China Proper, washed on the east by the Pacific, consists of eighteen provinces - the three provinces of Manchuria not being reckoned. On the north are Chih-li, Shan-hsi (Shansi), Shen-hsi (Shensi), and Kan-su; on the west Sze-chwan (Szechuen) and Yun-nan; on the south Kwang-hsi (Kwangsi) and Kwang-tung; on the east Fu-chien (Fukien), Cheh-chiang (Chehkiang), Cheang-su (Kiangsu), and Shan-tung; and in the centre are Ho-nan. An-hui (Nganhwei), Hu-pei, Hu-nan, Chiang-hsi (Kiangsi), and Kwei-chau (Kweichow). Hainan and Formosa are the chief islands. The total area, often stated at 1,300,000 sq. m., is probably not much short of 2,000,000. The Chinese empire without Corea has an area of 4,218,400 sq. m. The population of the empire is variously estimated at from 300 to 400 millions. The great bulk of this falls to the provinces of China Proper; the population of all the dependencies (Manchuria, Tibet, Mongolia, Zungaria, East Turkestan) making but some 16,000,000 or 17,000,000 of the total. The population of Peking, the capital, is probably under a million. Of (since 1902) nearly forty ports open to foreign commerce, only five have a population under 50,000. That of Canton is estimated at 2,600,000; of Tien-tsin at 950,000; of Han-kau at 750,000; of Fu-chau at 650,000; of Shang-hai at 455,000; of Ning-po at 250,000.
China Proper may be described as sloping from the mountainous regions of Tibet towards the shores of the Pacific on the east and south. The most extensive mountain-range is the Nan Ling or Southern Range, a far-extending spur of the Himalayas. Commencing in Yunnan, it bounds with a continuous barrier (penetrated by only a few difficult passes) Kwang-hsi, Kwang-tung, and Fu-chien on the north, and, passing through Cheh-chiang, reaches the sea at Ning-po. North of this long range, and west of the 113th meridian, on to the borders of Tibet, the country is mountainous, while to the east and from the great wall on the north, to the Po-yang lake in the south, there is the Great Plain, comprising the greater part of the provinces of Chih-li and Shan-tung, Ho-nan, An-hui, and Chiang-su.
In the provinces west from Chih-li - Shan-hsl, Shen-hsi, and Kan-su - the soil is formed of what are called the loess beds, which are extremely fertile, the fields composed of it hardly requiring any other manure than a sprinkling of its own fresh loam. The husbandman in this way obtains an assured harvest two and even three times a year. This fertility, provided there be a sufficient rainfall, seems inexhaustible. The rivers of China - called for the most part ho in the north, and chiang (kiang) in the south, are one of its most distinguishing features. Two of them stand out conspicuous among the great rivers of the world; the Ho, Hoang-ho, or Yellow River, and the Chiang, or Yang-tsze-kiang. They rise not far from each other among the mountains of Tibet. The Ho pursues a tortuous course seaward through North China; the Chiang or Yang-tsze through Central China. The terrible calamities caused by the inundations of the Hoang-ho have procured for it the name of ' China's Sorrow.' So recently as 1887 it burst its southern bank near Chang Chau, and poured its mighty flood, with hideous devastation and the destruction of millions of lives, into the populous province of Ho-nan. The Ho is not much under the Chiang in length - somewhat over 3000 miles. The Grand Canal, when in good order, afforded water communication from Peking to Hang-chau in Cheh-chiang, a distance of more than 600 miles. Steam communication all along the eastern seaboard from Canton to Tien-tsin has very much superseded its use. The lakes are very many, but not on so great a scale as the rivers.
It was in 214 b.c. that the emperor Shih Hwang Ti determined to erect a grand barrier all along the north of his vast empire. The Great Wall is one of the wonders of China, and extends from the Shan-hai Pass east of Peking westward to the Chia-y'u barrier gate, the road through which leads to the 'Western Regions.' Its length in a straight line would be 1255 miles, but, if measured along its sinuosities, this distance must be increased to 1500. It is formed by two strong retaining walls of brick, rising from granite foundations, the space between being filled up with stones and earth. The breadth of it at the base is about 25 feet, at the top 15, and the height varies from 15 to 30 feet.
