1. The word “China” likely derives from the name of the Qin (pronounced “chin”) dynasty. First Emperor Qin Shi Huang (260-210 B.C.) of the Qin dynasty unified China in 221 B.C., beginning an Imperial period which would last until A.D. 1912.
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 world’s longest continuously used written language.
3. China is the third largest country in the world after Russia and Canada.
4. One in every five people in the world is Chinese. China’s population is four times that of the United States.
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.
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.
7. Toilet paper was invented in China in the late 1300s. It was for emperors only.
8. The Chinese invented paper, the compass, gunpowder, and printing.
9. The Chinese invented kites (“paper birds” or “Aeolian harps”) about 3,000 years ago. They were used to frighten enemies in battle, and Marco Polo (1254-1324) noted that kites were also used to predict the success of a voyage.
10. Cricket fighting is a popular amusement in China. Many Chinese children keep crickets as pets.
11. Despite its size, all of China is in one time zone.
12. Many historians believe soccer originated in China around 1000 B.C.
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.
14. The number one hobby in China is stamp collecting.
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.
16. White, rather than black, is the Chinese color for mourning and funerals.
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.
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 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.
19. 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 earthquake.
20. 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.
21. A civil servant named Su Song built the first mechanical clock between A.D 1088 and 1092. It could tell the time of day and also track the constellations so that accurate horoscopes could be determined.
22. On September 27, 2008, Zhai Zhigang made the first spacewalk by a Chinese astronaut.
23. The Chinese were the first to invent the waterwheel to harness water in A.D. 31-1,200 years before the Europeans. China was also the first country in the world to use an iron plow. Europe didn’t begin using the iron plow until the 17th century.
24. The name of China’s 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 second largest city after Shanghai.
25. 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.
26. 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.
27. 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 wasn’t discovered until the early 17th century by William Harvey (1578-1657).
28. The Chinese were using the decimal system as early as the 14th 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.
29. 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 WWI.
30. The Three Gorges Hydroelectric Dam spans the Yangtze River and is the largest dam in the world.
Guo Guangwei is a lecturer at the University of International Business and Economics in China and is an instructor at Midlands STEM Institute in Fairfield County.