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China is a cultural region, an ancient civilization, and, depending on perspective, a national or multinational entity extending over a large area in East Asia.
Most languages in China belong to the Sino-Tibetan language family, spoken by 29 ethnicities. There are also several major linguistic groups within the Chinese language itself. The most spoken varieties are Mandarin (spoken by over 70% of the population), Wu, Yue (Cantonese), Min, Xiang, Gan, and Hakka. Non-Sinitic languages spoken widely by ethnic minorities include Zhuang (Thai), Mongolian, Tibetan, Uyghur (Turkic), Hmong and Korean.Classical Chinese was the written standard in China for thousands of years, and allowed for written communication between speakers of various unintelligible languages and dialects in China. Vernacular Chinese or baihua is the written standard based on the Mandarin dialect first popularized in Ming dynasty novels, and was adopted (with significant modifications) during the early 20th century as the national vernacular. Classical Chinese is still part of the high school curriculum and is thus intelligible to some degree to many Chinese.
Many historians believe that association football originated in China, where a form of the sport may have appeared around 1000 AD. Other popular sports include martial arts, table tennis, badminton, and more recently, golf. Basketball is now popular among young people in urban centers.There are also many traditional sports. Chinese dragon boat racing occurs during the Duan Wu festival. In Inner Mongolia, Mongolian-style wrestling and horse racing are popular. In Tibet, archery and equestrian sports are part of traditional festivals.Physical fitness is highly regarded. It is common for the elderly to practice Tai Chi Chuan and qigong in parks.Board games such as International Chess, Go (Weiqi), and Xiangqi (Chinese chess) are also common and have organized formal competitions.The capital city of the People's Republic of China, Beijing, hosted the 2008 Olympic Games, a major international sporting event.
Chinese Opera (Confucianism was the official philosophy throughout most of Imperial China's history, and mastery of Confucian texts was the primary criterion for entry into the imperial bureaucracy. China's traditional values were derived from various versions of Confucianism. A number of more authoritarian strains of thought have also been influential, such as Legalism. There was often conflict between the philosophies, e.g. the Song Dynasty Neo-Confucians believed Legalism departed from the original spirit of Confucianism. Examinations and a culture of merit remain greatly valued in China today. In recent years, a number of New Confucians (not to be confused with Neo-Confucianism) have advocated that democratic ideals and human rights are quite compatible with traditional Confucian "Asian values".With the rise of Western economic and military power beginning in the mid-19th century, non-Chinese systems of social and political organization gained adherents in China. Some of these would-be reformers totally rejected China's cultural legacy, while others sought to combine the strengths of Chinese and Western cultures. In essence, the history of 20th-century China is one of experimentation with new systems of social, political, and economic organization that would allow for the reintegration of the nation in the wake of dynastic collapse.