The country is rich in the products necessary for the support and comfort of the people. There is in it every variety of climate; but the average temperature is lower than in any other country in the same latitude. Wheat, barley, maize, millet, and other cereals are chiefly cultivated in the northern regions, and rice in the southern. Culinary or kitchen herbs, mushrooms, and aquatic vegetables, with ginger and a variety of other condiments, are everywhere produced and largely used. From Formosa there comes sugar, and the cane thrives also in the southern provinces. Oranges, pummeloes, lichis, pomegranates, peaches, plantains, pine-apples, mangoes, grapes, and many other fruits and nuts, are supplied in most markets. Tea is noted below. Opium is increasingly grown. The Chinese are emphatically an agricultural people; irrigation is assiduously and skilfully employed, and no people are so careful to waste nothing that can be used as manure. Pork is the commonest flesh meat, and the number of pigs is enormous. The seaboard, rivers, lakes, and ponds supply an immense quantity of excellent fish taken by the net. Fowls and clucks are largely produced.
Tea does not grow in the north, but is cultivated extensively in the western provinces and in those south of the Great Chiang. The infusion of the leaves was little, if at all, drunk in ancient times, but now its use is universal. Fu-chien, Hu-pei, and Hu-nan produce most largely the black teas; the green conies chiefly from Cheh-chiang and An-hui; both kinds come from Kwan-tung and Sze-chwan. Next to silk, tea is China's most valuable export. As compared with the populations of western nations, the Chinese are sparing in the use of strong drink; opium is, however, a common luxury. From the 23d century B.C. and earlier, the care of the silkworm, and the spinning and weaving of its produce, have been the special work of woman. The mulberry-tree grows everywhere, and in all the provinces some silk is produced; but Kwan-tung, Sze-chwan, and Cheh-chiang furnish the best and the most. Indigenous to the country also are hemp and other fibrous plants, such as the Bœ;hmeria nivea. Cotton is cultivated most extensively in the great basin of the Chiang. There are few cities which cannot boast of one or more pagodas. The rhinoceros, elephant, and tapir are said still to exist in the forests and swamps of Yun-nan, and tigers occur in some districts. Both the brown and black bear are met with, and several varieties of deer, including the musk-deer. The breed of horses and cattle is dwarfish; asses and mules are better of their sort. The camel is seen in the north and west.
The coalfields of China are enormous - more than twenty times the extent of those of Great Britain; but up to this time the majority of them can hardly be said to have been more than scratched. Immense quantities of iron ore, moreover, must have been extracted from the earth during the millenniums of its history, but a much greater amount is still untouched. Copper, lead, tin, silver, and gold are known to exist in many places, but little has been done to make the stores of them available. The monetary currency is mainly the copper cash, cumbrous and often debased. Even foreign silver coins are treated as bullion, and taken by weight; but since 1S90 silver dollars are coined at Canton. Good roads are few. Where communication by water is abundant the want of roads is not so much felt. It is owing doubtless to the want of roads that the wheelbarrow is so much used from the Chiang northwards. A smattering of education is widely diffused; but apart from the official classes, who obtain promotion by competitive examinations, those who can read freely or write readily are few. The three religions of China are Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. It is difficult to estimate the comparative number of their adherents. To claim a majority for those of any one of them is very absurd. As a matter of fact, Confucianism represents the intelligence and morality of China; Taoism its superstitions; and Buddhism its ritualism and idolatry, while yet it acknowledges no God. Of the outstanding peculiarities of the Chinese may be reckoned the pigtail of the men and the pinched feet of the women. Infanticide is not so common as is often said.
