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74 Interesting Facts About . . .

1. The modern word China most likely derives from the name of the Qin (pronounced chin)
dynasty. First Emperor Qin Shi Huang (260-210 B.C.) of the Qin dynasty first unified China
in 221 B.C., beginning an Imperial period which would last until A.D. 1912.k
2. China is often considered the longest continuous civilization, with some historians marking
6000 B.C. as the dawn of Chinese civilization. It also has the worlds longest continuously
used written language.c
3. China is the fourth largest country in the world (after Russia, Canada, and the U.S.). It has
an area of 3,719,275 square miles (slightly smaller than the U.S.) and its borders with other
countries total more than 117,445 miles. Approximately 5,000 islands lie off the Chinese
4. One in every five people in the world is Chinese. Chinas population is estimated to reach a
whopping 1,338,612,968 by July 2009. Chinas population is four times that of the United
5. Fortune cookies are not a traditional Chinese custom. They were invented in 1920 by a
worker in the Key Heong Noodle Factory in San Francisco.i
6. China is also known as the Flowery Kingdom and many of the fruits and flowers (such as
the orange and orchid) are now grown all over the world.i
7. Toilet paper was invented in China in the late 1300s. It was for
emperors only.m
8. The Chinese invented paper, the compass, gunpowder, and
9. The Chinese invented kites (paper birds or Aeolian harps)
Invented in China, toilet paper was
about 3,000 years ago. They were used to frighten the enemies
initially only for emperors
in battle, and Marco Polo (1254-1324) noted that kites were also
used to predict the success of a voyage. It was considered bad luck to purposely let a kite
10. Cricket fighting is a popular amusement in China. Many Chinese children keep crickets as
11. Despite its size, all of China is in one time zone.h
12. Many historians believe soccer originated in China around 1000 B.C.f
13. Ping-pong is one of the most popular games in China, but it was not invented in China. It
originated in Britain, where it is called table tennis.m

Viewed as a status symbol, stamp

14. The number one hobby in China is stamp collecting.m

collecting is Chinas number one
15. Giant Pandas (bear cat) date back two to three million years.
The early Chinese emperors kept pandas to ward off evil spirits
and natural disasters. Pandas also were considered symbols of might and bravery.i
16. White, rather than black, is the Chinese color for mourning and funerals.i
17. Though Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is credited with designing the first parachute,
Chinese alchemists successfully used man-carrying tethered kites by the fourth century
A.D. Parachutes were not used safely and effectively in Europe until the late 1700s.m
18. The custom of binding feet (euphemistically called golden lilies) began among female
entertainers and members of the Chinese court during the Song dynasty (A.D. 960-1279).
Tightly wrapped bandages gradually broke the arch of the foot and caused the womans
toes and heel to grow inward toward one another. Her leg muscles would also atrophy and
become very thin. Bound feet were seen as highly sexual.m
19. Historians speculate that as the Chinese population grew, people had to conserve cooking
fuel by chopping food into small pieces so that it could cook faster. These bite-sized foods
eliminated the need for knives and, hence, chopsticks were invented.c
20. In A.D. 130, Zhang Heng, an astronomer and literary scholar, invented the first instrument
for monitoring earthquakes. The machine could detect and indicate the direction of an
21. China invented ice cream, and Marco Polo is rumored to have
taken the recipe (along with the recipe for noodles) back with
him to Europe.i
22. A civil servant named Su Song built the first
mechanicalclock between A.D 1088 and 1092. It could tell the
time of day and also track the constellations so that accurate
The Chinese invented ice cream by
packing a milk mixture and rice into
horoscopes could be determined.c
23. On September 27, 2008, Zhai Zhigang made the first spacewalk
by a Chinese astronaut.l
24. The Chinese were the first to invent the waterwheel to harness water in A.D. 311,200
years before the Europeans. China was also the first country in the world to use an iron
plow. Europe didnt begin using the iron plow until the seventeenth century.m
25. The name of Chinas capital has changed over the centuries. At one time or another it has
been known as Yanjing, Dadu, and Beiping. Peking or Beijing means Northern Capital.
Beijing is the officially sanctioned pinyin spelling based on the Mandarin dialect. Beijing is
the second largest city after Shanghai.h
26. It was customary for wealthy men and women in the late empire to grow the nails of their
little fingers extremely long as a sign of their rank. They often wore decorative gold and
silver nail guards to protect their nails.c
27. By the fourth century B.C., the Chinese were drilling for natural gas and using it as a heat
source, preceding Western natural gas drilling by about 2,300 years.m
28. By the second century B.C., the Chinese discovered that blood circulated throughout the
body and that the heart pumped the blood. In Europe, circulation wasnt discovered until the

