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Wednesday 1st October
China Facts
China is one of the largest countries in the world and has more people than any other country.

Shanghai is one of the world's largest cities.

Tian'anmen Square is the largest public plaza in the world.

Mandarin Chinese is the world's most spoken language with over 870 million speakers.

Miao Keng (1,026 metres), known as China's big shaft, is one of the world's deepest underground shafts and connects with the Dong Ba network of caves.

A fossil of one of the world´s oldest flowers (142 million years old) has been found in China.

A fossil of Gigantoraptor erlianensis, a large dinosaur with a beak which lived around 70 million years ago, has been discovered in China's Gobi desert.

The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1987, was used by Homo erectus from about 460,000 to 230,000 years ago.

The Great Wall of China is estimated to be around 4,000 miles long and took many centuries to build.

It is thought that rice cultivation first took place, possibly as early as 8000 BC, in the Yangzi Valley.

Thousands of years ago the Chinese had developed a calendar, writing and the wheel.

The Chinese used lodestones as compasses about four thousand years ago.

Chinese writing uses pictures or characters.

Paper and movable type (separate pieces for each character) were invented in China hundreds of years before they were used in Europe.

The oldest surviving printed book in the world is Chinese - a Buddhist text printed in 868 AD.

Early mathematical texts have been discovered on books of bamboo strips.

The Terracotta Army set up to protect the Emperor Qin in his tomb probably included around eight thousand life-size figures. All the figures carry real swords, spears or bows and the metal weapons were still sharp when discovered.

In the eleventh century the Chinese learnt how to bake their pottery at temperatures high enough to produce porcelain (very fine, thin and hard). When this pottery came to Europe it was called "china" and that was the name kept when European potters learned how to make it themselves.

The Chinese discovered how to make silk thousands of years ago. The trail travelled by the merchants who brought it to Europe for the Romans and others was called the Silk Road.

Two European monks were sent to China in the sixth century to discover the secret of silk. They managed to steal some silkworm eggs which they hid inside a hollow bamboo and brought the silk moth to Europe.

A Chinese ship, estimated to be eight hundred years old, was raised from the bed of the South China Sea in December 2007. The 30-metre wooden junk, built during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), could provide evidence of an ancient maritime trade route linking China and the West.

During the Ming Dynasty China began to turn inwards, following isolationist policies.

Kung fu was practised by the Shaolin monks who took twenty years to become masters in the art.

China's oldest mosque is in Canton and dates back to trade with merchants from the Middle East who brought Islam to China.

Every Chinese Year is named after one of twelve animals: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. People born in a particular animal's year are believed to have some of that animal's characteristics.

Tea drinking began in China about 1,800 years ago. Tea houses are a popular meeting place for men who go there to play games such as Go or cards.

Ginseng has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. A wild ginseng root is worth much more than a cultivated root.

Acupuncture is the use of fine needles inserted into particular points of the body to cure certain illnesses.

Because small feet were thought beautiful in a woman, girls' feet used to be bound tightly with bandages to stop them growing properly. This was forbidden by law in 1911. (The smallest shoes were 8 cm long and known as the Lotus Foot).

The Manchus (Qing Dynasty) who ruled China between 1644 and 1911 enforced the Chinese to wear the Manchu pigtail.

Dr Sun Yat-Sen (1867-1925) was the first leader of republican China and is thought of as the founder of modern China.

The flag of the People's Republic of China was raised by Chairman Mao in Tian'anmen Square in October 1949. This spot is now marked by a granite obelisk.

In 1556 an earthquake in Shensi killed over eight hundred thousand people.

In 1976 an earthquake in Tangshan claimed the lives of around six hundred and fifty thousand people.

An earthquake at Yunnan killed over three hundred people and injured many thousands in February 1996. Less than a year later, a quake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale left 44,000 people homeless in Zhangbei (150 miles from Beijing), over fifty people dead and many thousands injured.

At the beginning of 2008 China experienced some of the worst snow storms for fifty years.

Many thousands of people were killed on 12 May 2008 when an earthquake, magnitude 7.9, struck eastern Sichuan.

In April 2010 an earthquake (7.1-magnitude) killed in over one and a half thousand people in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu.

In February 2009 Hillary Clinton called for a deeper US-China partnership on her first overseas tour as secretary of state.

In July 2009 there was the first sign of a relaxation of the one-child policy as Shanghai officials urged parents to have a second child in an effort to counter the ageing population.

In 2009 leaders of China and Taiwan exchanged direct messages for the first time in more than 60 years.

In October 2009 mass celebrations were held to mark the 60th anniversary of the Communist Party coming into power.

In March 2010 the web company Google ended its compliance with Chinese internet censorship and redirected searches via Hong Kong.

In September 2010 a diplomatic row with Japan erupted after Japan arrested the crew of a Chinese trawler in the disputed waters of the East China Sea. Japan released the crew, but rejected demands for an apology.

In October 2010 jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace prize, leading to official protests from Beijing.

In February 2011 security chief Zhou Yongkang called for a strategy to pre-empt social unrest after an internet campaign to organise a demonstration in Shanghai along the lines of the mass protests in Arab countries.

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