The government of the empire is conducted from the capital, the central authorities directing and controlling the different provincial administrations. There is the Grand Cabinet, the privy-council of the emperor, whose members are few, and hold other substantive offices. There is also the Grand Secretariat, formerly the supreme council. The business on which the cabinet deliberates comes before it from the Seven Boards - of Civil Office, of Revenue, of Ceremonies (including religion), of War, of Punishment, of Works, and, since 1885, of Admiralty affairs. Each Board has two presidents and four vice-presidents, three of them Manchus and three Chinese. The Tsungli Yaman, or foreign office, established in 18(51, was in 1902 superseded by a new one called Wai-wu-pu; and the Censorate exercises a supervision over the Boards. In the provinces a governor-general and governor are usually associated; below these two functionaries there are the lieutenant-governor (commonly called the treasurer), the provincial judge, the salt comptroller, and the grain-intendant. Each province is required to support itself and to furnish a certain surplusage for the imperial government. The revenue and expenditure are estimated at from £12,000,000 to £15,000,000, derived mainly from land-tax, customs, likin or transit duties, salt-tax, and licenses. China had no foreign debt till 1874; in 1902 its liabilities amounted to about £120,000,000, including the war indemnity to Japan and £64,000,000 indemnity due to the Powers for the ' Boxer' outrages.
The imports of China from abroad amounted in 1887 to 102,263,000 taels, in 1902 to 315,363,905; the exports in 1887 to 85,860,000, and in 1902 to 215,1S1,584. Of the imports in 1902, a value of nearly 60,000,000 taels was from Britain, nearly 134,000,000 from Hong-kong(Britain and the other foreign countries indirectly), 33,000,000 from India, and 30,140,000 from the United States; while of the exports in 1902, a value of 10,350,000 taels went to Britain, 82,700,000 to Hong-kong, and 28,900,000 to Japan. The chief imports are cotton goods(127,550,000 taels), opium (35,460,000), rice (23,600,000), sugar, metals, oil and kerosene, woollens, fishery products and 'seaweed,' coal, and raw cotton; the exports, silk (79,220,000 taels), tea (22,880,000), raw cotton (13,160,000), sugar, straw-braid, paper, clothing, hides, and china-ware. These figures do not include the very extensive coasting trade, but only goods passed through the twenty-three treaty ports open to foreign commerce (of which Shanghai is by far the most important, Canton being the second), and the Russian overland trade. Between 1887 and 1902 English imports from China declined, according to English official figures, from £6,667,000 to £2,407,289, while English exports to China, which fell to £5,038,000 in 1889, rose again to £7,188,810 in 1902. Of the total shipping entered and cleared in 1902 at Chinese ports, 69,499 vessels of 53,990,000 tons (many steamers), 24,758 of 26,950,200 were British.
The imperial army proper consists of Manchus, Mongols, and the descendants of Chinese who revolted from the Ming dynasty and joined the Manchus on their invasion of the empire, the first defection taking place in 1621. These are divided each into eight corps with different coloured banners, and as a whole are styled ' The Eight Banners.' In addition to this there is the national army, distributed in more than one thousand camps throughout the provinces, nearly twice as numerous as the imperial, and called 'The Army of the Green Standard,' being in fact little more than a vast militia or gendarmerie. The total force on a peace footing is about 300,000, and on a war footing about 1,000,000, but with little cohesion or discipline. The navy possessed by China was all but annihilated in the war with Japan. Since then some swift vessels have been acquired, including two cruisers launched on the Tyne in 1897-98, three small cruisers launched at Stettin in 1897, and a few smaller vessels.
