China, officially the People’s Republic of China, is a country in East Asia. In recent times, China has been impossible to ignore and has dominated the global stage. However, this land of superlatives is difficult to interpret and remains largely mysterious to outsiders. A land of startlingly varied landscapes and equally diverse communities, China never ceases to impress. Here are some interesting facts about China.
Facts about China
1. China is the third-largest country in the world and the largest country situated entirely in Asia.
China’s sheer amount of elbow space can make you dizzy. It has a total area of 9,596,961 km² (3,705,407 sq mi), making it the third-largest country in the world after Russia and Canada. To put China’s size into context, it is over 39 times the size of the United Kingdom or almost three times the size of India.
2. China is one of the two countries with the most land borders with other countries.
China is one of the two nations in the world (the other being Russia) that shares a land border with a staggering 14 other nations. China shares land borders with Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Vietnam.
3. If you walked all the way around China’s border, you will have walked more than halfway around the earth.
The total sum of China’s land borders is 22,457 km, which is easily more than half the earth’s circumference of 20,038 km (12,451 mi).
4. Since China has only one official time zone, sunrise in parts of the country can be as late as 10 AM.
China stretches around 4,800 km (3,000 mi) from its western border shared with Pakistan to the East China Sea in the east. The country covers more than 60 degrees of longitude, incorporating five ideal time zones with UTC offsets ranging from UTC+5 to UTC+9.
However, all of China officially observes the same time zone, which is UTC+8. It is internationally called China Standard Time (CST). Thus, it’s not uncommon for places in the westernmost part of China to see the sunrise as late as 10 AM in the winter or experience sunset at midnight.
China didn’t always have one time zone. From 1912 to 1949, China followed five different time zones in the country, ranging from five and a half to eight and a half hours past Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). But in 1949, the Communist Party decreed that all of China was to use Beijing Time for the purposes of national unity.
5. China has a coastline of 14,500 km (9,010 mi).
All of China’s coastline is along the Bohai Sea, the Huanghai Sea, the East China Sea, and the South China Sea, which are part of the Western Pacific Ocean.
6. China is part-home of the tallest mountain on earth.
China is part-home of Mount Everest, which it shares with Nepal. Mount Everest is the tallest mountain on earth, ascending to an elevation of 8,848 m (29,029 ft) above sea level.
7. Shishapangma is the tallest mountain located entirely within China.
Located in southwestern Tibet, Shishapangma is the tallest mountain located entirely within China. It is the 14th highest mountain in the world at 8,027 m (26,335 ft) above sea level. First ascended in 1964, Shishapangma was the last of the 14 eight-thousanders to be climbed.
8. China is home to the third-lowest point below sea level.
The dried lake bed of Ayding Lake in the Turpan Depression in western China is the third-lowest natural point on land below sea level. It reaches a depth of -154 m (-505 ft).
9. China is home to the longest river in the world to flow entirely within one country.
The Yangtze River is the world’s third longest river and the longest river located entirely within one country. Rising in the Tanggula Mountains in western China, the Yangtze River flows 6,300 km (3,900 mi) in a generally easterly direction to the East China Sea.
10. China is the world’s largest producer of hydroelectricity and is home to the largest hydroelectric dam in the world.
Three Gorges Dam, on the Yangtze River, is the world’s largest hydroelectric facility.
11. From around 2070 BC to 1912, China was ruled by a series of 13 successive dynasties.
China’s imperial history extends back over a period of 4,000 years. China was ruled by a succession of 13 dynasties, broken by periods of occasional periods of chaos and civil war when the empire fractured into separate parts.
In chronological order, the successive dynasties that ruled over China are the Xia Dynasty, the Shang Dynasty, the Zhou Dynasty, the Qin Dynasty, the Han Dynasty, the Six Dynasties period, the Sui Dynasty, the Tang Dynasty, the Five Dynasties period, the Song Dynasty, the Yuan Dynasty, the Ming Dynasty, and the Qing Dynasty.
12. The Zhou Dynasty was the longest dynasty in the history of China.
The Zhou Dynasty ruled over China for almost 800 years from 1046-256 BC under the rule of 37 different emperors.
