55 Random Facts about China

13 Jan

Before my recent trip to China, for some reason, I had a bunch of wrong notions and misconceptions about this country. In hindsight I feel that some were so random that I can’t even begin to fathom where did they originate from. But whatever my expectations or beliefs China proved me wrong on nearly all of them. Hence it’s not surprising that this holiday also doubled into a learning experience – that I term as China 101. I discovered many new facts, explored some different facets and met some of its amazing people. Some of these experiences / discoveries were amazing, some shocking and some downright disgusting.

Forbidden City, Beijing, China

Forbidden City, Beijing, China

And based on my own experiences, sharing 50 random facts about China with you below –

1. The common / Chinese name for China is “Zhongguo” which means “nation / middle kingdom”. Beijing means “northern capital” and Shanghai means “above the sea”.
2. Reforms and growth in China is only about 30 years old – Economic reforms began in 1978 and were carried out in two stages. First in the late 1970s and early 1980s with decollectivization of agriculture, opening up of foreign investment, and permission for entrepreneurship. The second in the late 1980s and 1990s, with privatization and contracting out of state-owned industries, lifting of price controls, protectionist policies, and regulations etc.
3. All Chinese don’t look alike or have the typical features that we associate with them. There are 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities in China and some of them are genetically Turkish, Central Asians and Russians. These ethnic groups look very different from the Chinese and have their own language, culture, dressing, traditions, etc.
4. Infrastructure in the entire country i.e. roads, airports, trains etc, is new, extremely modern, state of art, extensive and amazing. The connectivity across the country (despite the massive size, topography etc) is really impressive.
5. There is censorship of media including television, print media, radio, film, theater, text messaging, instant messaging, video games, literature and the Internet. There is censorship in topics / subjects too and you cannot openly talk about democracy, the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, Maoism, Falun Gong, ethnic independence movements, corruption, police brutality, anarchism, gossip, disparity of wealth, etc etc.

Quaint Cafes and Bars, Shanghai, China

Quaint Cafes and Bars, Shanghai, China

6. Due to its massive size China spans 5 time zones; still the entire country follows just one uniform time zone called the China Time Zone.
7. China is an extremely safe country for solo women travelers. I have traveled solo and even was out at late hours too but there is absolutely nothing to worry about. There is a historic reason for this and you can read more on this at – GoChina
8. Mandarin is a tonal language i.e. the meaning of a word changes according to its tone. There are 4 tones and a neutral 5th tone. For example – the sound “ma” can have five very different meanings depending which tone is used to pronounce it: – mā (first tone): “mother”, má (second tone): “hemp”, mǎ (third tone): “horse”, mà (fourth tone): “to curse”, ma (neutral tone): a grammatical particle that indicates a question.
9. Mandarin grammar is pretty simple as they don’t have any singular-plural or verb conjugation. Differences in mood and tense are indicated with grammatical marker words or implied by context.
10. An old gentleman told me that written Chinese consists of more than 40,000 logographic symbols, where each symbol represents one syllable or concept rather than a sound. Also to be considered a literate one needs to study at least 2500 symbols (around 2,000 are taught in schools)!!!

Ethnic Minorities of Yunnan, China

Ethnic Minorities of Yunnan, China

11. Chinese characters are the most widely adopted characters in various other languages across East Asia too. They are used in Japanese and known as kanji; in Korean as hanja, and in Vietnamese as chữ Nôm.
12. For number counting their hand gestures are very different from us. For example – 10 is not 10 open fingers, but a closed fist. You can read more on other gestures here.
13. There is no tipping anywhere in China including hotels as it is not a part of their culture. In fact if you tip them, then in most cases they don’t understand and return the excess amount.
14. They refer to Indians as “Indu”.
15. For some reason everywhere in China men hold women’s’ purses (in public too). Even if women don’t have anything in their hands, men still hold their bags and purses.

