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Geography of China


Terrain shapes and bedrock

Within its area, larger than that of Europe, China exhibits a great variety of topography, from the highest point of the earth, Mount Everest, 8,848 m above sea level, to low lying areas such as the Turpand depression, 154 m uh., represented by the Tibetan High Plateau at the far west of 4,300-6,500 m above sea level, further to the east basin and lower plateaus, 1,000-2,000 m above sea level, and furthest to the east in plains and hills around 500 m..hrs.

Geography of ChinaBecause of this slope, China's major rivers will flow east. A versatile subdivision plot shows three major natural regions, significantly different from one another: a southwestern, mountainous and cold, a northwestern desert species with internal drainage and a low region to the east, built up by river deposits and dominated by monsoon winds. A number of subregions can then be distinguished in each of these main regions.

According to COUNTRYAAH, the geological development of China has proceeded as in Asia, see Asia (bedrock and soils). Smaller bedrock shields have grown into platforms as sediments have been deposited between them, and folding has occurred during different eras. Numerous mountain ranges and ridges, but also sinkholes and streams, originate from these events.

Geography of China

The southwest region includes Tibetan high plateau, which occupies a quarter of the whole of China. It is surrounded by mountain ranges with peaks of 7,000 to over 8,000 m above sea level, such as the Himalayas and the Transhimalayas in the south as well as Kunlun Shan and Qilian Shan in the north. Many large rivers originate on this plateau. The lowest part, about 2,700 meters above sea level, is the Qaidam Basin. The altitude areas of Yunnan and Guizhou in the far south-east are also included in this main region. They are characterized by, among other things, pronounced relief with canyon valleys in the west, while it is mainly karst relief in the east.

The northwestern main region of China includes large basin areas such as the Tarimba basin of 800-1000 m asl, bounded by Kunlun Shan in the south and Tian Shan in the north. Between this and Karakoram, the Pamir mountain range ("roof of the world") extends into China from the west. Desert Takla Makan occupies a large part of its bottom surface, which receives melt water from glaciers in the mountains. Another low basin is the Dzungariet with the greater part of 300-450 m above sea level. It lies north of Tian Shan, a mountain range in China that reaches over 5,000 m above sea level, with the highest point being Pik Pobedy (7,439 m above sea level) on the border with Kyrgyzstan. Between the two large streams lies the Turpand depression, 154 m above the Mongolian plateau, which includes the southernmost part of the Gobi Desert.

Finally, the eastern main region is the largest and most multifaceted and is usually divided into the following ten sub-regions:

The Manchurian plain at the far northeast, which is bounded by Mongolia by the Stora Hinggan mountain range, is an area with series of natural terraces along the Songhua and Liao He rivers, which drain off the northern and southern parts, respectively. The soil here is black, deep and fertile.

The Changbai Mountains are close to the border with North Korea and have open valleys and sharp ridges of over 1,000 meters above sea level. The highest peak in this sub-region is a volcano, Baitou, 2,744 meters above sea level.

The North China Plain is less than 45 meters above sea level. and is very flat, formed by the deposition of enormous sediment masses, which mainly Huang He brought down from the loose plateau and which amounts to 750-900 m thick.

The plateau south of the Great Wall is an area that extends down to Qin Ling and is characterized by bare mountains and loose hills. The height is 1 200-1 500 m above sea level. and the thickness of the extremely fertile ground cover is about 50 m but can reach 250 m in isolated places.

Shandong's hill area consists of granites and slates and has a fault topography with horns and gravels. The peaks reach over 1,000 m above sea level; the highest is Taiberget (1,532 m above sea level). The coast is rocky and flaky.

Qin Ling is a border between northeastern and southeastern China and consists of several parallel chains around 1,000-3,000 meters above sea level. The highest is Taibai (3,767 meters above sea level).

The Sichuan Basin, also called the Red Basin, is protected from cold winds by surrounding mountains. The slopes are often steep, which is why terraces were built in large numbers.

The plains around the middle and lower Chang Jiang is a large alluvial area with terraces and few mountains.

The southeastern mountain area, on the other hand, has ridges in the northeast - southwest direction and heights around 1,500-2,000 m above sea level. The valleys are deep cut and the coast is rocky with narrow coastal plains.