13. The Great Wall of China isn’t one long wall, but rather a series of fortifications.
The Great Wall of China extends for 21,196 km (13,171 mi). The Great Wall actually consists of numerous walls—built over some two millennia across northern China and southern Mongolia. Though several walls were built from as early as the 7th century BC, the most extensive and best-preserved version of the wall dates from the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).
14. Contrary to the widespread notion, you can’t see the Great Wall of China from the moon.
One of the most popular myths about space is that the Great Wall of China is the only human-built structure that can be seen from the moon, but this is actually not the case. Multiple astronauts have repeatedly reiterated that the Great Wall of China can’t be seen from the moon with the naked eye.
The Great Wall of China is barely visible from low Earth orbit (an altitude of as little as 160 km (100 mi). NASA has claimed that it is barely visible under nearly perfect conditions and it is no more conspicuous than many other man-made objects.
15. Beijing is the world’s most populous national capital.
Home to almost 22 million people, Beijing is the most populous national capital city in the world.
16. Shanghai is the largest city in China.
Straddling both banks of the Huangpu River, close to the mouth of the mighty Yangtze on China’s eastern seaboard, Shanghai is China’s largest city with a population of over 27 million. A beautiful city in its own right, Shanghai has been nicknamed “Pearl of the Orient” and “Paris of the East”.
17. Capital punishment is legal in China.
China is an active enforcer of the death penalty. The exact number of executions carried out by China is not publicly available due to it being a state secret. Amnesty International claims that China executes more people than all other countries combined.
18. There are more Mongols in China than there are in Mongolia.
One of the lesser-known facts about China is that it is home to approximately 6 million ethnic Mongols, which is much more than the total population of Mongolia. Over 80% of the ethnic Mongols in China can be found in the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia.
19. China is home to two special administrative regions (SARs).
There are two SARs in China, namely the Hong Kong SAR and the Macau SAR, former British and Portuguese dependencies, respectively. Hong Kong was a colony and dependent territory of the United Kingdom from 1841 to 1997. Macau was both the first and last European holding in China and was under Portuguese rule for over 400 years from 1557 to 1999.
Under part of an agreement with China, both the United Kingdom and Portugal transferred the sovereignty of Hong Kong and Macau over to China in 1997 and 1999 respectively. As SARs, Hong Kong and Macau have a high degree of autonomy. and maintain separate legal, administrative, and judicial systems. In addition, the two SARs have their own police forces, monetary systems, separate customs territory, immigration policies, official languages, postal systems, academic and educational systems.
20. China drives on the right.
All vehicular traffic in China follows right-hand traffic rules except in the two SARs of Hong Kong and Macau which continue to have left-hand traffic.
21. China has rehab centers for Internet addicts.
China takes internet addiction very seriously and, in 2008, China became the first country to recognize internet addiction disorder (IAD) as a mental illness. China is home to several Internet Addiction Treatment Centers to combat the increasing number of youngsters who opt to ignore their studies, social lives, and family to surf the web or play online games.
Parents who have watched their kids’ obsession spiral out of control are willing to fork out large sums of money to send them to these military-style camps. Once there, the kids are required to do demanding physical exercises and take medication. They spend up to six months learning how to appreciate life beyond their screens.
22. China has blocked Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, and Instagram, as well as thousands of other foreign websites.
Starting in the late 1990s, China began monitoring and censoring the internet within its borders. That first decade of internet censorship flew mostly under the radar.
However, this all changed in 2009. For a variety of reasons, the Chinese government began to feel threatened by the free access to information for its citizens, particularly with western social media platforms. Since then, a plethora of Chinese websites has emerged to serve the same functions — though they are heavily censored.
23. China owns all the pandas in the world.
In addition to all the pandas in China, any panda found outside of China is said to be on loan, and has been given the term ‘panda diplomacy’. China is said to loan out pandas to countries with which it aims on building good relations.
The cost of renting a panda is 1 million USD per year and, perhaps most strikingly, the lease agreement requires that any cubs born to loaned-out pandas be returned to China.
24. Chinese law requires children to visit elderly parents.
In 2013, China introduced the “Elderly Rights Law,” which requires children to visit or keep in touch with their parents who are 60 and older, in addition to making sure their financial and “spiritual” needs are met. Failure to comply can result in potential fines, lawsuits, or jail time.