Daily evening dancing in public squares, China

Daily evening dancing in public squares, China

16. In weddings men pay dowry to the bride’s family. This is also becoming a social issue as the sex ratio in China is pretty skewed (less women for the number of men) and if men are not able to pay a hefty dowry, then they are unable to get married.
17. Chinese weddings are pretty simple wherein you apply for a license by submitting the required documents and then collect the marriage licence once approved. This is normally followed by an elaborate reception at a hotel.
18. This is a huge rage in China. Before the wedding itself, couples create an elaborate professional wedding albums with pictures taken at various locations and in different outfits. I saw many couples all over the country getting these albums made and in all cases the brides were wearing sports shoes under their long gowns.
19. People here are very warm towards foreigners and Indians. Many of them (especially people from Tibet) have been to Dharamshala.
20. People are very proud of their nation and have a deep sense of nationalist pride.

Jade figurines, China

Jade figurines, China

21. All Chinese are extremely proud about the Beijing Olympics and love to show the Olympic stadium to every visitor. They believe that the Beijing Olympics has been a catalyst of change, helped develop their international image & become more integrated with the world and improve their infrastructure & the economy.
22. All parts of the country that I visited were spotlessly clean and there was no littering anywhere.
23. With one child policy people are crazy about kids.
24. All streets are named after other Chinese cities. For example there is a city named Nanjing in China and Shanghai has a road names Nanjing too.
25. Everyone wears a Jade in some any form or the other (bangles, bracelet, neck piece, etc). Jade is believed to protect the wearer and to bring long life, good health and prosperity. Jade also comes in multiple colors and each color has its own significance.

Finally Bread and Coffee, China

Finally Bread and Coffee, China

26. Chinese guardian lions or the Imperial guardian lion are at the entrance of nearly all important buildings such as the Imperial palaces, tombs, government offices, banks, temples, rich households, restaurants, hotels, supermarkets etc. They are believed to have protective benefits.
27. People are extremely conscious of their looks and the brands that they wear. Hence it’s not surprising that all major international brands have outlets here and are every expensive.
28. People are very fond of big eyes and always stop and complement foreigners for their eyes. Even though I wouldn’t understand their language they would always use hand gestures to complement and say that we have big beautiful eyes.
29. People here love posing and taking their own pictures & selfies.
30. They also love taking photographs with foreigners, even people they don’t know at all. They just approach them and request for a picture.

Choose your own ingredients, China

Choose your own ingredients, China

31. Across the country every evening, old people (men and women) gather at various town squares at around 8.00pm and dance in groups to loud music.
32. China is so much more than cheap mass manufacturing. There are numerous local trendy & quaint art and craft brands and even cafes all around.
33. Banks open / work 7 days a week.
34. Everyone leaves home in the morning with a tea thermos filled with reusable tea leaves and hot water (black tea). They keep drinking this black tea and adding hot water to their thermos day. A local explained to me that since they eat a lot of meat (acid) they have to drink tea (alkaline) for balance.
35. Chinese love their cars and the speed. There are more luxury cars (like Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes, Lamborghini, Porsche, BMW, etc.) here than I have seen in a lot of other countries.

Chinese Tea, China

Chinese Tea, China

36. Language is a huge barrier and you have to carry details of your destination in English and Mandarin at all times.
37. All public signs are written in Mandarin and English.
38. Primary education is compulsory and free for everyone. Hence 99% of Chinese youth can read and write Mandarin.
39. People in China are more shy rather than cold or rude. They have been closed as a country for so long that they (especially the older generation) doesn’t know how to treat foreigners. They are also embarrassed about not knowing English, hence run away when they see foreign tourists. If you know mandarin then the same people stop and help you in any way they can.
40. I have traveled to numerous countries where everyone has recognized or pegged us as Indians, but in China they don’t recognize Indians and always ask our nationality.

Tsingtao Beer, Qingdao, China

Tsingtao Beer, Qingdao, China

41. They are extremely strict about security and checking at various airports and tourist locations. They check passports even for domestic travel, x-ray and pat check all travelers and x-ray your check-in luggage at check-in counters itself. They are especially strict about batteries.
42. Loads of websites are banned in China such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc and they have their own local Chinese versions such as Baidu for google, etc.
43. Because of the Hukou system you don’t see any slums in cities or villages of China. Under this system, rural migrants are allowed to work in the city but the city is not responsible for providing social benefits for them such as free schooling, housing etc. Thus rural migrants have to keep circulating between their home villages and cities where informal housing is their only option.
44. There is an erstwhile German now a Chinese Brewery in Qingdao and you get Tsingtao Beer in many parts of China and some cities overseas.
45. It is extremely difficult to find vegetarian food in China especially in the rural areas. Language issues aside, they just don’t understand the concept of vegetarian with no egg, fish or any form of meat.

