Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
Northern China has a climate not unlike the Great Basin in Utah and
Nevada: scorchingly hot in the summer and sometimes bitterly cold in
the winter. Northern China is usually relatively dry, especially in com-
parison with the south, because there is not abundant rainfall. The
landscape is mostly dry and brown. Dry crops grow best here: barley,
millet, and wheat. There is usually only one crop a year.
Southern China
Many Westerners visualize the Chinese countryside as lush, green
rice paddies on terraced mountainsides peopled by hardworking
peasants in conical banana-leaf hats toiling away at their tasks, some-
times using a pole balanced across their shoulders to carry baskets
suspended on twines from both ends. Tea bushes and perhaps some
towering green mountains surrounded by lingering clouds complete
the picture. This image is not necessarily inaccurate or unreasonable;
there are in fact such picturesque areas in China every bit as beautiful,
if not more so, than the photographs and traditional Chinese scroll
paintings we have all seen. But we must remember that such images
pertain very much to southern China, where the climate is warm and
humid and rainfall is abundant.
The traditional demarcation between northern and southern China
is the Qinling mountain range, equivalent to the Continental Divide
in North America. The Qinling divides much of China into two great
drainage systems. Water in northern China eventually flows into the
Yellow River, whereas rivers and streams in southern China eventu-
ally flow into the Yangtze River. The Qinling range also demarcates
important climatic and ecological differences between northern and
southern China. Some areas of southern China are so warm and
receive so much rainfall that two and even three crops a year are
common. Even so, however, crops grown in southern China cannot
usually rely on rainfall alone. This is especially true of rice, which
must grow in warm climates and under constant submersion. For this
reason, rice is grown in paddies, which are essentially large, shallow
ponds with earth bottoms. The water depth in paddies must be main-
tained at a depth of a few inches all the time rice is growing. At the
beginning of the planting season, rice seedlings are inserted, often still
by hand, into flooded and prepared paddies. They then grow for a few
months until the rice stocks are mature, after which the paddy is
harvesting. After this, the paddy is prepared for the next crop.
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