China is seen variously as an ancient civilization extending over a large area in East Asia, a nation and/or a multinational entity. With nearly 4,000 years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest civilizations. Prior to the 19th century, it possessed an advanced economy; but successive dynasties missed the Industrial Revolution that occurred in Europe and China began to decline. In the 19th and 20th century, European and Japanese imperialism, internal weakness and civil war damaged the country and its economy, and led to the overthrow of imperial rule. In 1949, after major combat in the Chinese Civil War had ended, two states calling themselves "China" emerged:
The People's Republic of China (PRC), established in 1949, commonly known as China, has control over mainland China and the largely self-governing territories of Hong Kong (since 1997) and Macau (since 1999).
The Republic of China (ROC) established in 1912 in mainland China, now commonly known as Taiwan, has control over the islands of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu, the Pratas island group, and a few other outlying islands.
In the 1950s, change to economic policies in Taiwan transformed the island into a technology-oriented industrialized developed economy after a period of high growth rates and rapid industrialization. Meanwhile, mainland China, under Mao's rule, remained underdeveloped and striken with famines, natural disasters and disastrous CPC-led political campaigns that caused millions of deaths. In the 1970s, reforms led by Deng Xiaoping, known as the Four Modernizations, improved agriculture, industry, technology and defense, raising living standards and making the PRC one of the great powers. By 2011 challenges included the growing divide between rich and poor and environmental degradation.
Historically, the cultural sphere of China has extended across East Asia as a whole, with Chinese religion, customs, and writing systems being adopted to varying degrees by neighbors such as Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Through its history, China was the source of many major inventions. It has also one of the world's oldest written language systems. The first evidence of human presence in the region was found at the Zhoukoudian cave. It is one of the earliest known specimens of Homo erectus, now commonly known as the Peking Man, estimated to have lived from 300,000 to 780,000 years ago.
China's attractions are endless and you will never run out of things to see. Especially near the coastal areas, if you run out of things to see in one city, the next one is usually just a short train ride away.
Whether you are a history buff, a nature lover or someone who just wants to relax on a nice beach, China has it all from the majestic Forbidden City in Beijing, to the breathtaking scenery of Jiuzhaigou. Even if you live in China for many years, you'll find that there's always something new to discover in another part of the country. Perhaps unsurprising due to its sheer size and long history, China has the third largest number of UNESCO World Hertiage Sites, after Italy and Spain.
The gumdrop mountains and steeply sloping forested hills with bizarre rock formations favored by traditional Chinese artists are not creative fantasy. In fact, much of southern and southwestern China is covered in strangely eroded rock formations known as Karst. Karst is type of limestone formation named after an area in Slovenia. As limestone layers erode, the denser rock or pockets of different stone resist erosion forming peaks. Caves hollow out beneath the mountains which can collapse forming sinkholes and channels leading to underground rivers. At its most unusual Karst erodes to form mazes of pinnacles, arches and passageways. The most famous example can be found in the Stone Forest near Kunming in Yunnan. Some of the most famous tourist areas in China feature spectacular karst landscapes - Guilin and Yangshuo in Guangxi, and much of central and western Guizhou province.