early seventeenth century by William Harvey (1578-1657).m

29. The Chinese were using the decimal system as early as the fourteenth century B.C., nearly
2,300 years before the first known use of the system in European mathematics. The
Chinese were also the first to use a place for zero.m
30. The crossbow was invented and first used by the Chinese. They were also the first in the
world to use chemical and gas weapons, 2,000 years before gas was used in Europe during
31. The Three Gorges Hydroelectric Dam spans the Yangtze River and is the largest dam in the
world. It is also the most controversial dam in the world because it has been plagued by
corruption, human rights violations, technological difficulties, and has caused dramatic
environmental changes.e
32. According to popular legend, tea was discovered by the Chinese
emperor Shennong in 2737 B.C. when a tea leaf fell into his
boiling water. The Chinese consider tea to be a necessity of life.i
33. Martial arts are practiced throughout China and were largely
developed from ancient farming and hunting methods.i
34. The most important holiday in China is the Chinese New Year or
Tea was supposedly discovered
when a tea leaf fell into a Chinese
Lunar New Year. Chinese traditionally believe that every person
emperors boiling water
turns one year older on the New Year and, thus, that day is
considered to be everyones birthday.i
35. Chinese is spoken by 92% of Chinas population. There are at least seven major families of
the Chinese language, including Mandarin, Cantonese, Wu, Hakka, Gan, Xiang, and Min.i
36. Red symbolizes happiness for the Chinese and is commonly used at Chinese festivals and
other happy occasions such as birthdays and weddings.i
37. In ancient China, the lotus was seen as a symbol of purity and was sacred to both the
Buddhists and Daoists. The peony (King of Flowers) symbolized spring, the
chrysanthemum symbolized long life, and the narcissus was thought to bring good luck.i
38. The Chinese have made silk since at least 3,000 B.C. The
Romans knew China as Serica, which means Land of Silk. The
Chinese fiercely guarded the secrets of silk making, and anyone
caught smuggling silkworm eggs or cocoons outside of China was
put to death.i
39. According to a Chinese legend, silk was discovered in 3000 B.C.
Anyone caught smuggling the
secrets of silk making out of
by Lady Xi Ling Sui, wife of the Emperor Huang Di. When a silk
ancient China were put to death
worm cocoon accidentally dropped into her hot tea, fine threads
from the cocoon unraveled in the hot water and silk was born.i
40. The oldest piece of paper in the world was found in China and dates back to the second or
first century B.C. Paper was so durable, it was sometimes used for clothing and even light
body armor.m
41. The Chinese were the first in the world to use stirrups in the third century A.D.m
42. Chinas one child policy has contributed to female infanticide and has created a significant
gender imbalance. There are currently 32 million more boys than girls in China. In the

future, tens of millions of men will be unable to find wives, prompting some scholars to
suggest that this imbalance could lead to a threat to world security.m
43. The first known species of Homo erectus, the Peking Man, was found in China and lived
between 300,000-550,000 years ago. It is thought that he knew how to manipulate fire.c
44. During the first half the twentieth century, Shanghai was the only port in the world to accept
Jews fleeing the Holocaust without an entry visa.i
45. Chinese mathematics evolved independently of Greek mathematics and is consequently of
great interest to historians of mathematics.m
46. Originating as far back as 250 B.C., Chinese lanterns were an important symbol of long life.
Lanterns were once symbols of a familys wealth, and the richest families had lanterns so
large, it required several people with poles to hoist them into place.i
47. In the Tang dynasty, anyone with an education was expected to greet as well as say
goodbye to another person in poetic verse composed on the spot.i
48. In 1974, a group of farmers digging for a well in the Shaanxi province uncovered some bits
of very old pottery. They discovered the tomb of Qin (259-210 B.C.) the first emperor who
united China. The tomb contained thousands of amazing life-sized soldiers, horses, and
49. Chinas Grand Canal is the worlds oldest and longest canal at 1,114
miles (1,795 km) long with 24 locks and around 60 bridges.e
50. The bat is a traditional good luck symbol that is frequently depicted in
designs for porcelain, textiles, and other crafts.i
51. The bicycle was introduced into China around 1891 by two American
travelers named Allen and Sachtleben. The bicycle is now the primary
transportation for millions of Chinese. The last Qing emperor (Puyi)
rode a bicycle around the Forbidden City in Beijing. China is currently
The Grand Canal of China
the leading bicycle manufacturer.i
is the worlds longest canal
52. The Boxer Rebellion between 1898 and 1901 in northern China was
against Christian missionaries, foreign diplomats, and technology by a secret group called
the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists (Yihequan or I-ho-chuan) so named
because its members practiced weaponless martial arts as well as secret rituals. Westerns
called it shadow boxing and the members Boxers.m
53. Suspension bridges were invented in China in 25 B.C, 1,800 years before such bridges
were known in the West.m
54. The first American woman to win the Nobel Prize was Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973) for her
novels about China, most notably The Good Earth (1931). Amy Tan (1952-) is a best-selling
Chinese-American author of The Joy Luck Club.i
55. The Chinese word for civilization (wen) is pronounced the same as the word for script,
pattern, or calligraphy. In fact, calligraphy was thought to reveal the calligraphers moral and
spiritual self-cultivation as a type of heart print.i
56. The carp is a symbol of strength and perseverance. The scales and whiskers of the fish
make it resemble a dragon, the greatest symbol of power in China. Fish in general play a
large role in Chinese culture and the words for fish and abundance are pronounced the

