China is seen variously as an ancient civilization extending over a large area in East Asia, a nation and/or a multinational state entity.
With nearly 4,000 years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest civilizations. Prior to the 19th century, it possessed one of the most advanced societies and economies in the world; but through successive dynasties it then missed the Industrial Revolution in Europe and began to decline. In the 19th and 20th century, imperialism, internal weakness and civil wars damaged the country and its economy, and led to the overthrow of Imperial era of Chinese history.
Historically, the Culture of China has extended across East Asia as a whole, with Religion in China, Custom (law), and writing systems being adopted to varying degrees by neighbors such as Japan, Korea and Vietnam. It has also one of the world's oldest Chinese writing system.
The first evidence of human presence in the region was found at the Zhoukoudian cave. It is one of the earliest known specimens of ''Homo erectus'', now commonly known as the Peking Man, estimated to have lived from 300,000 to 780,000 years ago.