We are reading one chapter a week of Guns, Germs and Steel. This week we are on Chapter 16: How China became Chinese, which is about North America. No, just seeing if you were paying attention. It's about China.
I encourage this to be slow blogging. Post a comment any time during the week.
The next book will be Ideas: A history of thought from fire to Freud by Peter Watson, starting in a little more than a month
China is the world's most populous country (I think it's still ahead of India) with over 1 billion people. An amazing proportion of them speak either Mandarin or a closely related language - it's as if all of Europe spoke a Romance language. This is unique - all other large areas of the world have multiple languages. In this chapter Diamond traces how that happened, even though it happened long ago.
He notes that China is more homogeneous ethnically than many countries, noting that not one child in his kids' classes had all four grandparents born in the USA
He also shows that China was one of only a few places that definitely started food production on its own - although it isn't clear whether it started here first, or in the fertile crescent first, the difference in time is too short to allow the idea to have come from one place to the other.
China, like Europe, had many domesticable species, and several good crops that were suitable for agriculture. These vary from north to south and from lowland to highland, but are widely present throughout China. And the north-south barrier was less sharp here than in the Americas or Africa, partly because the distances are not as great, and partly because no desert or mountain range transects China.
He also notes that China plays a dominant role in the history of east Asia; concluding the chapter by noting that the Japanese maintain their method of writing with Chinese characters, even though it is not well suited to Japanese.
A relatively short chapter, but I hope people will have fun in the comments
In today's poll, I ask about how long your family has been in the USA .... feel free to comment about that, too.