10 Surprising Facts About China

Panda bear sitting down for lunch

Doesn’t the name China just make you curious? Officially known as the People’s Republic of China, and as the vast, fiercely foreign land of chopsticks, smog, and rich culture, China carries over five thousand years of rich history and unique facts.

From green terraced rice paddies to the sharp peaks of the Himalayas, to the Yangtze River, rural heartlands and sprawling cities of Shanghai and Beijing, China has lots of geographic variety to offer, in addition to quirky, interesting truths about its inhabitants’ traditions.

Begin your oriental quest by checking out these ten facts about Chinese civilization.

10. Cricket fighting is a pastime for both children and adults alike in China.

One of the unique facts about China is that cricket fighting is a pastime of the country's citizens

Crickets are found in absolute abundance in this colossal country. In Beijing, Autumn marks the start of cricket fighting season, a Chinese tradition that has been practiced for over a thousand years.

An annual cricket fighting tournament is held in this capital city on the grounds of a large temple, where the matches take place in small plastic containers. The shows are recorded and then shown on big screens so visitors can see it live. As far as competition, crickets are matched up according to their size, to ensure fair battle.

In some parts of China, like Macau, cricket fighting was at one time quite popular, and people would even place bets on their preferred cricket, making it a gamblers sport. To be even more dramatic, funerals were held for the crickets that went on to the other side following the cricket matches.

9. Christmas is not a public holiday in China.

One of the unique facts about China is that while the holiday is celebrated in this country, it's not a public holiday

Chinese residents don’t receive a day off from work just because it’s Christmas!

Christmas, along with Christianity has been banned from China for years, however, ironically enough, Christmas Day is one of the biggest shopping days of the year in this contemporary country.

The younger crowd celebrates Christmas as a sort of celebration time to spend with loved ones, sort of like how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the West.

It’s also an occasion to celebrate goodwill and to give to those in need such as the homeless, orphans, the elderly, and the disabled. However, one of the facts about China at Christmas is that it’s not technically a declared federal holiday, as it is in other parts of the world.

8. China is one of the top eight countries in the world with the largest number of bird species.

Large red bird of China

As of 2013, 1314 different bird species have been documented that inhabit this vast land. Two of these species, the Crested bobwhite, and the Java sparrow, have been introduced by humans. China is home to a rare bird species- the Sichuan treecreeper, the Chinese fulvetta, and the Yunnan nuthatch.

China’s woods, grasslands, wetlands, and badlands are home to these bird species, where about one hundred are endemic to China alone. In the Qinling mountains are where some of the most noteworthy birding sites are found, home to about a quarter of all of the bird species in China.

In addition, nine of the planets fourteen crane species reside in this country as well as sixty-two species of pheasants. Now, that’s quite the remarkable array of birds!

7. There is only one time zone in China.

Red outline of China and it's single time zone representation

Apart from India, China is one of the largest countries on the earth that has only one time zone, and it’s the single large zone in the world.

Beijing Standard Time is eight hours ahead of GMT. After years of organized, various time zones throughout the country, it was established in 1949 under then-leader Mao Zedong, that having a sole time zone would facilitate a sense of national unity.

Since Beijing was to be the new capital of China, the new time zone was formed to reflect its name.

6. China is the world’s most populated country!

As of 2018, one of the unique facts about China, is that there are about 1.42 billion people living in China, making it the most populous country in the world.

So, that muddles down to about one-fifth of the world’s population living in China.

The size of China’s population has proved to be a consistent political issue within the nation, so much so that China’s residents persevered through a chunk of history when citizens were only permitted to conceive one child. But, more on that later in the FAQ’s!

5. Did you know the Panda bear is one of China’s national treasures?

Panda bear sitting down for lunch

From being a mascot at the Olympics, to starring in Hollywood movies, the Panda Bear is a prominent character in society, and it’s especially dear to the Chinese culture.

One of the facts about panda bears in China is that they’re regarded as warriors, and thought to be as strong as tigers- which is how the Chinese like to be recognized as well. They’re able to forage their own food, climb trees, and withstand very chilly temperatures.

On the other hand, pandas are also honored for their peaceful and amicable nature, rarely ever attacking others. Also, the pandas black and white colors are symbolic of yin and yang, and the panda is seen as a physical representation of this.

If you ever read antiquated Chinese literature, chances are you’ll encounter a panda of sorts on at least one of the pages.

4. There’s an enormous life-size collection of terracotta sculptures at the Terracotta Army Museum in Xian, China.

One of China's attractions, the Terracotta Warriors

One of the most significant archaeological excavations of the twentieth century is of the terracotta warriors and horse sculptures that have been uncovered among the massive remnants at the Terracotta Army Museum in Xian, China.

These thousands of sculptures were formed so the warriors are in battle formation, and they represent the late Emporer Qinshihuang’s mega imperial guard troops. Some believe that these figures were constructed to accompany the emperor to his afterlife.

This is a live museum that shows the life stories of the Emperor Qinshihuang, the first Emperor of the first unified dynasty of Imperial China.

One of the fun facts about China is that this country is home to over fifty-two UNESCO world heritage sites, ranging from ancient ruins to natural wonders, and the Terracotta Army Museum is one of them!

