How did geography positively and negatively affect Chinese civilization?

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mrkirschner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

On the eastern side of China, geography had the same positive impact that was seen in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Two rivers, the Yangtze and Huang He allowed farming settlements to successfully cultivate the land to create large populations. The large river civilizations of China's early history faced the challenges of dangerous flooding, but engineers learned to control the river with irrigation practices. The agrarian economy was sustained by internal and then external trade, especially after they expanded their ship-building capability. This allowed the early Chinese civilizations to prosper and grow.

In the west, China has an imposing landscape that was impossible for early peoples to travel. This is because of the deserts and mountains throughout the western frontier. Small populations of nomadic warriors populated western China. A positive aspect of this scenario is that groups of people were constantly traveling and meeting others to share ideas and technologies. The strength required to live in this environment had a direct connection to the success of the Mongols later in history.

The isolation of China created by mountains and deserts had some positive effects. China was able to develop a unique culture and civilization that was not influenced by the West. The early Chinese were able to develop unique trade goods like silk and porcelain that would be hot commodities after the establishment of a trade route to Europe. The Chinese also invented the compass, gunpowder, and guns as well as a cast iron technologies. These inventions demonstrate an innate ability for Chinese to use their natural resources to improve society.