Finally, the Nanberg Mountains fill the area in the far southeast with many mountain ridges, 1,500-2,000 m above sea level, which sweep in the northeast-southwest. Here you will find the rivers Xi Jiang and Dong Jiang with a fertile participation at Guangzhou.


The western parts of China have a tundra climate in the south and cold desert climate in the north, while eastern China has a warm-tempered climate except in the far north, where it is cold-tempered. The average temperature in January varies from 22 ~ C on the southern coast and -20 to -25 ~ C on the Manchurian plain. The Christmas temperature is much more even, 29 ~ C in the south and about 20 ~ C in the north.

The amount of precipitation decreases from about 2,000 mm / year in the southeast to 1,000 in the north. Further west, it is greatly reduced and varies from year to year. It is the summer monsoon from the Pacific that provides most of the rainfall, while the winter monsoon from the north is dry and cold. Also typical of China are tropical hurricanes (taifuners), which mainly hit the coastal areas and cause great damage.

Plant-and animal life

China's vast land surface exhibits many diverse habitats and more than 50 different ecoregions have been identified. The Chinese Ministry of the Environment has identified nine land-based ecoregions and three marine areas.

Northernmost China - hilly lowland area

In northeastern China, on the border with North Korea and the Amur region of the Russian Federation, different types of deciduous and coniferous forests are spreading. These forests are among the richest temperate forests in the world. There are several mammals such as the collar bear, long-tailed goral (Nemorhaeʹdus caudaʹtus), Siberian musk deer (Moʹschus moschiʹferus), amur leopard (Pantheʹra paʹrdus orieʹntalis) and amurtiger (Pantheʹra tiʹgris altaʹica). One of the most important natural areas is the Changbai Mountains on the border with North Korea. In addition to the mammals mentioned here, living here include deer, Sikh deer, Manchurian vapiti,red deer, lo and brown bear. Here also the rare Amur crust (Meʹrgus squamaʹtus) nest. In the forests there are still good stocks of the medicinal plant ginseng.

Further north on the border with the Russian Federation is Xingkaisjön with species such as raccoon, muskrat, Steller's Sea Eagle (Haliaee'tus pela'gicus), Oriental Stork (Cico'nia boycia'na), red-crowned crane (Grus japone'nsis), white-naped crane (G. vi'pio), silk heron (Egre'tta eulopho'tes), amurand (Aythyʹa baeʹri) as well as many resting migratory birds from Siberia (for example, mountain goose, corn goose and song swan). To the north of the city of Harbin in northeastern China, there are two important nature reserves: Qixing Lazi with amur tigers and the Zhalong wetland area with a population of orientibis (Threskioʹrnis melanoceʹphalus). In the gallery forests along the rivers, the rare Blakiston fish breed (Buʹbo blakistoʹni) with limited distribution nest in northern China, the Amur region and northern Japan.

The huge river Heilong Jiang (Amur) is one of the world's most important rivers. During the monsoon rains in July - August, the water rises up to 10-15 m in the central parts of the river basin, which causes the river's width to extend over 10-25 km and flood huge areas. The river is home to a rich fish fauna with 120 native species, including the giant sturgeon fish Kaluga (Hu'so dau'ricus) and amurstör (Acipe'nser schre'nckii), as a result of overfishing is seriously threatened. Heilong Jiang is especially important for moving salmonids, including dog salmon or chum and taimen.

Central, eastern China - the plains around the Yellow River

This part of the country is among the most fertile with the Huang He (Yellow River) as a pulse vein through the fertile landscape. Almost nothing remains of the original nature. In the river delta, you will find a wide variety of birds, including nesting moths (Chroicoceʹphalus saundeʹrsi) as well as moving geese, swans, ducks and cranes. One of the animals most closely associated with the region is david deer, a species specially adapted to wetlands. After the eradication in China in 1939, the species was rescued in the UK. From there, the species was reintroduced to China in 1985 to a specially designated area on the outskirts of Beijing. Since then, the deer have been re-implanted in several places and the tribe now totals a few thousand animals.

