China the People's Republic of China, is a country in East Asia and the world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.404 billion. Covering 9,600,000 square kilometers, it is the third- or fourth-largest country by total area. Governed by the Communist Party of China, the state exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities, the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau. China emerged as one of the world's earliest civilizations, in the fertile basin of the Yellow River in the North China Plain. For millennia, China's political system was based on hereditary monarchies, or dynasties, beginning with the semi-legendary Xia dynasty in 21st century BCE. Since China has expanded, re-unified numerous times. In the 3rd century BCE, the Qin established the first Chinese empire; the succeeding Han dynasty, which ruled from 206 BC until 220 AD, saw some of the most advanced technology at that time, including papermaking and the compass, along with agricultural and medical improvements.
The invention of gunpowder and movable type in the Tang dynasty and Northern Song completed the Four Great Inventions. Tang culture spread in Asia, as the new Silk Route brought traders to as far as Mesopotamia and Horn of Africa. Dynastic rule ended in 1912 with the Xinhai Revolution; the Chinese Civil War resulted in a division of territory in 1949, when the Communist Party of China established the People's Republic of China, a unitary one-party sovereign state on Mainland China, while the Kuomintang-led government retreated to the island of Taiwan. The political status of Taiwan remains disputed. Since the introduction of economic reforms in 1978, China's economy has been one of the world's fastest-growing with annual growth rates above 6 percent. According to the World Bank, China's GDP grew from $150 billion in 1978 to $12.24 trillion by 2017. Since 2010, China has been the world's second-largest economy by nominal GDP and since 2014, the largest economy in the world by purchasing power parity.
China is the world's largest exporter and second-largest importer of goods. China is a recognized nuclear weapons state and has the world's largest standing army and second-largest defense budget; the PRC is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council as it replaced the ROC in 1971, as well as an active global partner of ASEAN Plus mechanism. China is a leading member of numerous formal and informal multilateral organizations, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, WTO, APEC, BRICS, the BCIM, the G20. In recent times, scholars have argued that it will soon be a world superpower, rivaling the United States; the word "China" has been used in English since the 16th century. It is not a word used by the Chinese themselves, it has been traced through Portuguese and Persian back to the Sanskrit word Cīna, used in ancient India."China" appears in Richard Eden's 1555 translation of the 1516 journal of the Portuguese explorer Duarte Barbosa. Barbosa's usage was derived from Persian Chīn, in turn derived from Sanskrit Cīna.
Cīna was first used including the Mahābhārata and the Laws of Manu. In 1655, Martino Martini suggested that the word China is derived from the name of the Qin dynasty. Although this derivation is still given in various sources, it is complicated by the fact that the Sanskrit word appears in pre-Qin literature; the word may have referred to a state such as Yelang. The meaning transferred to China as a whole; the origin of the Sanskrit word is still a matter of debate, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The official name of the modern state is the "People's Republic of China"; the shorter form is "China" Zhōngguó, from zhōng and guó, a term which developed under the Western Zhou dynasty in reference to its royal demesne. It was applied to the area around Luoyi during the Eastern Zhou and to China's Central Plain before being used as an occasional synonym for the state under the Qing, it was used as a cultural concept to distinguish the Huaxia people from perceived "barbarians". The name Zhongguo is translated as "Middle Kingdom" in English.
Archaeological evidence suggests that early hominids inhabited China between 2.24 million and 250,000 years ago. The hominid fossils of Peking Man, a Homo erectus who used fire, were discovered in a cave at Zhoukoudian near Beijing; the fossilized teeth of Homo sapiens have been discovered in Fuyan Cave in Hunan. Chinese proto-writing existed in Jiahu around 7000 BCE, Damaidi around 6000 BCE, Dadiwan from 5800–5400 BCE, Banpo dating from the 5th millennium BCE; some scholars have suggested. According to Chinese tradition, the first dynasty was the Xia, which emerged around 2100 BCE; the dynasty was considered mythical by historians until scientific excavations found early Bronze Age sites at Erlitou, Henan in 1959. It remains unclear whether these sites are the remains of the Xia dynasty or of another culture from the same period; the succeeding Shang dynasty is the earliest to be confirmed by contemporary records. The Shang ruled the plain of the Yellow River in eastern China from the 17th to the 11th century BCE.
