A map of China, showing highland and lowland areas and vegetationThe third largest country in the world by area after Russia and Canada, the People's Republic of China is home to more people than any other country: about 19% of the world’s population. One of the world’s earliest civilizations grew up here, on the banks of the Huang He (Yellow River) more than 7000 years ago. Today, China is one of the world’s major powers, and its economy is one of the globe's largest. China’s landscapes range from mountain to plain, forest to desert, and empty wilderness to great city. The north is cold and snowy in winter, while farther south, temperatures are hot all year round.
Western China features high mountains and the great basins of China—the Tarim, Dzungaria and Qaidam—where some of the driest deserts on Earth, including the Gobi and Taklamakan, are found. The largest, the Taklamakan, remains virtually unexplored even today. Western China is sparsely inhabited. Those who do live there belong mainly to Mongol, Turkic or Tibetan ethnic groups.
Tea drinking originated in China, probably during the Shang dynasty (c.1600–c.1100 BC). According to tradition, tea is one of the seven necessities of life, along with firewood, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce and vinegar.
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