Commonly known as Chung Kuo or Zhong Guo in Chinese, meaning the 'Central Kingdom', China is one of the world's oldest civilisations. Chinese religion, traditions, culture, and its distinctive writing system have influenced many neighbouring countries to varying degrees. China underwent a tumultuous twentieth-century, with the end of the dynastic system that had spanned four thousand years, the inception of a modern republic in 1911, and the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949 after a prolonged period of civil war.
Today, China has a rapidly-growing economy and, with 1.3 billion people, is the most populous country in the world. In the arts, the film industry of China is emerging; whilst much of its literature remains un-translated, Chinese writers such as Eileen Chang, Mo Yan, and Ma Jian are gaining international recognition. In addition, writer-journalists such as Liao Yiwu, Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, and eminent artist Ai Weiwei are among the chorus of voices critiquing the direction of Chinese society.
Similarly, filmmakers such as Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige and Tian Zhuangzhuang have all gained success in both art house and commercial film. Chen Kaige's film Farewell My Concubine was originally a novel written by Lilian Lee and is the only Chinese-language film to win the Cannes Palme d'Or.
Classic Chinese literature has inspired the world in many different ways, titles such as Tao Te Ching, I Ching and many more represent the fundamentals of Chinese culture and philosophy. The legacy of today's Chinese writer Gao Xingjian, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his acclaimed masterpiece Soul Mountain, ensures that Chinese literature will no longer be overlooked.