Rivers and mountains divide China into different areas. The Qinling Mountains divide China into two main parts northern China and southern China.
Both northern and southern China can be divided into smaller regions.
Among the major regions of northern China are the North China Plain, the Shandong Peninsula, and the Huang He Valley. Some of the major land regions of southern China are the Szechwan Basin, the Southeast Mountains, and the Chang Jiang Basin. A basin is a bowl-shaped area of land surrounded by higher land.
To the west of the Qinling Mountains lies the Plateau of Tibet. This plateau in southwestern China occupies about one-fourth of the whole country. The plateau's elevation ranges from about 13,000 feet (3,962 m) to 26,000 feet (7,925 m). North of the Qinling Mountains is the enormous Gobi desert. This 500,000-square-foot (46,450-sq-m) area is dry and has very few plants.
Each of China's regions has a different geography and climate. Many also have their own local culture. Each region has its own dialect, or way of speaking, the Chinese language. The dialect of one region often cannot be understood in another.
China's mountains and rivers are one reason for the great differences between regions. For centuries these mountains and rivers have separated groups of people. Without much contact from outsiders, the people of each region developed their own way of life.
How are China's regions different from each other?
The enriched sandy soil of the Huang He Valley is called loess. Loess is different from other soils because it never stops collecting and then shifting in the howling winds. Loess can build up in the Huang He, causing the river to flood. Mounds of loess in the river can even cause the river to change course, drowning people and destroying homes. Since the earliest days, people have had good reason to call the Huang He "The River of Sorrows.” However, the same destructive floods also deposit loess along the riverbanks of the Huang He. This has enriched the soil there, making it perfect for growing crops. In this way, "The River of Sorrows" makes agriculture possible in the area.