jpg

This is China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE). The part within the solid line is much of what was traditionally China. Of course during this dynasty the peoples of the north were emboldened, with the Liao and Jin applying pressure, the latter eventually capturing the Song capital, and of course they were overthrown by Mongols in return who spelled the end of any ethnic Chinese dynasty for a short while. Of course there were periods, like the Han (illustrated below circa 2 CE) and the Tang, when China spilled over its traditional borders:

351

The western provinces of Xinjiang, Qinghai, and Tibet, and the island of Taiwan were not really a permanent part of the Chinese state until the 17th century per se, though.

In Indic works the area NE of India was known as Cheen. And the part you show as the "China during the Song dynasty" was known as Maha-Cheen (the great-maha Cheen). It is thought that Cheen and Maha-Cheen became Chin and Machin in Persian. Eventually becoming China.

Cheen and Maha-Cheen would approximately coincide with Khatai (Cathay) and Manzi, respectively of the medieval period. The Chinese themselves only much more recently starting calling their country China after how the region was known elsewhere. The word Cheen in turn is thought to derived from the Qin region/state that the non-Chinese came into contact with first.