North Central and Northwest China - Desert Region of Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang Plateau

Inner Mongolia is an area characterized by dry climate with long, cold winters and hot summers, which has given rise to steep grasslands and in some parts the desert. In the border areas between China, Mongolia and the Russian Federation - called the Daurian steppes - among others, Mongolian gazelle, Manul, Siberian marmalade (Marmoʹta sibiʹrica) and three species of cranes live: eyeglasses, maidens and monk cranes (Gruʹs monaʹcha). Large parts of Inner Mongolia are heavily cultivated with few natural areas left. One such place is Lake Ulansuhai Nur, where you will find the rare relic gull (Ichthyaeʹtus reliʹctus). A number of birds are specially adapted to the dry environment, for example, Mongol larch (Melanocoryʹpha mongoalica), rock larch, Tatar falcon, steppe eagle and greyhound.

Xinjiang is located in the westernmost part of China. The southern part is occupied by the Takla Makan Desert - China's largest desert and one of the world's largest aviation sand areas. Here the temperature can vary between -40 ~ C and +55 ~ C during the year. Precipitation often falls only every two or three years. In this inhospitable environment, the acutely endangered species live wild camel. The Xinjiang Lop Nur wild camel nature reserve has been set aside to guard the approximately 600 camels that live here along with other rare species such as the argalipa, Asian wild ewe and goby bear (Uʹrsus aʹrctos gobieʹnsis).

The Tian Shan Mountains extend 2,500 km from Kazakhstan in the west-east direction to the Mongolian border. The highest peaks reach over 7 400 m. The forests are dominated by spruce forests of the species Piʹcea schrenkiaʹna. In the forests, species such as white-backed woodpecker, three-pointed woodpecker, pearl owl, hawk owl, nut crow, but also elements of the Himalayas such as blue cap (Phoeniʹcurus caeruleoceʹphala) nest. Among the mammals are the Siberian Capricorn, Wolf and Argaly sheep, while snow leopards have an uncertain future due to persecution. However, the inaccessible landscape creates a natural protection.

Between the Tian Shan and the Altai mountains in the northeast lies the Junggar Basin with peninsula and steppes. On the steppes, an endemic species of desert rats (Merioʹnes cheʹngi) lives together with several species of birds, such as large stairs, collars and red falcons. The Kalamaili Nature Reserve has the largest population of Asian wild goats outside of Mongolia, as well as a viable population of demand gazelle (Gazeʹlla subgutturoʹsa). In the northernmost part is the Altaj mountains with good populations of snow leopards, red deer, brown bear and argalif sheep.

Southwest China - the alpine Qinghai - Tibet Plateau and the Himalayas

On the Tibetan high plateau lies the Changtang Nature Reserve, which is almost as large as the UK. Elevations exceeding 5,000 m and an extreme climate have made it impossible for agriculture and limited livestock management, which is why nature has been preserved. Here again, there is a rich fauna with chiru (Tibetan antelope), Asian wild asses, bharal, Tibetan getgasell, wild yak, black-necked crane (Grus nigrico'llis) and Rostand.

Qinghai Lake is China's largest salt lake, where, in addition to a number of bird species (such as banded eagle, rusthand, black-necked crane, virgin and striped goose), a population of Przewalski's goat's gazelle with a very limited world distribution is found. In the southeastern Qinhai Province, on the border with Tibet in the south and Sichuan in the east, the 15 million large Sanjiangyuan reserve has been deposited. Here the Tibetan high plateau turns into mountain forests with a rich flora. Within the reserve, three of Asia's most powerful rivers are rising - Chang Jiang (Yangzi), Huang He (Yellow River) and Lancang Jiang (Mekong). Here at levels below 1,500 m you will find the westernmost populations of Chinese giant salamanders, which are said to be the world's largest amphibians.

The Himalayas

The Eastern Himalayas have the world's richest alpine flora and are a center for a variety of Rhododendrons. Many different mammals thrive here such as blue sheep, taki, himalayatahr, goral, himalayaserov (Capricoʹrnis thaʹr) and snow leopard. The region is also a center for hen birds, with more than 10 species, including the Himalayan snow hen (Tetraogaʹllus himalayeʹnsis). In the mighty landscape, lambs and snowmen (Gyps himalayeʹnsis) often sail across the snow-capped mountains.

