A vast and rich land that remains one of the planet's oldest civilizations, China is both the most populous country and one of the most unique. From the rice fields of the south to the expansive Gobi Desert in the north, China boasts geography, culture, and history like those of no other place on Earth.
Today's China is a global superpower with a population of nearly 1.4 billion people accounting for a multi-trillion dollar economy. But the country's history begins with settlers who arrived as far back as 7000 B.C. Then, starting with the Xia dynasty (2070 – 1600 B.C.) and carrying through to the current People's Republic of China, the country is widely believed to be the longest-running continuous civilization in the world.
Though this civilization's customs and culture may seem foreign to Westerners, China's influence on all of human civilization has long been vast. Ancient China was a land of innovation and invention, giving the world everything from gunpowder and silk to agricultural and medicinal techniques still used today.
This tradition of innovation and leadership has only continued to the present day with China pioneering everything from high-speed rail systems to advancements in robotics — breakthroughs that push the boundaries of what human civilization can accomplish.
China's advancements, both now and over the course of the country's history, have come at a heavy price, however.
The expansive quest for industrial domination and a massive population has wreaked havoc on the country's environment in recent decades, for example. Any list of China facts related to pollution is rather grim. First, China's cities have much of the worst air pollution on the planet, with people confined to the indoors on days when the smog reaches dangerous carbon monoxide levels.
Meanwhile, many of the country's waterways including the mighty Yangtze River have become heavily polluted with toxic chemicals, causing species like the baiji river dolphin to be declared all but extinct.
While China may often face criticism from the West for damaging environmental practices — not to mention alleged human rights abuses courtesy of the Chinese Communist Party's authoritarian regime — the country's contributions to the world and its place in history can't be discounted.
Discover more about one of humankind's greatest civilizations in the gallery of China facts above.