Their oracle bone script
Sumatra is a large island in western Indonesia, part of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island, located in Indonesia and the sixth-largest island in the world at 473,481 km2. Sumatra is an elongated landmass spanning a diagonal northwest-southeast axis; the Indian Ocean borders the west and southwest coasts of Sumatra with the island chain of Simeulue and Mentawai off the western coast. In the northeast the narrow Strait of Malacca separates the island from the Malay Peninsula, an extension of the Eurasian continent. In the southeast the narrow Sunda Strait separates Sumatra from Java; the northern tip of Sumatra borders the Andaman Islands, while off the southeastern coast lie the islands of Bangka and Belitung, Karimata Strait and the Java Sea. The Bukit Barisan mountains, which contain several active volcanoes, form the backbone of the island, while the northeastern area contains large plains and lowlands with swamps, mangrove forest and complex river systems; the equator crosses the island at its center in West Riau provinces.
The climate of the island is tropical and humid. Lush tropical rain forest once dominated the landscape. Sumatra has a wide range of plant and animal species but has lost 50% of its tropical rainforest in the last 35 years. Many species are now critically endangered, such as the Sumatran ground cuckoo, the Sumatran tiger, the Sumatran elephant, the Sumatran rhinoceros, the Sumatran orangutan. Deforestation on the island has resulted in serious seasonal smoke haze over neighbouring countries, such as the 2013 Southeast Asian haze causing considerable tensions between Indonesia and affected countries Malaysia and Singapore. Sumatra was known in ancient times by the Sanskrit names of Swarnadwīpa and Swarnabhūmi, because of the gold deposits in the island's highlands; the first mention of the name of Sumatra was in the name of Srivijayan Haji Sumatrabhumi, who sent an envoy to China in 1017. Arab geographers referred to the island as Lamri in the tenth through thirteenth centuries, in reference to a kingdom near modern-day Banda Aceh, the first landfall for traders.
The island is known by other names namely, Andalas or Percha Island. Late in the 14th century the name Sumatra became popular in reference to the kingdom of Samudra Pasai, a rising power until replaced by the Sultanate of Aceh. Sultan Alauddin Shah of Aceh, in letters addressed to Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1602, referred to himself as "king of Aceh and Samudra"; the word itself is from Sanskrit "Samudra", meaning "gathering together of waters, sea or ocean". Marco Polo named the kingdom Samara or Samarcha in the late 13th century, while the 14th century traveller Odoric of Pordenone used Sumoltra for Samudra. Subsequent European writers used similar forms of the name for the entire island. European writers in the 19th century found that the indigenous inhabitants did not have a name for the island; the Melayu Kingdom was absorbed by Srivijaya. Srivijayan influence waned in the 11th century after it was defeated by the Chola Empire of southern India. At the same time, Islam made its way to Sumatra through Arabs and Indian traders in the 6th and 7th centuries AD.
By the late 13th century, the monarch of the Samudra kingdom had converted to Islam. Marco Polo visited the island in 1292. Ibn Battuta visited with the sultan for 15 days, noting the city of Samudra was "a fine, big city with wooden walls and towers," and another 2 months on his return journey. Samudra was succeeded by the powerful Aceh Sultanate. With the coming of the Dutch, the many Sumatran princely states fell under their control. Aceh, in the north, was the major obstacle, as the Dutch were involved in the long and costly Aceh War; the Free Aceh Movement fought against Indonesian government forces in the Aceh Insurgency from 1976 to 2005. Security crackdowns in 2001 and 2002 resulted in several thousand civilian deaths; the longest axis of the island runs 1,790 km northwest–southeast, crossing the equator near the centre. At its widest point, the island spans 435 km; the interior of the island is dominated by two geographical regions: the Barisan Mountains in the west and swampy plains in the east.
