At the beach in Koh Nang Yuan, Thailand

By Norbert Figueroa, an experienced architect, travel writer, long-term budget traveler, and photographer with over 13 years of travel experience in over 139 countries and counting. @globotreks

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The People’s Republic of China holds the title of being the most populous country in the world. With such a massive population, it’s no wonder that the Chinese people and their rich history have made countless fascinating contributions to global culture and history.

Yet, China’s cultural tapestry often surprises and amazes people from around the world, sometimes even bordering on the unbelievable. For instance, can you imagine armies using paper as armor?

It may sound incredible, but the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the Chinese have led to such innovative solutions throughout history. And did you know that soup played a role in the construction materials of the Great Wall of China? It’s true!

In this article, we will delve into 21 captivating facts about China and its people. From peculiar traditions to extraordinary achievements, we will explore the weirdest, most astonishing, and fastest aspects of China.

Get ready to have your mind blown as we embark on this journey through the remarkable and awe-inspiring world of China!

Shanghai, China

21 Believe It or Not Facts About China

When it comes to choosing which facts about the People’s Republic of China to talk about, there are plenty of options. We can explore the Chinese people and their traditions, fascinating history, impressive achievements, and even the famous Great Wall of China.

But what about the slightly more controversial or debatable facts? Well, we won’t shy away from those, either. So, let’s jump right in and explore a range of interesting facts about China.

Side note: Thinking of traveling to China? Read my handy guide to understanding the costs of such a trip.

Chinese Lanterns in China

1. Chinese New Year is Massive and Awesome

The Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is a special celebration that lasts for up to 15 days in China. It signifies the start of the lunar calendar in China.

During this festive time, families gather together, the streets are decorated with beautiful red lanterns, and the air is filled with the sounds of firecrackers.

2. China Has the Most People in the World

China, with its massive population of 1.4 billion, is the most populous country in the world. According to the United Nations data analyzed by Worldometer, China’s population is now over 1.45 billion people, firmly securing its top position.

Elderly Hand with a Baby

3. Family and Elders Are Important

In China, family relations hold great cultural significance. Chinese people have a deep respect for their elders, and it’s common for younger generations to take care of their aging family members.

This strong sense of familial devotion is backed by the Elderly Rights Law in China, which shows their commitment to protecting and supporting older individuals.

Mandarin Language on the Wall

4. Mandarin is the Most-Spoken First Language in the World

Mandarin is a language spoken by over a billion people as their first language. English holds the record for being the most widely spoken language globally, counting both native and non-native speakers.

However, when we focus on native speakers alone, Mandarin, which is a group of Chinese dialects, takes the lead.

5. Football Isn’t British, After All

Football (soccer) didn’t originate in Europe as many people think. Surprisingly, it was the ancient Chinese who first came up with the sport more than 2,200 years ago. They created a special ball made of leather, filled with feathers and hair.

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This early form of the game was called ‘Tsu Chu’ or ‘Cuju’ which means ‘kicking ball.’

Vintage Map of China

6. The Chinese Time Phenomenon

China, a country that’s nearly as large as the continental USA, has an interesting time zone setup. Unlike the USA, which has four different time zones, China uses a single time zone called Beijing Standard Time across the whole country.

This means that if it’s 6:00 am in the capital city, Beijing, it’s also 6:00 amin Kashgar, even though they’re almost 3,000 miles apart! It’s a unique aspect of China that sets it apart from other countries with multiple time zones.

Two Little Pigs

7. There Are More Pigs in China Than Anywhere Else in the World

When it comes to fascinating facts about China, animals play a big role. Did you know that China is home to around half of the world’s pig population? These cute and lovable creatures hold a special place in the hearts of the Chinese people.

For many years, families in rural areas have been raising pigs in their own backyards, valuing them for their meat and manure. Pigs are even considered a symbol of prosperity, and pork is often enjoyed during joyful celebrations.

The Great Wall of China

8. The Great Wall of China is Made Partly From Rice Soup

The Great Wall of China is made stronger with a special ingredient. Around 500 CE, the builders of the Great Wall used a mixture of sticky rice soup and slaked lime as a special kind of mortar.

This unique combination provided the wall with greater durability and water resistance compared to traditional lime mortar.

Sticky rice became an essential component in preserving not only the Great Wall itself but also other architectural wonders like tombs, pagodas, and city walls throughout China.

9. Ketchup May Come From China

Another food fact! Did you know that ketchup, the beloved American condiment, actually has its roots in China? Yep, it all started there. The word “ketchup” comes from a Chinese word called “kê-tsiap” in the Hokkien language, which refers to a sauce made from fermented fish.

This flavorful sauce traveled from China to the West, where it underwent various transformations and adaptations to become the ketchup we know today.

So, the next time you savor some ketchup on your favorite burger or fries, think about its fascinating and tasty journey all the way from the Far East!

Chinese Zodiac Cartoons in China

10. Every Year is Associated With One of 12 Animals

In China, each year corresponds to one of the twelve Chinese zodiac animals, symbolizing different qualities and characteristics. 2024 will be celebrated as the Year of the Dragon, a revered symbol of power, strength, and good fortune.

This ancient tradition holds great significance in Chinese culture, and during the festive Chinese New Year period, families gather, exchange gifts, and enjoy sumptuous feasts.

Traditional lion and dragon dances fill the streets, firecrackers are set off to ward off evil spirits, and vibrant red decorations are displayed to bring luck and prosperity in the coming year.