Although respect for the elderly is deeply ingrained in Chinese society, the advent of market reforms has accelerated the breakup of China’s traditional extended family, and there are few affordable alternatives, such as retirement homes. Children in China are expected to look after their parents’ financial and emotional well-being.
25. The deadliest earthquake in recorded history occurred in China.
With a magnitude of 8.0, the 1556 Shaanxi earthquake in China is the deadliest earthquake on record with 830,000 deaths.
26.Standard Chinese or Mandarin is the official language of China.
Standard Chinese is the most spoken language in the world in terms of native speakers and the second-most spoken language in the world overall behind English.
27. The number 4 is considered the most unlucky in China.
In the eyes of the Chinese, 4 is generally disliked by people just as 13 is in the western world. The number 4 is avoided in China for sounding similar to the word “death”.
Therefore, many buildings, especially hotels in China don’t set the fourth, fourteenth, and twenty-fourth floors and other floors with 4. When choosing the telephone numbers and the vehicle identification numbers, many people go to great lengths to avoid number 4.
28. The number 8 is considered the luckiest in China.
In China, the number 8 is associated with wealth and prosperity. While the Chinese will go to great lengths to avoid 4 in daily life, they will try to incorporate 8 wherever they can. For example, people are known to pay extra money for a telephone number with several eights.
Residences on the eighth floor of buildings will be among the first to be sold out. Other addresses with the number 8 are favored by people as well. License plates with the number 8 tend to be sold at higher prices. Interestingly, the opening ceremony of the Beijing Summer Olympics began at exactly 8:08 PM on the eighth day of the eighth month in 2008.
29. China legally recognizes 56 distinct ethnic groups.
The Han dynasty was one of China’s earliest and greatest dynasties and lends its name to the ethnic group which makes up 90% of the population today. The Han Chinese are the world’s largest single ethnic group.
In addition to the Han, China’s population also includes some 55 ethnic groups, which are as diverse as you’d expect for a country as vast as China. Each of these ethnic groups has its own distinctive customs, costumes, and, in many cases, languages. The major minority ethnic groups in China are Zhuang, Hui, Manchu, Uyghur, Miao, Yi, Tujia, Tibetan, Mongol, Dong, Bouyei, Yao, Bai, Korean, Hani, Li, and Kazakh.
30. Chopsticks were initially created for cooking in China, not as an eating utensil.
In ancient China, the first chopsticks were used for cooking, stirring pots of hot water or oil, serving bits of food, and not as eating utensils. The demand for disposable chopsticks in China requires 20 million trees to be felled each year.
31. China is minerally rich and is the world’s leading producer of at least 38 minerals.
China is the world’s largest producer of some minerals such as alumina, aluminum, antimony, coal, arsenic, barytes, bismuth, gallium, germanium, gold, graphite, gypsum, iodine, magnesium, pig iron, and mica.
32. China has been the birthplace of many inventions.
One of our favorite facts about China is that it has been the place where so many important things were conceived. Some of the most important things to have originated in China are the compass, gunpowder, paper, printing, silk, paper money, tea, alcohol, crossbow, abacus, porcelain, umbrella, mechanical clock, wheelbarrow, toilet paper, noodles, ice cream, toothbrush, suspension bridge, and the seismograph.
33. Table tennis is the national sport of China.
Ever since table tennis was introduced at the Summer Olympic Games in 1988, China has dominated the sport, winning a total of 28 out of a possible 32 gold medals. Contrary to popular belief, table tennis didn’t originate in China, but rather in the United Kingdom.
34. Fortune cookies didn’t originate in China.
A fortune cookie is a crispy and sugary cookie that has a piece of paper inside containing a “fortune” with a proverb or an aphorism. Many people associate these fortune cookies with Chinese restaurants—and by extension, Chinese culture, partly due to the country’s fixation with luck. The exact provenance of the fortune cookie is subject to debate but they are thought to have originated either in Japan or the US state of California.