3. The Chinese LOVE to eat.

One of the facts about food of China, is that it's sometimes spicy

Odds are if anyone is going to be celebrating anything in China, it’s going to involve eating something. In fact, one of the most common greetings in this territory is “ni chi fan ma?,” Chinese for “have you eaten yet?”

Typical dishes include the staple foods of rice or noodles served with items such as beef, pork, chicken, duck, and seafood to accompany, though pork tops these choices, as China has the largest pig population in the world. The Chinese also love to eat vegetable soup, and enjoy tea before or after dinner, but not during.

The Chinese believe that food has inherent medicinal qualities- pork, for example, proves successful in increasing one’s chi, while the collagen found in shark fin soup is good for the skin.

One of the fun facts about food in China and a key feature of Chinese cooking, is the wok– one of the most common cooking utensils in the country. It’s used for stir-fry, steaming, pan-frying, boiling, searing, and for preparing soup, while making for excellent heat distribution.

2. Did you know The Forbidden City in Beijing, China is the largest ancient palatial structure on the globe?

View of one of the ornate buildings at the Forbidden City in China

Constructed in 1420, China’s best-preserved imperial palace, The Forbidden City, stretches over an area of over one hundred and eighty acres, and features a whopping nine hundred and eight buildings with over eight thousand rooms.

This relic was the imperial palace of China for about five hundred years and also the residence of twenty-four late emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties.

This palace took fourteen years to build, complete with a fifty-two-meter wide moat around it, a traditional garden, and over one million pieces of valuable works of art, with items in the collection ranging from paintings, ceramics, ancient books, bronzes, to jade pieces.

The halls and walls display the essence and culmination of traditional Chinese architecture, with the principal frames of all of the buildings having been edified with Phoebe zennan wood from the wildernesses of Southwest China.

The main colors of the Forbidden City are red and yellow, with red symbolizing good fortune and yellow resembling supreme power.

1. The Great Wall of China is also known as the Wall of 10,000 Miles.

View of grass growing alongside the Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China was built over two thousand years ago along the country’s Northern border, forty-five miles Northwest of Beijing. It was constructed to deter the threat of invasion from the Huns in the North, and in the Emperor’s eyes, totally annihilate that potential.

There is not actually a specific measurement of the wall itself, but according to its name- 10,000-li (Chinese for miles), it’s a little over three thousand one hundred miles long. This enormous wall was built by civilians, soldiers, and convicted criminals.

One of the interesting facts about the Great Wall of China is that its base was assembled with two thousand giant slabs of granite. The rest of the wall was built mainly with stones and pounded earth.

The Great Wall has sometimes been referred to as the longest cemetery on Earth, with over one million people having died while building it, with archaeologists finding human remains buried below the wall.

Though some comment on the ability to see the Great Wall from space, this is a myth.

Facts about China FAQ’s:

What is the political system like in China?

The political system of China is the People’s Congress system, which states that the power of the state belongs to the people.

One of the facts about the ancient China government is that the People’s Republic of China has been ruled by the Communist Party since 1949.

According to the Constitution, the Communist party has total political authority and directs according to democratic centralism.

What is the currency like in China?

The official term for the currency in China is Renminbi which translates to People’s Currency, and is abbreviated as RMB. However, the most common name for the currency that is known by most globally is the Yuan, which can be seen abbreviated as CNY.

This may be slightly confusing that there is one sole currency with multiple names, but that’s just the way it is.

Does China still have a One Child Policy?

China no longer has its One Child Policy in effect, as of 2015. In 1979, one of the shocking facts about China is that the Chinese leader Deng Xiaping, in efforts to save China from population overgrowth, declared that couples were to have no more than one child. He had intended this to be temporary, however, the mandate was upheld for over thirty-five years.

To ensure that the elderly will be supported, the policy was lifted to see that a greater sized younger population emerge.

What are some facts about China language?

One of the basic facts about China is that the official language of China is Mandarin.

But, if you’re in mainland China, you might hear the language of Putonghua spoken.

All Chinese students are required to take English courses in their younger school years, and many remember the basics well into their adult years.

Chinese is one of the six official languages used by the United Nations, and is used by about one-fifth of the global population.

What are the local laws or customs in China?

Just know that if you’re traveling to China and are even suspected of a crime, the police do have the authority to detain your passport and arrest you. And, if you’re caught with drugs or any related offense, it’s not taken lightly.

China doesn’t recognize dual nationality. This means that if you were born within China to Chinese parents, you’ll be considered to have a Chinese nationality, even if you’ve since moved to another country and have a new passport.

One of the facts about culture of China, is that there is also slightly less open-ness to displays of homosexuality in public. So, perhaps, save those intimate public displays of affection for behind closed doors.

Lastly, it’s wise to carry your passport around with you all the time if you find yourself traveling to this sometimes unpredictable country, as authorities may perform random checks during sporting events and times of heightened political tension, and a fine, or even detention, can sometimes occur.

If I am considering travel to China, will I need a visa?

Foreign citizens typically do need a visa to enter mainland China.

If you’re a U.S. national, you’ll need to apply for a visa before you depart for China, as you won’t be eligible for a landing visa.

For those of you want to stay longer than six months, you may need to apply for a Residence Permit- make sure you apply in advance so you don’t overstay your visa!

Also, verify that your passport will be valid at least six months past the date of your arrival in China.

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