Explain the effects of geography on cultural development in China.

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China was geographically isolated through much of its early history. Before the Silk Road connected it to other parts of the world in about 200 BCE, the Gobi desert and certain mountain ranges (including the Himalayas) kept it separate from other societies. Few wanted to venture across such forbidding terrain.

Because the groups the early Chinese were most in contact with consisted of nomadic herders who lived very simple lives and usually could not read or write, the Chinese developed the idea that they themselves were an innately superior culture, a concept that persisted even after contact with other, more advanced civilizations.

Left by themselves because of their geography, the Chinese pooled resources and developed technologies. They developed ways to produce high-quality silk, porcelain, and paper. When the Silk Road and more contact with other civilizations occurred, the Chinese were well positioned to profit from trade and build a powerful culture. Their silk and porcelain became highly coveted by those whose own cultures lacked the technology or resources to produce such fine wares.

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Geography had a huge impact on the development of culture in China.  China has many geographical features throughout this very large country.  There are grasslands, mountains, deserts, and forests. The mountains and deserts served as barriers to cultural development.  These areas were often sparsely populated.  Life was very isolated and difficult in these regions. In these regions, people lived a nomadic lifestyle.  From these mountainous and desert regions, a powerful empire, the Mongol empire, developed. They were able to successfully operate in these regions.  The invasions by the Mongols in northern China led to the building of the Great Wall of China. In the eastern part of China where the grasslands existed, people were able to establish permanent settlements and develop civilizations.  The rivers found in China also affected the cultural development.  Many civilizations developed along these rivers. People used the rivers for transportation and trade.  Because of the varied geographical features, societies based on raising cattle and sheep developed.  Additionally, fishing based societies formed.  As a result of the varied geographical features, China developed many new ideas in science and technology.  These included improvements in silk, paper, and porcelain.  Inventions included the compass, the abacas, gunpowder, and a way to produce cast iron. The varied geographic features within China significantly impacted the country.

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