Sumatra is the closest Indonesian island to mainland Asia. To the southeast is Java, separated by the Sunda Strait. To the north is the Malay Peninsula, separated by the Strait of Malacca. To the east is Borneo, across the Karimata Strait. West of the island is the Indian Ocean; the Great Sumatran fault, the Sunda megathrust, run the entire length of the island along its west coast. On 26 December 2004, the western coast and islands of Sumatra Aceh province, were struck by a tsunami following the Indian Ocean earthquake; this was the longest earthquake recorded, lasting between 600 seconds. More than 170,000 Indonesians were killed in Aceh. Other recent earthquakes to strike Sumatra include the 2005 Nias–Simeulue earthquake and the 2010 Mentawai earthquake and tsunami. To the east, big rivers carry silt from the mountains, forming the vast lowland interspersed by swamps. If unsuitable for farming, the area is of great economic importance for Indonesia, it produces oil from both above and below the soil -- petroleum.
Sumatra is the largest producer of Indonesian coffee. Small-holders grow Arabica coffee in the highlands, while Rob
The Ming dynasty was the ruling dynasty of China – known as the Great Ming Empire – for 276 years following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Ming dynasty was the last imperial dynasty in China ruled by ethnic Han Chinese. Although the primary capital of Beijing fell in 1644 to a rebellion led by Li Zicheng, regimes loyal to the Ming throne – collectively called the Southern Ming – survived until 1683; the Hongwu Emperor attempted to create a society of self-sufficient rural communities ordered in a rigid, immobile system that would guarantee and support a permanent class of soldiers for his dynasty: the empire's standing army exceeded one million troops and the navy's dockyards in Nanjing were the largest in the world. He took great care breaking the power of the court eunuchs and unrelated magnates, enfeoffing his many sons throughout China and attempting to guide these princes through the Huang-Ming Zuxun, a set of published dynastic instructions; this failed when his teenage successor, the Jianwen Emperor, attempted to curtail his uncles' power, prompting the Jingnan Campaign, an uprising that placed the Prince of Yan upon the throne as the Yongle Emperor in 1402.
The Yongle Emperor established Yan as a secondary capital and renamed it Beijing, constructed the Forbidden City, restored the Grand Canal and the primacy of the imperial examinations in official appointments. He rewarded his eunuch supporters and employed them as a counterweight against the Confucian scholar-bureaucrats. One, Zheng He, led seven enormous voyages of exploration into the Indian Ocean as far as Arabia and the eastern coasts of Africa; the rise of new emperors and new factions diminished such extravagances. The imperial navy was allowed to fall into disrepair while forced labor constructed the Liaodong palisade and connected and fortified the Great Wall of China into its modern form. Wide-ranging censuses of the entire empire were conducted decennially, but the desire to avoid labor and taxes and the difficulty of storing and reviewing the enormous archives at Nanjing hampered accurate figures. Estimates for the late-Ming population vary from 160 to 200 million, but necessary revenues were squeezed out of smaller and smaller numbers of farmers as more disappeared from the official records or "donated" their lands to tax-exempt eunuchs or temples.
Haijin laws intended to protect the coasts from "Japanese" pirates instead turned many into smugglers and pirates themselves. By the 16th century, the expansion of European trade – albeit restricted to islands near Guangzhou like Macau – spread the Columbian Exchange of crops and animals into China, introducing chili peppers to Sichuan cuisine and productive corn and potatoes, which diminished famines and spurred population growth; the growth of Portuguese and Dutch trade created new demand for Chinese products and produced a massive influx of Japanese and American silver. This abundance of specie remonetized the Ming economy, whose paper money had suffered repeated hyperinflation and was no longer trusted. While traditional Confucians opposed such a prominent role for commerce and the newly rich it created, the heterodoxy introduced by Wang Yangming permitted a more accommodating attitude. Zhang Juzheng's successful reforms proved devastating when a slowdown in agriculture produced by the Little Ice Age joined changes in Japanese and Spanish policy that cut off the supply of silver now necessary for farmers to be able to pay their taxes.