same in Chinese (yu).i

57. In some parts of China, pigtails were associated with a girls
marital status. A young girl would wear two pigtails, and when
she married, she would wear just one. This may have
contributed to the Western view that pigtails are associated with
children and young girls.i
In some regions of ancient China,
58. In ancient China, mirrors were believed to protect their owners
pigtails were indicative of girls
from evil, making hidden spirits visible and revealing the secrets
marital status
of the future. A person who had been scared by a ghost could be
healed by looking in the mirror. Mirrors were often hung on the ceilings of burial chambers.i
59. The longest river in China is the 3,494-mile Yangtze (Changjian) River and the 2,903-milelong Yellow (Huanghe) River.e
60. The Chinese developed a theory of three levels of heavenHeaven, Earth, and man
which has been influential in landscape painting and flower arrangements.e
61. The horse most likely originated in Central Asia and became very important in China. A
horse is considered to be associated with the masculine symbol, yang, and with the element
of fire. A person born in the Year of the Horse is considered cheerful, independent, clever,
talkative, quick to anger, and able to handle money.i
62. Because the cicada (katydid) has the longest life span of any insect (up to 17 years) and
sheds its skin, it has long been a symbol of regeneration and rebirth for the Chinese. In
ancient China, the Chinese would place jade cicadas in the mouths of the dead because
they were thought to slow down the decay process and speed up the rebirth in another
63. Concubinage has been practiced throughout Chinese history, primarily by wealthy men who
could afford it. Chinese emperors had large harems with hundreds of concubines.j
64. The phoenix is the most important bird in Chinese legend and represents the feminine
power of the empress. The graceful crane, which is a symbol of long life, is the second most
important bird in Chinese legend. Ducks are also important symbols and represent
happiness and marital faithfulness.i
65. The Cultural Revolution (the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution) from1966-1976 resulted
in severe famine, thousands of deaths, and the erosion of thousands of acres of farmland.m
66. While the dragon is typically seen as an evil creature in Western culture, it holds first place
among the four greatest creatures in Chinese mythology, including the phoenix, tiger, and
tortoise. It is typically associated with the emperor.i
67. The highest mountain in the world (29,028 feet) is named in the honor the Englishman Sir
George Everest who was the first surveyor of India. The Chinese call Mount
Everest Qomolangma, which means Mother Goddess of the Earth.e

68. Chinas national flag was adopted in September 1949 and first
flown in Tiananmen Square (the worlds largest public gathering
place) on October 1, 1949, the day the Peoples Republic of China
was formed. The red in the flag symbolizes revolution. The large
star symbolizes communism and the little stars represent the
The position of the stars on the
Chinese people. The position of the stars represents the unity of
Chinese flag represents the
the Chinese people under the leadership of the Communist Party.i peoples unity under Communism
69. China has the worlds oldest calendar. This lunar calendar
originated in 2600 B.C. and has 12 zodiac signs. It takes 60 years to complete.i
70. The number of birth defects in China continues to rise. Environmentalist and officials blame
Chinas severe pollution.d
71. The consumption of mushrooms was recorded in Chinese historical documents more than
3,000 years ago. In 1996, China produced 600,000 tons of mushrooms, making it the
worlds leading producer, and it has 60% of the worlds mushroom varieties.i
72. In 2007, dog food and toothpaste products made in China were recalled because they
contained poisonous ingredients. In July, Chinas head of the State Food and Drug
Administration was found to have accepted bribes from pharmaceutical companies. He was
73. Famous Chinese and Chinese-American actors include Jackie Chan (Hong Kong), Chow
Yun Fat (Hong Kong), Bruce Lee (San Francisco), Jet Li (Beijing), Zhang Ziyi (Beijing), and
Lucy Lui (New York).e
74. The 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing were the most expensive games in history.bWhile the
2004 Athens Games were estimated to cost around $15 billion, the Beijing Games were
estimated to cost a whopping $40 billion.j