China Guide - China Geography - China Circulation Travel Service

China Geography

Located in the east of the Asian continent, on the western shore of the Pacific Ocean, the People's Republic of China has a land area of about 9.6 million square kilometers, and is the third largest country in the world, next only to Russia and Canada.

China sea From north to south, the territory of China spans over 49 latitudes, stretching from the center of the Heilongjiang River north of the town of Mohe to the Zengmu Reef at the southernmost tip of the Nansha. From east to west, the nation extends from the confluence of the Heilongjiang and Wusuli rivers to the Pamirs.

China's coastline measures approximately 32,000 kilometers, with a flat topography, and many excellent docks and harbors, most of which are ice-free all year round. The Chinese mainland is flanked to the east and south by the Bohai, Yellow, East China and South China seas, with a total maritime area of 4.73 million square kilometers. The BohaiSea is China's continental sea, while the Yellow, East China and South China seas are marginal seas of the Pacific Ocean.

TaiwanIsland A total of 5,400 islands dot China's territorial seas. The largest of these, with an area of about 36,000 square kilometers, is Taiwan, followed by Hainan with an area of 34,000 square kilometers. The Diaoyu and Chiwei islands, located to the northeast of TaiwanIsland, are China's easternmost islands.

China Mountain China has many mountains, with mountainous areas (traditionally consisting of mountains, hills and rugged plateaus) making up 65% of its total land area. The proportion of various landforms is as follows: Mountains, 33%; plateaus, 26%; basins, 19%; plains, 12%; and hills, 10%.

China has a terraced terrain, which gradually descends from the west to the east step by step. The first, or the highest, terrace is the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, with an average elevation of more than 4,000 meters and known as "the roof of the world". The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is composed of rows of snow-capped peaks and glaciers. The major mountain ranges are the Kunlun, Gangdise and Himalayas.

Terraced Terrain The second step consists of the Inner Mongolia, Loess and Yunnan-Guizhou plateaus, and the Tarim, Junggar and Sichuan basins, on an altitude of 1,000-2,000 meters.

The third step, about 500-1,000 meters in elevation, begins at the line from the Greater Hinggan, Taihang, Wushan and Xuefeng mountain ranges eastward to the seacoast. Here, running from north to south are the Northeast Plain, the North China Plain, and the Middle-Lower Yangtze Plain. Interspersed amongst the plains are hills and foothills.

To the east of the third step the shallow waters of the continental shelf, an extension of the land into the ocean, form the fourth step. The depth of the water here is less than 200 meters. Great quantities of mud and sand have been carried here by the rivers on the mainland.


Five Mountain Ranges

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China is world-known for its abundance of mountains. Its mountain ranges can be divided into five basic categories according to the directions in which they run:

1. West-to-east mountain ranges, including the Tianshan-Yinshan-Yanshan mountain system, the Kunlun-Qinling-Dabie mountain system, and the Nanling mountain system; 2. North-to-south mountain ranges, including the Helan, Liupan, and Hengduan mountain ranges;

2. North-to-south mountain ranges, including the Helan, Liupan, and Hengduan mountain ranges;

3. Northeast-to-southwest mountain ranges, including the Changbai, Greater Hinggan, Taihang, and Wushan ranges;

4. Northwest-to-southeast mountain ranges, including the Altay, Qilian and Gangdise ranges;

5. Arc-shaped mountain ranges, including the Himalayas and TaiwanMountains

Silk Road The Hexi Corridor, located between QilianMountain and BeishanMountain, is topographically a basin in the north of GansuProvince in western China. It got the name for its low topography, narrow shape and its location in the west of the Yellow River. The Hexi Corridor stretches 1,200 kilometers, including areas of mountains, Gobi and oases. The ancient Silk Road began at the magnificent capital city of Chang'an (today's Xi'an); the route took traders westwards into Gansu Province through Lanzhou, Tianshui, Zhangye, Jiuquan along the Hexi Corridor, whose west end is Dunhuang. Out of the Hexi Corridor, the ancient Silk Road stretched into the Tarim basin, via which it finally reached Europe.

Yellow River The Liaoxi Corridor, lying on the southwest of Liaoning Province in Northeast China, is a long and narrow plain along the BohaiSea. Its width varies from two kilometers to dozen kilometers. In ancient times, it was the main land routeway connecting northeast areas and the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River.The Taiwan Straits, nicknamed the Sea Corridor, is an important watercourse connecting East China Sea and South China Sea. Most notably, the Penghu islands of the Straits are the strategic point of the sea route. Records have it that the famous navigator Zhenhe once relaxed on the Penghu islands on his expedition to the West Sea (present-day the South Sea, or the Southeast Asia).


Four Major Plateaus

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Qinghai-Tibet Plateau The four major plateaus of China are the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the Inner Mongolia Plateau, the Loess Plateau and the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau.

Situated in southwest China, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is the largest plateau in China, covering 2.5 million square kilometers, or nearly a quarter of the national total land area. With an elevation averaging between 4,000 and 5,000 meters, it is the highest plateau on earth, and is known as the "roof of the world". Inner Mongolia Plateau The HimalayanMountain is located in southern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and its highest peak, MountQomolangma (or Mount Everest) is 8,848.13 meters above sea level. It is the highest peak in the world. Surrounded and traversed by several mountain ranges, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is where many of China's major rivers originate. Boasting over 1,000 lakes, it is also a plateau with the most lakes worldwide, including the QinghaiLake -- China's largest saltwater lake.

Loess Plateau The second largest plateau in China, the Inner Mongolia Plateau, lies between 1,000 and 2,000 meters above sea level in north China. It has a gentle rolling terrain and vast grasslands, with some parts covered with uninhabited Gobi and deserts.

Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau The Loess Plateau is surrounded by the TaihangMountains on the west, the QilianMountains on the east, the Great Wall on the south and the QinlingMountains on the north. It covers 580,000 square kilometers and lies 1,000 to 2,000 meters above sea level. Crisscrossed with ravines and gullies, it has fragmented landforms due to long-term scouring of rainfall and streams.

Covering east YunnanProvince and most parts of GuizhouProvince, the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau has an elevation of 1,000 to 2,000 meters. It has a terrain that descends from northwest to southeast and is covered with numerous mountain ridges, valleys and rugged landforms. The famous Huangguoshu Waterfall, largest in China, is on the plateau.


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