Combined with crop failure and epidemic, the dynasty collapsed before the rebel leader Li Zicheng, defeated by the Manchu-led Eight Banner armies who founded the Qing dynasty. The Mongol-led Yuan dynasty ruled before the establishment of the Ming dynasty. Explanations for the demise of the Yuan include institutionalized ethnic discrimination against Han Chinese that stirred resentment and rebellion, overtaxation of areas hard-hit by inflation, massive flooding of the Yellow River as a result of the abandonment of irrigation projects. Agriculture and the economy were in shambles, rebellion broke out among the hundreds of thousands of peasants called upon to work on repairing the dykes of the Yellow River. A number of Han Chinese groups revolted, including the Red Turbans in 1351; the Red Turbans were affiliated with a Buddhist secret society. Zhu Yuanzhang was a penniless peasant and Buddhist monk who joined the Red Turbans in 1352. In 1356, Zhu's rebel force captured the city of Nanjing, which he would establish as the capital of the Ming dynasty.
With the Yuan dynasty crumbling, competing rebel groups began fighting for control of the country and thus the right to establish a new dynasty. In 1363, Zhu Yuanzhang eliminated his archrival and leader of the rebel Han faction, Chen Youliang, in the Battle of Lake Poyang, arguably the largest naval battle in history. Known for its ambitious use of fire ships, Zhu's force of 200,000 Ming sailors were able to defeat a Han rebel force over triple their size, claimed to be 650,000-strong; the victory destroyed the last opposing rebel faction, leaving Zhu Yuanzhang in uncontested control of the bountiful Yangtze River Valley and cementing his power in the south. After the dynastic head of the Red Turbans suspiciously died in 1367 while a guest of Zhu, there was no one left, remotely capable of contesting his march to the throne, he made his imperial ambitions known by sending an army toward the Yuan capital Dadu in 1368; the las
Capture of Malacca (1511)
The Capture of Malacca in 1511 occurred when the governor of Portuguese India Afonso de Albuquerque conquered the city of Malacca in 1511. The port city of Malacca controlled the narrow, strategic Strait of Malacca, through which all seagoing trade between China and India was concentrated; the capture of Malacca was the result of a plan by King Manuel I of Portugal, who since 1505 had intended to beat the Castillians to the Far-East, Albuquerque's own project of establishing firm foundations for Portuguese India, alongside Hormuz and Aden, to control trade and thwart Muslim shipping in the Indian Ocean. Having set sail from Cochin in April 1511, the expedition would not have been able to turn around due to contrary monsoon winds. Had the enterprise failed, the Portuguese could not hope for reinforcements and would have been unable to return to their bases in India, it was the farthest territorial conquest in the history of mankind until then. The first Portuguese references to Malacca appear after Vasco da Gama's return from his expedition to Calicut that opened a direct route to India around the Cape of Good Hope.
It was described as a city, 40 days' journey from India, where clove, nutmeg and silks were sold, was ruled by a sovereign who could gather 10,000 men for war and was Christian. Since King Manuel had showed an interest in making contact with Malacca, believing it to be at, or at least close to, the antimeridian of Tordesillas. In 1505 Dom Francisco de Almeida was dispatched by King Manuel I of Portugal as the first Viceroy of Portuguese India, tasked to, among other things, discover its precise location. De Almeida, unable to dedicate resources to the enterprise, sent only two undercover Portuguese envoys in August 1506, Francisco Pereira and Estevão de Vilhena, aboard a Muslim merchant's ship; the mission was aborted once they were detected and nearly lynched on the Coromandel Coast, narrowly making it back to Cochin by November. Founded in the beginning of the 15th century, through Malacca passed all trade between China and India; as a result of its ideal position, the city harboured many communities of merchants which included Arabians, Turks, Birmanese, Siamese and Lusong, the four most influential being the Muslim Gujaratis and Javanese, Hindus from the Coromandel Coast, Chinese.
