192-Part Guide To The World: China

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The Independent Travel

Official Name

Official Name

People's Republic of China.

Language

Mandarin Chinese, based on the Beijing dialect, is the official language, but other Chinese dialects such as Cantonese and Shanghainese are spoken by upwards of a hundred million people.

Population

1.2 billion, making this the most populous country on Earth, ever.

Size

3.7 million square miles (9.5 million sq km), or 290 times bigger than Belgium.

National Dish

Chinese cuisine is the most varied and sophisticated on Earth, and it makes no sense to talk of a national dish. The staples are, however, a fundamental part of Chinese life: in the south rice, in the north wheat, everywhere tea.

Best Monument

Of the two candidates, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China, I plump for the former on the grounds of its better state of preservation. For 500 years, until 1911, it was the palace of the emperors of China; today its front gate is adorned with Communist slogans and a painting of Chairman Mao.

Most Famous Citizen

The founder of the People's Republic, Mao Zedong - though I wouldn't bank on his embalmed corpse still being in Tiananmen Square at the end of the 21st century.

Best Moment in History

The death of the aforementioned Chairman in 1976 signalled the beginning of the end of one of the most terrifying social experiments in human history, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

Worst Moment in History

If you thought the Cultural Revolution was bad, how about the 19th-century "Taiping rebellion", the bloodiest civil war in the history of the world, in which 20 million may have died?

Essential Accessory

Strong elbows and nerves of steel. And that's just to get on a bus.

What not to do

Claim sovereignty over Hong Kong, especially if you are British.

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