How did the geography of China affect the development of early civilization there?
China has a very diverse geographical landscape and this impacted ancient civilization considerably. To the southwest are the towering Himalaya Mountains, whereas the Kunlun and Tien Shan ranges are located on the western border of China. China hosts two deserts: the Taklamakan, which is the world’s second largest desert and is famous for poisonous snakes, sandstorms, and extreme temperatures; and the Gobi Desert, which is characteristically cold and located in the north, stretching to the east. To the east of China is the Pacific Ocean.
Chinese civilization started in the valleys of the Yellow River and the Yangtze River because of the fertile silt deposits there that facilitated agriculture and subsequently led to the rise of dynasties. The rivers were also critical for transportation. However, this diverse geography isolated China from the rest of the world because there was no channel to communicate, interact, and exchange ideas. The geography also isolated the people who lived in different parts of China, leading them to develop their own distinct cultures and dialect.
The early Chinese civilization centered almost entirely around the Yellow River valley as it was a fertile region conveniently accessed by travel on the river and without many geographical barriers. Because of this, it quickly grew and expanded until it filled most of the valley and developed a strong civilization. Along with this valley, the eastern regions of China were able to develop stronger, more permanent civilizations thanks to fertile farmland, unlike more nomadic civilizations to the West in areas that were more arid and difficult to survive in.
The Han people coagulated into a distinct group in what is often referred to as the Chinese Plain, an area of eastern China that included the Yellow River Delta. The agrarian economy was bolstered by internal and then external trade as they expanded their ship-building capacity. Their interactions with the more nomadic cultures to the West helped to build strong trade routes that allowed for trade to expand even further.
The geography of China impacted the development of early civilizations in China. The best areas to settle were in the areas near the Yangtze River and the Yellow River. These areas were very fertile, which helped provide ample food for the people living there. There also was plenty of fresh water. Additionally, the rivers served as a form of transportation. These factors encouraged settlements to form in these regions.
Other regions of China were far less desirable for settlement and tended to serve as a buffer for China. The Himalaya Mountains, which are the highest mountains in the world, were not a good place to settle. The desert regions of China, including the Gobi Desert and the Taklamakan Desert, were also not easy places to settle. As a result, most of China’s settlements were found in the areas near the Yellow River and the Yangtze River.
The early Chinese civilization was located between two main rivers, the Yangtze River and the Hung He River, because unlike most of China, the plain between the two rivers is fertile, allowing the people to grow rice and other crops. The rivers provided water for daily life, and, near the Yangtze, the water from mountain run off allowed people to grow rice. The nomads in the northern grasslands became the Mongols and did not develop the sedentary lifestyle of the people who settled on the plain between the rivers. In addition, China was surrounded to the west by mountains and deserts. These geographical features kept China isolated from the rest of the world, allowing its civilization to flourish in isolation from Europe and the rest of the world until the development of the Silk Road.