According to the Portuguese apothecary Tomé Pires, who lived in Malacca between 1512 and 1514, as many as 84 dialects were spoken in Malacca. The Portuguese factor Rui de Araújo said it had 10,000 homes, with an estimated population of at least 40,000; the city however was built on swampy grounds and surrounded by inhospitable tropical forest, needed to import everything for its sustenance, such as vital rice, supplied by the Javanese. Malacca kept a group of captured cannibals from New Guinea to whom were fed the perpetrators of serious crimes. According to Brás de Albuquerque, the son of Afonso de Albuquerque: The Kingdom of Malacca is confined on one part by the Kingdom of Kedah and on the other by the Kingdom of Pahang and is 100 leagues long in coastline and 10 leagues into the land to a mountain range which it parted with the Kingdom of Siam. All this land was once subject to the Kingdom of Siam until about ninety years prior Unimpressed with Almeida's lack of results, in April 1508, King Manuel decided to dispatch a fleet directly to Malacca, composed of four ships under the command of Diogo Lopes de Sequeira, tasked with charting Madagascar and gathering information on the Chinese.
Sequeira received royal orders instructing him to obtain permission to open a trading post and trade diplomatically, not to respond to any provocations and not to open fire unless fired upon. By April 1509 the fleet was in Cochin and the Viceroy, Dom Francisco de Almeida, incorporated another carrack in the fleet to strengthen it; the decision was not innocent, as aboard traveled several supporters of Almeida's political rival, Afonso de Albuquerque. Among its crewmen was Ferdinand Magellan; the expedition arrived in Malacca in September 1509 and Sequeira sought to contact the Chinese merchants in the harbor. They invited him aboard one of their trade junks and received him well for dinner and arranged him a meeting with Sultan Mahmud; the Sultan promptly granted the Portuguese authorization to establish a feitoria and provided a vacant building for that purpose. Wary of the threat that the Portuguese posed to their interests, the powerful merchant communities of Muslim Gujaratis and Javanese convinced Sultan Mahmud and the Bendahara to betray and capture the Portuguese.
De Sequeira in the meantime was so convinced of the Sultan's amiability that he disregarded the information that Duarte Fernandes, a New Christian who spoke Parsi, obtained from a Persian innkeeper word about the ongoing preparations to destroy the fleet, confirmed by the Chinese merchants. He was playing chess aboard his flagship when the Malayan fleet, disguised as merchants, ambushed the Portuguese ships; the Portuguese repelled every boarding attempt, but faced with the sheer number of Malayan ships and unable to land any forces to rescue those Portuguese who had stayed in the feitoria, de Sequeira made the decision to sail back to India before the monsoon started and left them stranded in Southeast Asia. Before departing he sent a message to the Sultan and the bendahara in the form of two captives each with an arrow through his skull as a testimony to what would happen to them should any harm come to the 20 Portuguese left behind, who surrendered. Upon reaching Travancore in April, Sequeira heard that Afonso de Albuquerque had succeeded Dom Francisco de Almeida as Governor of Portuguese I
Malacca dubbed "The Historic State", is a state in Malaysia located in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula, next to the Strait of Malacca. The state is bordered by Negeri Sembilan to Johor to the south; the exclave of Cape Rachado borders Negeri Sembilan to the north. Its capital is Malacca City, 148 kilometres south east of Malaysia's capital city Kuala Lumpur, 235 kilometres north west of Johor's largest city Johor Bahru, 95 km north west of Johor's second largest city, Batu Pahat; this historical city centre has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 7 July 2008. Although it was the location of one of the earliest Malay sultanates, the local monarchy was abolished when the Portuguese conquered it in 1511; the head of state is Governor, rather than a Sultan. Various ethnic customs and traditions blended in Malacca. Peaceful life of the people of Malacca races due to the life that gave birth to the Malay, Indian and Nyonya, Portuguese and Eurasian. Before the arrival of the first Sultan, Malacca was a fishing village inhabited by local inhabitants known as Orang Laut.
