China is one of the areas where civilization developed earliest. It has a recorded history of nearly 5,000 years. More than a million years ago, primitive human beings lived on the land now called China. About 400,000 to 500,000 years ago, the Peking Man, a primitive man that lived in Zhoukoudian southwest of Beijing, was able to walk with the body erect, to make and use simple tools, and use fire. Six to seven thousand years ago, the people living in the Yellow River valley supported themselves primarily with agriculture, while also raising livestock. More than 3,000 years ago these people began smelting bronze and using ironware.
In China, slave society began around the 21st century B.C. Over the next 1,700 years, agriculture and animal husbandry developed greatly and the skills of silkworm-raising, raw-silk reeling and silk-weaving spread widely. Bronze smelting and casting skills reached a relatively high level, and iron smelting became increasingly sophisticated. The Chinese culture flourished, as a great number of thinkers and philosophers emerged, most famously Confucius.
In 221 B.C., Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, established a centralized, unified, multi-national feudal state. This period of feudal society continued until after the Opium War in 1840. During these 2,000 years, China’s economy and culture continued to develop, bequeathing a rich heritage of science and technology, literature and the arts. The four great inventions of ancient China – paper-making, printing, the compass and gunpowder – have proved an enormous contribution to world civilization.
Chinese civilization peaked at Tang Dynasty (618-907) when Tang people traded with people all over the world. This is why Chinese residing overseas often call themselves Tang Ren, or the People of Tang.
In 1840, anxious to continue its opium trade in China, Britain started the Opium War against China. After the war, the big foreign powers forcibly occupied “concessions” and divided China into “spheres of influence”; thus, China was transformed into a semi-colonial, semi-feudal society.
In 1911, the bourgeois democratic revolution (the Xinhai Revolution) led by Sun Yat-sen abolished the feudal monarchy, and established the Republic of China, therefore starting the modern history of China.
In 1949, the Chinese Communist Party established the People’s Republic of China, driving the Kumingtang Party to Taiwan.
In 1978, China adopted the Open Door policy, ending the 5000 years history of self seclusion.
- Ice cream was invented ~ 2000BC when the Chinese packed a soft milk and rice mixture in the snow.
- One in every five people in the world is Chinese. China is the world’s most populous country, with over 1.38 billion people, and the 2nd largest country by land area. China is sometimes a day ahead of the United States.
- China has the world’s largest standing army and second-largest defense budget.
- The Chinese year is based on the cycles of the moon. This is called a lunar schedule. A complete cycle of the Chinese calendar takes 60 years. The Chinese calendar dates back to 2600 B.C. It is the oldest known calendar.
- 100 million people in China live on less than US$1 per day.
- Each year is represented by an animal. There are twelve animals which represent the twelve months: Tiger; Rabbit; Dragon; Snake; Horse; Sheep; Monkey; Rooster; Dog; Pig; Rat and Ox.
- 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.
- China uses 45 billion chopsticks per year. 20 million 20-year-old trees are cut down in China every year to make chopsticks.
- A very superstitious country. When a Chinese child loses a baby tooth, it doesn’t get tucked under the pillow for the tooth fairy. If the child loses an upper tooth, the child’s parents plant the tooth in the ground, so the new tooth will grow in straight and healthy. Parents toss a lost bottom tooth up to the rooftops, so that the new tooth will grow upwards, too.
- In China, over 35 million people still live in caves.
- Many historians believe soccer originated in China around 1000 B.C.
- 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.
- Toilet paper was invented in China in the late 1300s. It was for emperors only.
- The first recorded use of Marijuana was in China, over 4700 years ago.
- China’s Grand Canal is the world’s oldest and longest canal at 1,795 km long with 24 locks and around 60 bridges.
- In China, there is an “Elderly Rights” law which makes it illegal for anyone who has parents over 60 not to visit them regularly.
- There are 93 million Wangs in China, is the most popular name in the country.
- According to a Chinese legend, silk was discovered in 3000 B.C. by Lady Xi Ling Sui, wife of the Emperor Huang Di. When a silk worm cocoon accidentally dropped into her hot tea, fine threads from the cocoon unraveled in the hot water and silk was born.
- Long ago, silk making was a closely guarded secret. Anyone who gave the secret away could be killed.
- A new skyscraper is built in China every five days. Most of the tallest buildings in the world are in China.
- Chinese students can get 7 years in jail for cheating on exams.
- 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 leading bicycle manufacturer.
- It is estimated that about 600,000 people die in China each year from issues related to overwork.
- In 2015, a Chinese billionaire bought a US$170 million painting by with his credit card so he could use the points for free airfare.
- At one time, Chinese patriots hoped to rid themselves of hated foreign conquerors. To announce the time of an uprising, the patriots hid messages in moon cakes.
- Red is considered a lucky color in China. At one time wedding dresses were red. New Year’s banners, clothing, and lucky money envelopes are still red.
- The sunrise in parts of China can be as late as 10am because the country joined its 5 time zones into a single one based on Beijing time.
- 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 woman’s 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.
- In some parts of China, “pigtails” were associated with a girl’s 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.
- Suspension bridges were invented in China in 25 B.C, 1,800 years before such bridges were known in the West.
- China used more cement in 3 years (2011 to 2013) than the U.S. used in the entire 20th century.
- In China, it’s illegal to use a wordplay or a pun in advertising or on television.
- The number one hobby in China is stamp collecting.
- Cricket fighting is a popular amusement in China. Many Chinese children keep crickets as pets.
- 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.
- It is considered good luck for the gate to a house to face south.
- We know that the Chinese grew rice as long as 5000 BC Archaeologists have found rice grains in farming tools and pots from that period.
- The world’s largest producer of cigarettes is a company owned by the Chinese government.
- In Beijing, one million people live underground in basements and air raid shelters.
- 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.
- Concubinage has been practiced throughout Chinese history, primarily by wealthy men who could afford it. Chinese emperors had large harems with hundreds of concubines.
- 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.
- The Cultural Revolution (the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution) from 1966-1976 resulted in severe famine, thousands of deaths, and the erosion of thousands of acres of farmland.
- The highest mountain in the world (29,028 feet) is named in the honor the Welshman Sir George Everest who was the first surveyor of India. The Chinese call Mount Everest “Qomolangma“, which means “Mother Goddess of the Earth.”
- In ancient China, mirrors were believed to protect their owners from evil, making hidden spirits visible and revealing the secrets 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.
- 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.
- 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 world.
- Fourth graders are expected to know 2,000 of the over 40,000 written Chinese characters. By the time they leave college, they will know 4,000 or 5,000 characters. Each character is learned by looking at it and memorizing it. Unlike the 26 letters of our alphabet, words cannot be sounded out letter by letter