35. The three most common surnames in China account for over 20% of the country’s population.
Wáng), Li, and Zhang are the three most common surnames in China, and in total, they account for over 20% (≈300 million) of China’s population. In comparison, the three most common surnames in the US (Smith, Johnson, and Williams) account for about 2.5% of the population.
36. China has a huge gender imbalance.
As a result of a combination of cultural preferences, government decree, and modern medical technology, China boasts one of the world’s most skewed sex ratios. Due to this, there are 30-35 million more men in the country than women.
37. Besides Standard Chinese, there are still over 290 languages spoken in China.
In addition to having 56 ethnic groups, China also boasts over 290 living languages. Some of the regional languages spoken in China are Cantonese (Yue), Gan, Hakka, Min, Wu (Shanghainese), Xiang (Hunanese), Zhuang, Yi, Uyghur, Tibetan, Mongolian, Korean, and Kyrgyz.
38. In China, every year is named after one of the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals.
Each year is associated with one of 12 animal signs, which repeat in a cycle. In Chinese astrology, the 12 animals are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. People born under a specific animal sign are supposed to have some of the characteristics attributed to the animal.
39. China, along with Italy, has the highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world.
There are 55 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China. China is tied with Italy for having the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Some of the most famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China include the Great Wall of China, Mogao Caves, Classical Gardens of Suzhou, Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Fanjingshan, Dazu Rock Carvings, Longmen Grottoes, Mount Wutai, and the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian.
40. China is home to 60% of the world’s varieties of mushrooms.
Another fun fact about China is that it produces more than 600,000 tons of mushrooms each year.
41. China doesn’t observe daylight saving.
Clocks do not change in China and daylight saving in China hasn’t been observed since 1991.
42. Baijiu is the national drink of China.
Baijiu is a colorless, fragrant liquid made from a variety of raw materials, including sorghum, rice, corn, barley, wheat, and even peas. It is produced in various styles in different provinces and it comes in a wide spectrum of flavors from floral and fruity, to savory and spiced. Baijiu’s alcohol volume ranges from 28-65%.
43. The currency of China is the Chinese Renminbi (CNY-Renminbi).
Renminbi is the name of the currency while yuan is the name of the primary unit of the renminbi. The currency is denoted by the symbol “¥”. The renminbi is one of the most traded currencies in the world.
Hong Kong and Macau have their own currencies—the Hong Kong dollar (HKD) and the Macau pataca (MOP).
44. China is officially atheist.
The Chinese government and Communist Party is officially atheist, but it recognizes five religions: Buddhism, Catholicism, Daoism (Taoism), Islam, and Protestantism. Since the Communist Party relaxed its policies about religion, religious observance in China has been on the rise.
45. The biggest and most important festival in China is the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year.
The first day of Chinese New Year begins on the new moon that appears between 21 January and 20 February. In the days leading up to the Chinese New Year, people will clean their houses to sweep away any bad luck and place red paper couplets around their doors and windows. The couplets display messages such as good fortune or happiness, wealth, and longevity.
Families come together for this special occasion and exchange gifts. Money is handed out in decorative red envelopes, which symbolize luck and wealth. Overall, the festivities last about 15 days but the whole country essentially shuts down for only three.
46. Football (soccer) originated in China.
While England is the birthplace of the modern version of football, the origins of the sport lie in China. According to FIFA, the earliest form of football was a Chinese invention. Over 2,000 years ago during the Hany Dynasty, the Chinese were playing a game similar to football called Cuju (pronounced tsoo-joo), best translated as “kickball.”
Cuju was played in a rectangular field often defined by thread or low walls, with typically one or two goals positioned in the middle of the field. Players could use any part of the body apart from hands and the intent was kicking a ball through an opening into a net. Cuju was a very popular sport in medieval China, pervasive among all classes and enjoyed by intellectuals, peasants, royalty, and soldiers alike.
47. China is the fourth-most visited country in the world.
With well over 60 million international tourist arrivals, China is the fourth-most visited country in the world behind France, Spain, and the USA.
48. China is the world’s largest movie market.
China has overtaken the US as the world’s biggest box office market. China is also home to the largest film studio in the world, the Hengdian World Studios.
49. China is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.
China is one of the UN Security Council’s five permanent members, meaning it has the power to veto any substantive resolution.