Malacca was founded by Parameswara known as Iskandar Shah. He found his way to Malacca around 1402 where he found a good port—it was accessible in all seasons and on the strategically located narrowest point of the Malacca Straits. According to a popular legend, Parameswara was resting under a tree near a river during a hunt, when one of his dogs cornered a mouse deer. In self-defence, the mouse deer pushed the dog into the river. Impressed by the courage of the deer, taking it as a propitious omen of the weak overcoming the powerful, Parameswara decided and there to found an empire on that spot, he named it the Malacca tree. In collaboration with allies from the sea-people, the wandering proto-Malay privateers of the Straits, he established Malacca as an international port by compelling passing ships to call there, establishing fair and reliable facilities for warehousing and trade. In Malacca during the early 15th century, Ming China sought to develop a commercial hub and a base of operation for their treasure voyages into the Indian Ocean.
Malacca had been a insignificant region, not qualifying as a polity prior to the voyages according to both Ma Huan and Fei Xin, was a vassal region of Siam. In 1405, the Ming court dispatched Admiral Zheng He with a stone tablet enfeoffing the Western Mountain of Malacca as well as an imperial order elevating the status of the port to a country; the Chinese established a government depot as a fortified cantonment for their soldiers. Ma Huan reported; the rulers of Malacca, such as Parameswara in 1411, would pay tribute to the Chinese emperor in person. In 1431, when a Malaccan representative complained that Siam was obstructing tribute missions to the Ming court, the Xuande Emperor dispatched Zheng He carrying a threatening message for the Siamese king saying "You, king should respect my orders, develop good relations with your neighbours and instruct your subordinates and not act recklessly or aggressively."Because of its strategic location, Malacca was an important stopping point for Zheng He's fleet.
To enhance relations, Hang Li Po, according to local folklore, a daughter of the Ming Emperor of China, arrived in Malacca, accompanied by 500 attendants, to marry Sultan Manshur Shah who reigned from 1456 until 1477. Her attendants married locals and settled in Bukit Cina. "In the 9th month of the year 1481 envoys arrived with the Malacca again sent envoys to China in 1481 to inform the Chinese that, while Malaccan envoys were returning to Malacca from China in 1469, the Vietnamese attacked the Malaccans, killing some of them while castrating the young and enslaving them. The Malaccans reported that Vietnam was in control of Champa and sought to conquer Malacca, but the Malaccans did not fight back, because they did not want to fight against another state, a tributary to China without permission from the Chinese, they requested to confront the Vietnamese delegation to China, in China at the time, but the Chinese informed them since the incident was years old, they could do nothing about it, the Emperor sent a letter to the Vietnamese ruler reproaching him for the incident.
The Chinese Emperor ordered the Malaccans to raise soldiers and fight back with violent force if the Vietnamese attacked them again. In April 1511, Alfonso de Albuquerque set sail from Goa to Malacca with a force of some 1200 men and seventeen or eighteen ships, they conquered the city on 24 August 1511. After seizing the city Afonso de Albuquerque spared the Hindu and Burmese inhabitants but had the Muslim inhabitants massacred or sold into slavery, it soon became clear that Portuguese control of Malacca did not mean they controlled Asian trade centred there. Their Malaccan rule was hampered by administrative and economic difficulties. Rather than achieving their ambition of dominating Asian trade, the Portuguese had disrupted the organisation of the network; the centralised port of exchange of Asian wealth had now gone, as was a Malay state to police the Straits of Malacca that made it safe for commercial traffic. Trade was now scattered over a number of ports among bitter warfare in the Straits.
The Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier spent several months in Malacca in 1545, 1546, 1549. The Dutch launched several attacks on the Portuguese colony during
Sri Lanka the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia, located in the Indian Ocean to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal and to the southeast of the Arabian Sea. The island is geographically separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait; the legislative capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, is a suburb of the commercial capital and largest city, Colombo. Sri Lanka's documented history spans 3,000 years, with evidence of pre-historic human settlements dating back to at least 125,000 years, it has a rich cultural heritage and the first known Buddhist writings of Sri Lanka, the Pāli Canon, date back to the Fourth Buddhist council in 29 BC. Its geographic location and deep harbours made it of great strategic importance from the time of the ancient Silk Road through to the modern Maritime Silk Road. Sri Lanka was known from the beginning of British colonial rule as Ceylon. A nationalist political movement arose in the country in the early 20th century to obtain political independence, granted in 1948.
Sri Lanka's recent history has been marred by a 26-year civil war, which decisively ended when the Sri Lanka Armed Forces defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2009. The current constitution stipulates the political system as a republic and a unitary state governed by a semi-presidential system, it has had a long history of international engagement, as a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the G77, the Non-Aligned Movement. Along with the Maldives, Sri Lanka is one of only two South Asian countries rated "high" on the Human Development Index, with its HDI rating and per capita income the highest among South Asian nations; the Sri Lankan constitution accords Buddhism the "foremost place", although it does not identify it as a state religion. Buddhism is given special privileges in the Sri Lankan constitution; the island is home to many cultures and ethnicities. The majority of the population is from the Sinhalese ethnicity, while a large minority of Tamils have played an influential role in the island's history.
Moors, Malays and the indigenous Vedda are established groups on the island. In antiquity, Sri Lanka was known to travellers by a variety of names. According to the Mahavamsa, the legendary Prince Vijaya named the land Tambapanni, because his followers' hands were reddened by the red soil of the area. In Hindu mythology, such as the Ramayana, the island was referred to as Lankā; the Tamil term Eelam, was used to designate the whole island in Sangam literature. The island was known under Chola rule as Mummudi Cholamandalam. Ancient Greek geographers called it Taprobanē from the word Tambapanni; the Persians and Arabs referred to it as Sarandīb from Cerentivu or Siṃhaladvīpaḥ. Ceilão, the name given to Sri Lanka by the Portuguese Empire when it arrived in 1505, was transliterated into English as Ceylon; as a British crown colony, the island was known as Ceylon. The country is now known in Sinhala in Tamil as Ilaṅkai. In 1972, its formal name was changed to "Free and Independent Republic of Sri Lanka".
In 1978 it was changed to the "Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka". As the name Ceylon still appears in the names of a number of organisations, the Sri Lankan government announced in 2011 a plan to rename all those over which it has authority; the pre-history of Sri Lanka goes back 125,000 years and even as far back as 500,000 years. The era spans the Palaeolithic and early Iron Ages. Among the Paleolithic human settlements discovered in Sri Lanka, which dates back to 37,000 BP, Batadombalena and Belilena are the most important. In these caves, archaeologists have found the remains of anatomically modern humans which they have named Balangoda Man, other evidence suggesting that they may have engaged in agriculture and kept domestic dogs for driving game. One of the first written references to the island is found in the Indian epic Ramayana, which provides details of a kingdom named Lanka, created by the divine sculptor Vishwakarma for Kubera, the Lord of Wealth, it is said that Kubera was overthrown by his demon stepbrother Ravana, the powerful emperor who built a mythical flying machine named Dandu Monara.
The modern city of Wariyapola is described as Ravana's airport. Early inhabitants of Sri Lanka were ancestors of the Vedda people, an indigenous people numbering 2,500 living in modern-day Sri Lanka; the 19th-century Irish historian James Emerson Tennent theorized that Galle, a city in southern Sri Lanka, was the ancient seaport of Tarshish from which King Solomon is said to have drawn ivory and other valuables. According to the Mahāvamsa, a chronicle written in Pāḷi, the original inhabitants of Sri Lanka are the Yakshas and Nagas. Ancient cemeteries that were used before 600 BC and other signs of advanced civilisation have been discovered in Sri Lanka. Sinhalese history traditionally starts in 543 BC with the arrival of Prince Vijaya, a semi-legendary prince who sailed with 700 followers to Sri Lanka, after being expelled from Vanga Kingdom (present-day Ben