China is a cultural region, an ancient civilization, and, depending on perspective, a national or multinational entity extending over a large area in East Asia. The last Chinese Civil War has resulted in two political entities: Flag of the People's Republic of China People's Republic of China, commonly known as Communist China or simply China, has control over mainland China and the largely self-governing territories of Hong Kong and Macau. Flag of the Republic of China Republic of China, commonly known as Taiwan or Nationalist China, has control over the islands of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu. China has one of the world's oldest and continuous civilizations, consisting of states and cultures dating back more than six millennia. It has the world's longest continuously used written language system, and is the source of many major inventions, such as what the British scholar and biochemist Joseph Needham called the "four great inventions of Ancient China": paper, the compass, gunpowder, and printing. Historically, China's cultural sphere has extended across East Asia as a whole, with Chinese religion, customs, and writing systems being adopted to varying degrees by neighbors such as Japan, Korea and Vietnam. The first evidence of human presence in the region was found at the Zhoukoudian cave and is one of the first known specimens of Homo erectus, now commonly known as the Peking Man, estimated to have lived approximately from 300,000 to 550,000 years ago. Noticeably, it is also known that the Peking Man was able to control and use fire.
Chinese or the Sinitic language is a language family consisting of languages mutually unintelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the two branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages. About one-fifth of the world’s population, or over one billion people, speak some form of Chinese as their native language. The identification of the varieties of Chinese as "dialects" instead of "languages" is considered inappropriate by linguists and Sinologists. Spoken Chinese is distinguished by its high level of internal diversity, although all spoken varieties of Chinese are tonal and analytic. There are between seven and thirteen main regional groups of Chinese, of which the most spoken, by far, is Mandarin, followed by Wu, Min and Cantonese. Most of these groups are mutually unintelligible, although some, like Xiang and the Southwest Mandarin dialects, may share common terms and some degree of intelligibility. Chinese is classified as a macrolanguage with 13 sub-languages in ISO 639-3, though the identification of the varieties of Chinese as multiple "languages" or as "dialects" of a single language is a contentious issue. The standardized form of spoken Chinese is Standard Mandarin, based on the Beijing dialect, which is part of a larger group of North-Eastern and South-Western dialects, often taken as a separate language, see Mandarin Chinese for more, this language can be referred to as GuÄnhuà or BÄ›ifÄnghuà in Chinese. Standard Mandarin is the official language of the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China, as well as one of four official languages of Singapore. Chinese—de facto, Standard Mandarin—is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Of the other varieties, Standard Cantonese is common and influential in Guangdong Province and Cantonese-speaking overseas communities, and remains one of the official languages of Hong Kong and of Macau. Hokkien, part of the Min language group, is widely spoken in southern Fujian, in neighbouring Taiwan and in Southeast Asia.