China is the world’s most populous country in East Asia. Its vast landscape encompasses grassland, desert, mountain ranges, lakes, rivers and 14,500km of coastline. Beijing, the capital, mixes modern architecture with historic sites including sprawling Tiananmen Square. Its largest city, Shanghai, is a skyscraper-studded global financial center. The Great Wall of China fortification runs east-west across the country's north.
Climate mainly continental monsoon climate (Tibet: vertical climate zone)
Chinese culture has been heavily influenced by Confucianism and conservative philosophies. For much of the country's dynastic era, opportunities for social advancement could be provided by high performance in the prestigious imperial examinations, which have their origins in the Han Dynasty. The literary emphasis of the exams affected the general perception of cultural refinement in China, such as the belief that calligraphy, poetry and painting were higher forms of art than dancing or drama. Chinese culture has long emphasized a sense of deep history and a largely inward-looking national perspective. Examinations and a culture of merit remain greatly valued in China today.