Chinese Temples and Architecture

Chinese Temples and Architecture

46. Chinese breakfast in very different from an English breakfast and you don’t get any English style bread, cereal or salads here.
47. For Chinese, breakfast is a meal that must be hot and quick to eat. Many of them pick up their breakfast from roadside vendors and eat it along the way to work.
48. Common breakfast items in China are – congee (rice porridge), mantou (steamed bread of wheat flour), noodle soup, soy milk, dimsums, zongzi (steamed rice dumplings) or Baozi (steamed stuffed buns).
49. A common concept for eating in local restaurants here is – ingredients are kept outside the hotel (from vegetables to live sea food). You select your ingredients, point them out to the waiter and then take a seat. These ingredients are then cooked and served inside the hotel. Also they eat anything – from brains to testicles and of any animal.
50. Food items such as montau, noodles, bing (flat bread) etc are served bland and are eaten along with numerous pickles for flavor and spices.

Arty streets of Shanghai, China

Arty streets of Shanghai, China

51. Many countries in SE Asia and Europe are connected to China by train and ferry. For example there are ferries from Shanghai to Japan. There’s even a twice-weekly train from Beijing to Hanoi in Vietnam and then you can take daily trains to Saigon, a bus to Phnom Penh and on to Bangkok, then a train to Malaysia & Singapore.
52. Most Chinese people are lactose intolerant to varying degrees.
53. Chinese don’t eat deserts / sweets after a meal.
54. They eat sweets but as snacks.
55. They also keep roasted sunflower seeds and flax seeds in their pockets and keep eating them as a snack.

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52 Responses to “55 Random Facts about China”

  1. CappAdict January 13, 2015 at 21:43 #

    Reblogged this on Around the World and commented:
    Really interesting! 🙂 would love to visit China too someday!

    Like

  2. Antarik Anwesan January 13, 2015 at 22:09 #

    Hardly knew any of the things mentioned in your post. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Like

  3. justanotheranimefan January 13, 2015 at 22:41 #

    Really interesting, thanks 🙂
    I will eventually be going to China to teach English, so this was great to read!

    Like

  4. 36views January 14, 2015 at 01:29 #

    Interesting and informative post, thanks! It’s so hard to get these kind of cultural insights when you’re a tourist and to me it’s the every day little things that are the most interesting, like the flasks with ‘reusable’ tea leaves!

    Like

    • getsetandgo January 26, 2015 at 20:46 #

      Thanks for the kind words… It’s capturing such little nuances of a place that make travel so much more interesting 🙂

      Like

  5. Casey January 14, 2015 at 05:45 #

    I really enjoyed reading this. Tons of interesting information!

    Like

  6. Heidi Leigh Smith January 14, 2015 at 08:30 #

    Such a great post! Thank you for sharing. 😊

    Like

  7. rctravels January 14, 2015 at 09:18 #

    A very engrossing read and unknown interesting facts

    Like

  8. Santosh Namby January 14, 2015 at 09:52 #

    Great insights….

    Like

  9. Anil C. Mandal January 14, 2015 at 15:15 #

    An informative post! Thanks for sharing!!

    Like

  10. Sudhindra January 14, 2015 at 18:43 #

    Wonderful collection of trivia about China and makes for very interesting reading.. Happy Travelling!