Southern, Central China - Yunnan

The region is dominated by the province of Yunnan, which borders Vietnam, Laos and Burma. In the westernmost part are rich coniferous and deciduous forests in a landscape with high mountains and deep, steep valleys where the Lancang River (Mekong) forms a central vein of life. Among the many mammals is the endemic monkey black stubble (Rhinopitheʹcus bieʹti). The Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve has a wide variety of species such as different monkeys (for example, rhesus monkeys and bear macaques), leopards, tree leopards (Neofeʹlis nebuloʹsa), gorals, Chinese antlers (Maʹnis pentadaʹctyla), sambar deer and many birds, especially different species of pheasants. The reserve of the three parallel rivers is a huge world heritage of 1.7 million ha. In southern Yunnan (for example, in the Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve), where the Chinese highlands meet tropical Indochina, Asian elephant, gaur and tiger, among others, live.

Central China - Upper Chang Jiang and Sichuan

The Qionglai - Minshan Mountains, with peaks over 7,000 m, lie on the eastern flank of the Tibet Plateau and then transition into the lower, cultivated parts of Sichuan Province. In the higher parts coniferous forests dominate and at lower levels grow up to 25 different species of bamboo. Here you will find the most important areas for giant pandas. The Wolong Sanctuary is especially famous for its pandas, but here also live many other mammals such as cat bear, collar bear, Asian wild dog, Asian golden cat, tailed deer (Elaphoʹdus cephaloʹphus) and Tibetan stubble tail macaque (Macaʹca thibetaʹna). Among the many bird species, the shimmering pheasant Chinese monal (Lophophoʹrus lhuyʹsii) and the king's pheasant (Syrmatiʹcus reeveʹsii) with extremely long tail feathers. Along the northern border between Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces lies the Qinling Mountains, which are famous for their populations of golden stubborn monkey (Rhinopitheʹcus roxellaʹna). In the northern foothills of the Shaanxi Mountains, the only remaining population of Japanese tufa is living.

Eastern, central China - the middle and lower parts of Chang Jiang

In the lower fertile areas of Chang Jiang, almost all land has been used for agriculture and other human activities. The greatest natural values are linked to the river itself and adjacent lakes, wetlands and watercourses. The Poyang Hu and Dongting Hu lakes are among the most important wintering areas in Southeast Asia for ducks, geese, swans and cranes from Siberia. Poyang Hu is perhaps most famous for its snow craps, where 98 percent of the world population, or about 3,000 birds, overwinter. In surrounding wetlands, water predators (Hydropoʹtes ineʹrmis) are found. Both lakes have a freshwater Asian porpoise (Neophocaeʹna phocaenoiʹdes), which is becoming increasingly rare in pace with the major changes in Chang Jiang in the form of, among other, dams. In the river lived until recently Asian dolphin, but it is considered extinct since 2004. The lower parts of the river adjacent to the East China Sea still harbor Chinese alligator (Alliga tor sineʹnsis).

Southeast China - Guangxi, Guangdong and Hong Kong

The lowland to the south is bounded by the Chang Jiang Basin, to the north by the Jian Nan Mountains with subtropical, evergreen forests. Here you will find several relatives of the tea bush, two species of languer and several local birds such as the cabot tragopan (Tragoʹpan caboʹti), the elliot pheasant (Syrmaʹticus ellioʹti), silver gold (Orioʹlus melliaʹnus) and Chinese pitta (Piʹtta nyʹmpha). On the island of Hainan at the farthest south, there are still monsoon rainforests, which are among the richest in China in terms of flora with 4,200 species, of which 630 are endemic. There are also several endemic forms on the animal side: a local breed of deer (Ruceʹrvus eʹldii, synonymCeʹrvus eʹldii), an endemic flycatcher, as well as the birds of the cockroaches (Phylloscoʹpus hainaʹnus) and the cockroaches (Arboroʹphila aʹrdens).

The coastline along the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea is an important site for migratory birds from the Arctic and Alaska, wintering from China all the way down to Australia and New Zealand. An estimated 50 million ducks, geese, swans and waders move each year along the "East Asian-Australasian Flyway" route. Many of the important wetlands and tidal areas have disappeared due to human activity. Among the many waders are noticed red poppy, oriente spov (Numeʹnius madagascarieʹnsis) and the endangered spoon snap (Eurynorhyʹnchus pygmeʹus). Despite extensive fishing and pollution, there are still many marine mammals, such as dugong along the Guangxi coast at the far south and larvae seals (Phoʹca laʹrgha) in the Yellow Sea. More than 10 species of dolphins occur in Chinese waters, including delta dolphin or humpback dolphin (Souʹsa chineʹnsis). However, the whales, especially the larger species, have become increasingly rare.

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