China, a country of radical transformations, has the largest population in the world (1.2 billion) and a relatively poor land. Although its land area is third in the world, after the Soviet Union and Canada, only about 15 percent of it is arable. This contrast makes per capita production and income low (about $300 per year) and presents pressures for population control. Imperial conquests, drastic political and economic transformations, and unification movements throughout history made China a big and important nation.
The early Chinese civilization, a neolithic culture characterized by the cultivation of rice, the domestication of animals, and the making of pottery, developed in the bend of the Yellow River before 3000 B.C. Monetary units in the form of metallic forks, knives, and similar instruments were used in China in ancient times.
The first emperor, as the Chinese maintain, was Fu Hsi, who is considered the founder of China. He was the ruler during the period about 3000 B.C. in which hunting and fishing were the main activities of survival, whereas, during the rule of Shen Nung ( 2737 B.C.) agriculture became important. However, Scuma Ch'ien, the great historian known as the "Herodotus of China," begins with Huang Ti, the "Yellow Emperor" ( 2704-2585 B.C.), as well as Yao, Shun, and Yu, as the heads of Confucius' extract and originators of wisdom and prosperity. During the Shang dynasty ( 1766-1122 B.C.) and the Chou dynasty ( 1122-255 B.C.), agricultural production and the arts flourished, while the feudal system was developed.
The Ch'in dynasty ( 255-206 B.C.) abolished the feudal system, drove the Hun Tatars back, and continued building the Great Wall for the defense and the unity of China; the Han rulers ( 202 B.C.-A.D. 220) drove further back the Tatar hordes