What the Fact: Interesting China Facts

China is one of the world’s oldest continuous civilizations, currently viewed as the world’s top rising power, and home to the largest population on Earth. With all of these superlatives, there is no doubt that there are lots of fun and interesting facts about China that you may not have previously known.

Below are lists of fun and interesting China facts compiled from around the web.

By the Numbers:

  • 85% of all U.S. artificial Christmas lights are made in China.
  • 70% of the world’s umbrellas are made in China.
  • 60% of the world’s buttons are made in China.
  • 30% of Chinese adults live with their parents.
  • 20% of the world’s population lives in China.
  • 20% of China’s plants are used in medicine.
  • 9% of Chinese goods sent to the U.S. end up on Wal-Mart’s shelves.
  • 200 million people in China live on less than $1 a day.
  • Mandarin Chinese is the world’s most spoken language with over 870 million speakers.
  • China has only about 200 different family names.
  • 34 children are born every minute in China.
  • 119 baby boys are born for every 100 girls.
  • The number of unmarried young men-called bare branches-is predicted to be 30 million by 2020.
  • If China’s population walked past you single file, the line wouldn’t end because of the rate of reproduction.
  • The largest ethnic group in China by far is the Han.
  • There are about 40,000 characters in the Chinese language; an adult is only expected to know 5,000 of them.
  • About 700,000 engineers graduate annually from schools in China.
  • The number 4 is considered unlucky because it sounds almost identical to the word “death”.
  • Many hospitals and other buildings used by Chinese don’t have a fourth floor.
  • The number 250 means stupid and is often used as an insult.
  • Three of the world’s ten longest rivers have their source in China.
  • China is now the world’s largest apple producer, followed by the U.S. in second place.
  • The world’s largest billboard was 300 meters long and 45 meters high and was in southeast China until it was torn down in 1998 for lack of advertising due to heavy fog.

That Lucky Number 8:

  • The number 8 is considered extremely lucky.
  • There are Eight Taoist Symbols, Eight Buddhist Treasures, and Eight Immortals.
  • In Chengdu the telephone number 8888-8888 was sold for a sum corresponding to USD $270,723.
  • The Hong Kong Bank of China building has 88 floors.
  • People will pay premium rates for an apartment on the eighth floor or with eight in the address.
  • Dates with eights are viewed as especially auspicious for weddings
  • The opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Beijing began on the 8th of August in the year 2008 (08/08/08), at precisely 8 minutes and 8 seconds past 8:00 PM, local Beijing time!

Chinese Inventions and Discoveries:

  • The oldest known calendar belonged to the Chinese. It is based on the Lunar Cycle.
  • Ketchup originated in China as a pickled fish sauce called ke-tsiap.
  • The fork had been used in China long before chopsticks.
  • Chopsticks originated from China approximately 4,000 years ago.
  • In ancient China, diabetes was aptly called ‘dissolutive thirst’ due to diabetic patients’ excessive thirst and passing of urine.
  • China invented the first kites which were used in wars.
  • The wheelbarrow was invented by a Chinese.
  • Silk was developed in China and kept a secret for more than two thousands years. Anyone who gave the secret away could be killed.
  • Printing became possible with the inventions of woodblock printing and movable type.
  • Paper currency was first developed in China. Its roots were in merchant receipts of deposit during the Tang Dynasty.
  • Fireworks first appeared in China during the Song Dynasty, in the early age of gunpowder.
  • The guqin is one of the oldest stringed zither instruments from China and has existed since at least the Shang Dynasty.
  • Early Chinese tea culture began from the time of the Han Dynasty.
  • Around 1000 BC the Chinese created an alcoholic beverage which was stronger than 11%, they would mix it with cooked grain in water which resulted in high-alcohol beer.
  • Ice cream was invented in China around 2000 BC when the Chinese packed a soft milk and rice mixture in the snow.
  • Around 202 BC – 220 AD, China began using north-south oriented lodestone ladle-and-bowl shaped compasses (called Sinan) for divination and geomancy and not yet for navigation.
  • Paper was first invented in China in 105 AD. It was a closely guarded secret and didn’t reach Europe until the 8th century.
  • Toilet paper was first mentioned by the official Yan Zhitui in the year 589 AD during the Sui Dynasty, with full evidence of continual use in subsequent dynasties.
  • Fingerprinting was first used in China in 700 AD.
  • The story of Cinderella may not originate with Disney, some say it originated in China around 860 AD.
  • Many historians believe that association football originated in China, where a form of the sport known as cuju may have appeared around 1000 AD.
  • According to a Library of Congress website, the Chinese have used the bristle toothbrush since 1498 AD.

History and Randomness:

  • “May you live in interesting times.” – Chinese curse.
  • The dragon symbolized the Emperor while the phoenix symbolized the Empress.
  • Confucianism was the official philosophy throughout most of Imperial China’s history.
  • Many of the guards never left the Great Wall in their entire lives.
  • Chinese astronomers were among the first to record observations of a supernova.
  • Ancient China was one of the earliest centers of human civilization.
  • Archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest hominids in China date from 250,000 to 2.24 million years ago.

*While we tried to include as many unique and well known facts as we could find, there may be some that we missed. If you know of any fun or interesting China facts, please leave us a comment below.

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  1. gregorylent

    would love to know about mathematics, the concept of zero, etc, in china

  2. Marxxx

    Harper’s Index is always a great source for random facts about China: http://harpers.org/index/?q=china&go=Search

    One highlight:
    Estimated number of privately owned cars in China: 100

  3. @ Marxxx:

    Thanks alot, that’s a really great source for more interesting facts.

    Interesting fact from the link:
    Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day: $1,500

  4. Marxxx

    Ya guess I was supposed to add the date on that to make it a bit more interesting, which was 1987. Today, would have to guess there are about a hundred new cars bought everyday in Qingdao alone.

    • A couple years ago, there was a stat floating around that said every day 300 cars were registered to the road in Qingdao. Not sure if it was true, or how that stands today, but anyway, sure is a lot from the looks of it.

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