Chinese historical documents begin with the reigns of Yao and Shun (2356-2206 B.C.). In 403 B.c. we find only seven great states, all sooner or later claiming to be 'the kingdom,' and contending for the supremacy, till Ts'in (Ch'in) put down all the others, and in 221 b.c. its king assumed the title of Hwang Ti, or Emperor. From that year dates the imperial form of the Chinese government, which has thus existed for more than 2100 years. The changes of dynasty have been many, two or more sometimes ruling together, each having but a nominal supremacy over the whole nation. The greater dynasties have been those of Han (206 B.C.-220 a.d.), T'ang (618-906), Sung (960-1279), Yuan (the Mongol, 1280-1367), the Ming (1368-1643), and the Ch'ing (Manchu-Tartar, from the Manchu conquest of China in 1643 to the present date). It was not till after the Cape of Good Hope was doubled, and the passage to India discovered by Vasco da Gama in 1497, that intercourse between any of the European nations and China was possible by sea. It was in 1516 that the Portuguese first made their appearance at Canton; and they were followed at intervals of time by the Spaniards, the Dutch, and the English in 1635. The Chinese received none of them cordially; and Chinese dislike of them was increased by their mutual jealousies and collisions with one another. In the meantime trade gradually increased, and there grew up the importation of opium from India. Before 1767 the import rarely exceeded 200 chests, but in that year it amounted to 1000. In 1792 the British government wisely sent an embassy under Lord Macartney to Peking. A second embassy from Great Britain in 1816 was dismissed from Peking suddenly and contumeliously because the ambassador would not perform the prostrations required. From the measures of the Chinese to prevent the import of opium came the first war with China in 1840; the result of which was the opening of Canton, Amoy, Foo-chow, Ningpo, and Shanghai to commerce, and the cession of Hong-kong to Britain. A second war in 1857, France being allied with Britain, ended in the opening of five more treaty ports. A third war (1860) and the march on Peking did even more to open China to the world. After a war in 1884-85 France secured permanent control of Tongking and Annam. In 1894 Japan, reviving old claims on Corea, drove the Chinese out of Corea, and after victories on land and at sea, captured Port Arthur and Wei-hai-wei. By the treaty of 1894 Japan secured as indemnity Formosa and the Liao-tung peninsula; but the protests of Russia, Germany, and France made Japan resign Liao-tung. Russia obtained a lease of Port Arthur and Talienwan, with railway and other privileges in Manchuria; Germany obtained Kiao-chau and concessions in Shan-tung; and Britain, as an offset, obtained a lease of Wei-hai-wei and sought to secure trading freedom in the Yang-tsze-kiang valley. Russia's refusal to evacuate Manchuria and her movements in Corea led to war with Japan in 1903, the defeat of the Russian armies in Manchuria, the destruction of the Russian fleet, and the fall of Port Arthur (1905), China being nominally neutral. By the peace (1905) Japan secured dominance in Corea, the Russian leases in Liao-tung, and great influence in southern Manchuria and on China generally.
A series of far-reaching reforms, promoted by a nationalist reform party in 1898, were summarily cancelled by the dowager empress, who assumed supreme authority; and the reactionary and antiforeign 'Boxer' association (more accurately 'The Fist of Righteous Harmony'), encouraged by the court, made extermination of the foreigners its war-cry and besieged the foreign legations in Peking, relieved after a two months' siege by an international army of Japanese, Russians, British, Americans, French, and Germans.
Many Chinese have sought a livelihood abroad, especially in California, British Columbia, the Straits Settlements and Eastern Archipelago, and Australia. More than half the population of Singapore is Chinese; there are 200,000 Chinese in Java, 90,000 in the United States, 36,000 in Australia, and 17,000 in Canada. From 1855 onwards the immigration of Chinese into the United States increased, in 1882 it was checked, and in 1888 practically prohibited. Australia and Canada also restrict Chinese immigration. The admission of Chinese coolies to work in South African mines was, spite of keen opposition, sanctioned under special arrangements, and in 1904-5 some 47,000 established themselves.
The Chinese people are the result of a fusion of various invading Mongolian tribes, from B.C. 3000 to 700 a.d., with the aborigines of various stocks; the Manchu dynasty has ruled since 1644. Three types may still be recognised in China - a northern Manchu-Corean, a central and nearly pure Chinese, and a southern with Malayan and other admixtures. The Chinese language is monosyllabic, the words being indeclinable and wholly uninflected. It is written by means of some 73,000 characters, each of which is the symbol of an idea. The spoken language differs greatly in different parts of the country, though the written language is everywhere the same.
See works on China by Davis (1857), Williamson (1870), Gray (1877), Wells Williams (1883), Richt-hofen (German, 1885), Boulger (1884 and 1893), Douglas (1887-1900), Simon (1887), Gundry (1893), Curzon (1894), Colquhoun (1898), Krausse (1898), Scidmore(1900), Little(1899-1902), Parker(1901-3).