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Terracotta Warriors Army in Xian, China

11. The Xi’an Terracotta Army Took 37 Years to Make

The Terracotta Army in Xi’an, China, is truly something special. This amazing piece of history took an astonishing 37 years to create, and it’s easily one of the most captivating treasures on Earth.

There are a whopping 8,000 clay soldiers standing tall, each one carefully crafted with incredible attention to detail. Their purpose? To safeguard the tomb of an ancient Emperor.

It’s a stunning example of the remarkable skill and unwavering commitment of the talented ancient Chinese artisans.

12. Fun Facts About China and the Invention of Ice Cream

Ice cream actually originated in China. More than 4,000 years ago, Chinese people mixed milk, rice mixture, and snow to create a delicious treat.

The legendary Kublai Khan made it even more amazing by adding preserves and jam to his icy drink, becoming the pioneer of the very first ice cream!

What’s even more intriguing is that he kept it a special secret only for the royal family. It’s incredible how this delightful dessert has such a rich and ancient history.

Hong Kong Skyline during Sunset

13. China Has More Skyscrapers Than Any Other Country

China has an impressive record with 657 skyscrapers erected in Hong Kong, including six super-tall ones! It’s truly the global hub for these magnificent buildings. The city’s unique mountainous terrain and limited flat land sparked a surge in high-rise construction back in the 1970s.

14. China Also Has the Speed Record For Building Skyscrapers

Speaking of skyscrapers, China is truly a leader in this field. An impressive construction company called Broad Sustainable Building achieved something truly remarkable: they built a stunning 57-story skyscraper in just 19 days!

That means they were constructing three whole floors every single day. This achievement in Changsha completely amazed everyone in the industry.

In addition, in 2011, China set a goal to keep up this incredible building momentum by completing a new skyscraper every five days for the next three years.

15. Some Chinese Soldiers Used Paper for Armor

During the conflicts between the Zhou and Southern Tang dynasties, regular people from the Tang dynasty joined forces to create the “White Armor Armies.” These brave civilians wore armor made of white paper.

The White Armor militias reappeared later during the Song dynasty, but unfortunately, their efforts were not effective, and they were eventually disbanded.

In later Ming texts, we find descriptions of different types of paper armor. One type was made of silk paper and worn as a protective garment either under or over other armor, along with arm guards.

Another interesting variation featured stronger and more flexible paper that was softened by hammering and reinforced with studs. Surprisingly, this type of armor performed better when soaked in water.

Panda Eating Bamboo in China

16. All the Pandas In the World Are Chinese

Did you know that China owns all the pandas in the world? Well, almost all of them! There are two special pandas in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Zoo called Xin Xin and Shuan Shuan, and they belong to Mexico, not China. These adorable creatures bring panda joy to Mexico. 

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Pandas are global ambassadors on loan from China to countries around the world, captivating hearts with their cuddly charm.

17. The Oldest Soup Ever Was Discovered in China

In 2010, Chinese archaeologists in Xian made an incredible discovery, as reported by the BBC. They found a cooking pot that was exceptionally well-preserved and estimated to be about 2,400 years old.

What made it even more fascinating was that the pot still contained what appeared to be ancient soup. It was a sealed bronze pot filled with liquid and bones.

Leshan Buddha Statue
Image from Wikipedia

18. The Chinese Leshan Giant Buddha Has 18ft Eyebrows

The Leshan Giant Buddha in China is truly an awe-inspiring sight that will leave you speechless. It’s as tall as a ten-story building, standing proudly and competing in height with the famous Statue of Liberty. The craftsmanship of the statue is simply incredible.

The Buddha’s posture is perfectly balanced, and its expression exudes a sense of calm and tranquility. And let’s not forget about its eyebrows, which are unbelievably long, stretching a remarkable 18 yards.

Forbidden City Dragon in Beijing, China

19.  China Claims 56 Sites on the UNESCO Heritage List

When you visit China, make sure to explore some of its incredible UNESCO sites. The world-famous Terracotta Army will leave you in awe, while the majestic Forbidden City and the awe-inspiring Great Wall of China will transport you to ancient times.

Bailong Elevator in China
Image from Wikipedia

20. The 1000-Foot High Bailong Elevator

Nestled in the beautiful Wulingyuan area of Zhangjiajie, China, the Bailong Elevator is an incredible engineering feat. This amazing outdoor elevator takes visitors to astonishing heights, providing awe-inspiring views from a cliff’s edge.

Reaching a towering height of 1,070 feet, it proudly holds the Guinness World Record for being the world’s tallest and heaviest outdoor lift.

Forbidden City in Beijing, China

21. The Chinese Forbidden City Has 9999 Rooms

The Forbidden City is a truly amazing place! It has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. It boasts a whopping 980 buildings and an incredible 9,999 rooms spread over a massive area of 72 hectares (that’s around 178 acres!).

According to legend, it was intentionally designed with just under 10,000 rooms. Why? Well, the story goes that only the God of Heaven could have a palace with that many rooms.

Emperor Chengzu, who ordered its construction, believed he was the son of the God of Heaven, so he purposely made his palace a bit smaller to show respect.

A Fisherman in Yangshuo, China

Final Thoughts on These Fun Facts About China

The Chinese people have made remarkable contributions to the world through their ancient civilization and diverse ethnicities. China’s impressive economic growth, technological progress, and global impact are undeniable and deserve recognition.

By taking the time to understand China and its people better, we can truly appreciate their significant achievements and valuable contributions to world culture.

Looking for more facts about Asian countries? Check out these 40+ Interesting facts about India.

21 Interesting Facts about China - History Science and Culture
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