    Like

  11. Holly Beddome January 14, 2015 at 19:16 #

    This was an interesting read, and well-timed as I’ll be in Beijing for a long weekend next month! I’ll report back on how many of these tidbits I observe 😀

    Like

    • getsetandgo January 26, 2015 at 20:49 #

      Hey Holly, thanks and it will be great to read your perspective on Beijing and the Chinese 🙂

      Like

  12. Benjamin January 14, 2015 at 21:38 #

    Very helpful and enjoyed!~

    Like

  13. rohitdassani January 15, 2015 at 16:43 #

    Great insights on the facts…. 55…. thats a great number….. do visit http://www.rohitdassani.com

    Like

    • getsetandgo January 26, 2015 at 20:51 #

      Thanks and I’ll definitely visit your blog 🙂

      Like

  14. Maya Oryan January 15, 2015 at 20:27 #

    Interesting and enjoyable to read

    Like

  15. 3weeksandashoestring January 15, 2015 at 22:56 #

    Some very interesting observations here, it was fun to read this. #18 and #30 are (getting) kind of common in India too, right? Pre-wedding (formal, casual etc. etc.) photo shoots are all over social networking sites and I’ve seen plenty of locals pursue foreign tourists for taking photos with them (mostly Westerners) to the point of harrassment!

    Like

    • getsetandgo January 26, 2015 at 20:53 #

      I agree to what you are saying but when Indian men run after foreigner women for photographs, it seems like a harassment… But in China its just a like a common request and you don’t mind posing for their pics… Also their formal photo shoots are way more elaborate than ours….

      Like

      • 3weeksandashoestring January 27, 2015 at 16:26 #

        I see. 🙂 I’m curious about China but eating worries (and other destinations taking priority) are going to keep my plans on hold for a bit I think.

        Like

  16. Juliana Lightle January 16, 2015 at 08:38 #

    Reblogged this on writingontherim and commented:
    My fellow blogger from India posted this. I found the detailed information quite fascinating and much of it surprising or new.

    Like

    • getsetandgo January 26, 2015 at 20:55 #

      Thanks for sharing Juliana 🙂 Appreciate this…

      Like

  17. lulu January 17, 2015 at 02:30 #

    I enjoy the vicarious experience of traveling China with you.

    Like

  18. danish January 17, 2015 at 06:24 #

    Thanks for sharing the collection 🙂
    It made me realize how very little I know about our country’s biggest neighbour! The information you have shared on the culture, mannerism and general lifestyle of the Chinese people has been very insightful for me. Thanks again 🙂

    Like

    • getsetandgo January 26, 2015 at 20:59 #

      Thanks Danish and I felt the same when I landed in China… It was a such shock when I realized that we know so little about them and their way of lives…. Have too many misconceptions too… Hence wrote this post 🙂

      Like

  19. kashpals January 19, 2015 at 16:45 #

    Interesting article about China. Will love to visit China someday.

    Like

  20. 24vs100 January 21, 2015 at 09:04 #

    Great post:) I found many of these facts apply to Vietnam as well (the actual name of China meaning “middle country”, the custom to wear jade, and the tonal language). No wonder they said Vietnamese culture is largely influenced by Chinese culture.

    Like

    • getsetandgo January 26, 2015 at 21:14 #

      Wow… that makes me now want to visit Vietnam and learn more about it and discover more such similarities… Thanks for sharing this info 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  21. themauritiangeographer February 22, 2015 at 13:53 #

    This is great! I live with two Chinese girls, one of Turkish ethnicity and another ethnic Chinese and well, they definitely broke the typical chinese stereotypes for me. Also #45, how did you do? That might be one of my problems to when (at some point) I go to China!

    Like

    • getsetandgo February 22, 2015 at 23:13 #

      I found vegan food in Beijing and Shanghai.. Pizza Hut has one veg option too… For the rest, I carried some food with me and cooked whenever possible…. But it was not easy…

      Liked by 1 person

  22. writenlive April 14, 2015 at 17:15 #

    Rather interesting facts! China being a closed country, not much is known about the Chinese’ daily life.

    Like

    • getsetandgo April 20, 2015 at 10:46 #

      Thanks… This trip was quite an eye opener for me too and hence decided to share my observations with everyone 🙂

      Like

  23. getsetandgo January 26, 2015 at 20:55 #

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Friday Findings 1.16.2015 – There Goes Casey - January 16, 2015

    […] 55 Random Facts About China via Getsetandgo- China has become such a popular travel destination. Great reading for anyone heading there soon. […]

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