China is the most populated country, and one of the largest countries in the world by total area. Because of this, the geography of the land is rich and diverse. From mountains to deserts, and cliffs to tropical waters, there is a prime geographic location meant for any traveler.
Because of China’s varied topographical landscape, the country experiences both dry seasons and torrential- downpour monsoon seasons. When you go, it is imperative that you look up what the climate will be like, since during the monsoon season, rain storms can come (and go) fast!
China is also one of the world’s most biodiverse contries, making up one of the 17 megadiverse countries. With over 34,000 species of animals and vascular plants, the country is home to an impressive number of both people, plants, and animals, all living together.
Though China faces its fair share of environmental issues because of the sheer number of people that live there, the country is also making strides to be the major manufacturer and investor for renewable energy and its commercialization.
While you’re here, its impossible to see *all* of China and get a feel for the local ways of living. With 22 different provinces, five autonomous regions, four municipalities, and two special administrative regions, travelers could spend their whole life in China and never fully grasp the depth and complexity of a country that has been inhabited since 21 BCE.
Our suggestion? Pick one place. Stay there. Take it in. Talk to people, talk to travelers, and lay down some roots. Find what makes the city special. Then, when you feel like you have a good sense of the place, go to the next city. If you’re lucky, you could be there for a long, long time.
Important dates in China
It is important to note that important dates or dates of interest in China are usually scheduled according to the Chinese calendar, which uses astronomical phenomena (such as the sun and moon) in order to determine years, months, and days. It is best to look up the exact dates of these holidays in terms of the Gregorian calendar, or the calendar most typically used in Westernized countries.
**The following dates are in terms of the Chinese Lunar Calendar**
- Chinese New Year and New Year Eve: The first day of January and last day of lunar year, respectively
- Lantern Festival: Fifteenth day of January
- Duanwu Festival (Dragon Boat Festival): Fifth day of May
- Ghost Festival: Fifteenth day of July
- Mid- Autumn Festival (Moon Festival): Fifteenth day of August
- Spirit Festival/ Water Lantern Festival: Fifteenth day of October
- Dongzhi Festival (Winter Solstice Festival): the day of Winter Solstice
- China’s Lunar Calendar is based off the movements of the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, and was developed during the Qin Dynasty in 221 BCE.
- China is a major regional power in Asia, and has been recognized as a potential emergent superpower
- There are around 1.4 billion people currently living in China
- China was one of the world’s earliest civilizations
Good to know
From the People’s Republic of China in the United States of America website:
“Foreign citizens generally need a visa to visit China’s mainland with the exception of visa- free entry according to relevant agreements and regulations…U.S. citizens must obtain a visa before arrival in China. You are not elegible for a landing visa.”
Culture and Etiquette in China
Proper social etiquette in China revolves around the “face”. This “face” is not the literal face, however, but refers to how we “save face”, meaning our honor, reputation, or respect. There are four types of “face”, all referring to a different way of showing wisom, respect, or maintaining one’s dignity in a situation. Because of the importance of the “face”, many of the societal norms and expected etiquette of a person in China have to do with how one should act in order to maintain their “face” or respect. In addition to this “face”, there is also an importance placed on the collective, rather than the individual. Because of this, non- verbal communication is just as much a part of day- to- day interaction as verbal communication.
In most social situations, greetings are a formal affair, and the oldest person should always be greeted first. With travelers and foreigners, handshakes are common. However, it is good to note that many Chinese will look towards the ground during introductions because it is considered disrespectful to stare into the eyes of another. In general, just be friendly, shake hands, and don’t stare right in their eyes!
When it comes to gifts, it is customary to accept the gift, then open them at a later date when you are not around the gift- giver.
Dining etiquette is a little different than in other countries. Make sure you eat well– it is a sign that you are enjoying the food! Additionally, if you are in the presence of someone treating you to a meal, it is customary to try everything. When using chopsticks, don’t leave your chopsticks in the bowl after eating. Rather, you should return the chopsticks to their chopstick rest, or leave them resting parallel across the top of your bowl or plate. Leaving your chopsticks sticking out of a bowl looks similar to incense sticks sticking out of the ground– a typical practice done at the gravesite of loved ones.
Overall, if you look foreign, you’ll most likely be granted a pass on many of these local customs– especially if you are in an urban area that is familiar with tourists! In general, treat others with a smile, and just do what others around you are doing.