The People’s Republic of China is an amazing country, with an ancient history steeped in wonder and so many modern marvels to explore. This fascinating and unique country is the most populated country in the world, as well as one of the largest by land mass.
Many of the people who live here still abide by their traditional Chinese culture, but the country has always been at the forefront of innovation too, graduating more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students than any other country in recent years.
You probably already know that China is the world’s longest continuous civilization, that its Great Wall is the largest manmade structure on the planet (but contrary to popular belief, is not visible from space), and the Silk Road is the oldest and longest trade route ever; however, did you know that China is also responsible for the creation of our modern decimal and binary systems, algebra, geometry, and the discovery of the human circulatory system?
Did you also know that 1.7 million pigs are consumed daily in China and that one weird delicacy is ‘urine eggs’ which are eggs boiled for 24 hours in the urine of young boys? Neither did we! Here are ten more amazing facts about China that you probably didn’t know:
China has only one time zone
Despite being the third-largest country in the world by square mileage (China is almost as wide as the US) and technically spanning five time zones, the whole country has operated under one single time zone since 1949, when ‘Beijing Standard Time’ was made official by the Communist Party. That means when it’s 6am in Beijing, it’s also 6am across the other side of the country – even though the sun won’t rise for approximately three hours.
Most schools, transport services, and other Government services in the westernmost region of Xinjiang obey Beijing time, while many local businesses stick to their own time. This means kids are walking to school by starlight, while later, some locals are getting caught up in rush hour traffic… at 7pm!
Chinese new moms are meant to ‘sit’ for four weeks
You might have heard that couples in China need to apply for a ‘Family Planning Certificate’ to have a baby, but did you know that after the birth, new moms are customarily meant to stay in confinement for a month?
This tradition – called ‘Sitting the Month’ – involves the new mother resting in bed for a month, not exposing herself to people or any conditions that may cause stress, such as exertion, cold weather, emotional stress, and traditionally, even water!
Being physically wet was thought to pose a health risk to the mother, as she may catch a cold if she’s exposed to these elements through bathing and hair washing. Thankfully, avoiding water is less often practiced these days, but mothers (and sometimes fathers) still regularly participate.
The confinement is designed to give the mother rest and recover from the birth, ensure both her and her baby aren’t exposed to unnecessary threats, improve breastmilk production and strengthen the maternal bond.
Soccer was invented in China
The ancient Chinese not only invented paper, gunpowder, printing and the compass, but they also invented the concept of soccer (or football, if you prefer). The game of ‘cuju’ – which means ‘kick the ball with foot’ – was regularly played during the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). The popularity of cuju then spread to neighboring countries and the rest is history!
You can’t access western websites in China
While China is undoubtedly a captivating country with unsurpassed beauty, fascinating history, and amazing people, the current Government doesn’t really want to dilute it all with western influence, so they have created a state of heavy censorship, banning many western internet sites.
If you were considering a visit to China, don’t expect to be able to browse Google, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, or Reddit sites, just to name a few – these have been blocked by what many have dubbed the ‘Great Firewall of China’.
The Government has even attempted to block methods for circumventing their firewall, including blocking the use of many VPNs. Thankfully, it’s still really easy to bypass this firewall using VPNs, but only if you know which ones still work!
The Chinese heavily censor their film industry
There is no film rating system in place in China, but that doesn’t mean it’s a haven for 12-year-olds who want to watch adult-only films. Films are censored for the same reasons as the country’s internet.
Instead of ratings, there is a 36-person committee that ensures nothing untoward or inappropriate makes it through to Chinese audiences. When they find something too raunchy, violent, flamboyant, or insulting to China, they simply cut the entire scene out of the film before releasing it to the public!
These cuts include the famous nude painting scene in Titanic being removed, a whole minute of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ being cut due to a man-on-man kissing scene and drug use, as well as 13 minutes of ‘Men In Black 3’ being removed because it featured an alien disguised as a Chinese person.
Chinese manners are a little different
Many countries think burping after a meal shows that the meal was delicious and is a sign of good manners, while other countries don’t blink an eye at spitting in the streets. There are also plenty of people who don’t think yawning wide or grunting are rude – in China, all of these are totally acceptable while eating!
Even more interesting is the country’s lack of diaper use. Older babies and toddlers who are able to use a potty don’t wear them. Instead, they wear special pants with a split in the rear and when they need to go potty, they squat wherever they feel like it and go. We don’t just mean outside either. It’s acceptable for the youngest Chinese citizens to poop or pee wherever they feel the need to, inside or out!
China is full of cavemen
Not really, but close! Due to inheritance, tradition, and sometimes poverty and lack of affordable housing, an estimated 35 million Chinese people live in caves. The majority live in the yellow, porous cliffs and hillsides of the Loess Plateau in Shaanxi province. The Government has attempted to move them on but the long-term residents love their cave homes and refuse to budge.
The Chinese do actually eat canine meat and also invented the first ice cream
Most people have heard the rumor that Chinese people eat dogs and this is actually no rumor. In the city of Yulin for one day per year, the residents celebrate the summer solstice by eating dogs bred for this purpose. Dog meat is eaten as a tradition that started 4000 years ago.
Another ancient tradition that started around the same time is the milk-based treats that the Chinese invented, made with yaks milk and rice and cooled with saltpeter (potassium nitrate) and snow poured on the outside of the containers. Yes, these were the first milk-based ice treats most similar to what we now think of today as ice cream.
The Chinese are masters of war
You may think that large gas and chemical weapons are a fairly modern invention, but the Chinese were actually the first to poison people on a mass scale, with incendiary weapons being reportedly used as early as 200BC according to Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’.
There were also reports of arsenic gas bombs being used by the Chinese as early as 1000BC and their war history is littered with similar references and hundreds of recipes for weapons of mass destruction, like the supernatural-sounding ‘soul-hunting fog’. They may have also been the first country to utilize covert spy operations, as they invented kites to gather military intelligence about 3000 years ago.
The Art of War is itself a bible of warfare tactics and many strategies from the book are still used today. While the Chinese have always been ruthless to their enemies, they aren’t completely war-oriented – Shanghai was the only port in the world who were accepting Jewish people without visas during the holocaust.
China has the World’s largest army
The Chinese aren’t only masters of war historically, but they are also well-prepared for any future combat. The People’s Liberation Army boasts the largest number of soldiers on the planet, with more than 2 million soldiers. It also has the second largest defense force budget and is almost considered a military superpower.