People's Republic of China Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo
Over thousands of years China evolved almost isolated from the western hemisphere and today's visitors will come face to face with an unusual and different world. They will ask themselves searching questions and seek explanations. China is a ''Kingdom of Symbols'' - symbols which need to be decoded: from the Chinese characters to the dialects, from the shan-shui silk painting to the limestone mountains of Guilin, from the seemingly incomprehensible concepts of its religion to the complicated nature of contemporary politics. Everything is different and it can be difficult to unravel the many mysteries of Chinese life. Allow plenty of time to examine and reflect on the people and their environment. There is probably no other country in the world where external reality and superficial impressions count for so little.China occupies by far the major part of the mainland of eastern Asia. The People's Republic of China lies between latitudes 18° and 54°N and longitudes 71° and 135°E - extending from the Pamir Mountains in the west to the Pacific Ocean, or more precisely the Yellow Sea, East China Sea and the South China Sea, in the east.For a country which extends over 60 lines of longitude and 25 lines of latitude, all the geographical features typical of Asia can be found within its borders. The diverse and changing landscape exhibits many complex relief formations. The densely populated heartlands of the Pacific coastal plain and river basins, the agricultural settlements and industrial conurbations stand in stark contrast to the thinly populated, desolate semi-desert of outlying central Asia with its barren plateau and steep high-mountain ranges. One third of China, a country sometimes described as the ''Land of Mountains'', consists of high-mountain ranges and high-surface plateau, while one tenth comprises lower ranges and hilly lowlands. About 15 per cent of the country is basin landscape and 10 per cent is given over to intensively farmed lowland. This unfavorable topography goes some way towards explaining why only one eighth of the total surface area can be used for agricultural purposes.