China is the 4th biggest country in the world with an estimated population of 1.379 billion, but most of what goes on inside the country remains a mystery to the rest of the world. Some foreigners who have been there think China is like another planet, not just another country. We compiled a list of 15 of the most interesting, bizarre and shocking facts about China.
Tired of Tinder and OkCupid? In China, there is a totally different form of match-matching. In both Beijing and Shanghai on weekends you can see parents advertising their children for marriage at their respective marriage markets. It is quite the sight to see! Parents hold signs advertising age, height, job, income, education, values, zodiac signs, and the personality of their children in hopes of finding them a match. Some traditional Chinese parents see this as the only way to keep a strong family lineage in modern society. What do you think? Would you let your parents try to find you a match?
Christmas is HUGE in China
Most people in China either don’t affiliate with a religion or consider themselves Buddhist, Taoist or Muslim. This doesn’t stop them from having the biggest Christmas celebration in the world. In the months, (yes months), leading up to the holiday there are decorations, dance performances on the street, themed food and merchandise everywhere. It is not celebrated in a religious manner, but rather it is viewed as one of the biggest shopping days of the year. There are sales everywhere! Besides, that young couples treat the day as a romantic one. Many go on vacations or on special dates on Christmas Day.
The Great Firewall of China
The Chinese government heavily censors and regulates the domestic internet. Certain websites and apps are completely inaccessible with an internet connection there. Some examples include Google, Facebook, Instagram, various Wikipedia articles, Snapchat, and YouTube. The purpose of the firewall is to limit foreign information/influence in order to maintain traditional Chinese culture and so the government can exercise social control and prevent potential rebellions. Foreigners find this to be very frustrating and many turn to VPNs or virtual private networks which allows them to get around the firewall.
You Can Rent a Fake Boyfriend or Girlfriend on Taobao
Taobao is basically Chinese Ebay, but more extreme. It is one of the biggest e-commerce websites in the world. You can buy literally anything you can think of from the website including live animals, breast implants, and of course renting a boyfriend or girlfriend. Desperate for a date? No problem! There are plenty of willing boyfriends and girlfriends on the website. They offer hourly and daily rates and some charge an extra fee for romantic activities.
No More One Child Policy
For about 40 years China’s family planning commission enforced the “one-child policy.” Due to severe overpopulation, families in China were only allowed to have one child and were heavily, heavily fined if they had more children. In 2003 a famous Chinese filmmaker named Zhang Yimou and his wife were fined 7.48 million yuan or about 1.19 million USD for having three extra children. This is simply unaffordable for many families, so many women have had abortions in case they accidentally became pregnant. This policy also has resulted in a gender imbalance as many parents preferred their one child to be male, so often female’s were aborted. Government officials have stated this very much helped with overpopulation and reduced the number of births by about 400 million. The policy has been relaxed recently, and as of 2016 families are legally allowed to have two children.
There is a ton of pressure for women to get married in China, and especially for them to marry young. In China, if you are over 25 and single you are called a “shèngnǚ” which translates into “leftover women” in Mandarin. It is a negative term and if you are in your late 20’s you feel a lot of pressure to tie the knot.
China is Implementing a New Social Credit System
It seems like an episode of Black Mirror, but this is in real life! The Chinese government is setting up a social ranking system based on citizens “social credit.” It will be fully operational by 2020 and is mandatory, but it is being used for millions of people already. It is basically like a private credit score where a person’s score is determined on their own behavior. If you buy too many video games or disrespect your parents, your score can move down. If your score gets too low you can get banned from traveling, certain hotels, be disqualified from certain jobs and schools, have your internet speed drastically reduced, and face public shaming as a “bad citizen.” If you are a “good citizen” you can get discounts, special privileges, and even special interest rates when taking out a loan at the bank.
Public toilets in China are definitely something to avoid. Besides the squatter style toilet which some find uncomfortable, most bathrooms in China are incredibly dirty and lack toilet paper, soap, hot water and dryers. Most people don’t flush and often “miss” the squatter. In order to encourage tourism, the government is implementing a “toilet revolution” to improve the hygiene and quality of bathrooms around the country. The government has invested $3 billion USD so far, but much more work needs to be done.
Most Chinese Supported Trump in Presidential Election
Due to the firewall and censorship, most Chinese citizens knowledge of foreign affairs is limited. While most polls in America predicted Clinton would win, polls advertised on Chinese news websites all predicted Trump. In general, most Chinese people supported Trump to beat Clinton because he was considered “good at business.” Most Chinese were unaware of Trump’s public “China bashing” comments in regards to its currency depreciation, labor practices, and trade policies.
Can’t “Own” Property
Due to China’s socialist influence, no one person or business can “own” land as it ultimately belongs to the government. When someone “buys” real estate or other property they are actually paying to lease land usage rights that expire after a certain number of years. Most apartment’s usage duration is for about 70 years.
Air Pollution Has Created A New Industry
It is well known China has the worst air quality in the world. In order for people to continue living their lives happily in the face of severe air pollution, a wave of new products has been introduced. For example, training air masks for running, high-tech air purifiers, and even beauty products. Pond’s and Garnier have introduced anti-pollution face wash products to Asian markets and even Nike sells an air mask for joggers.
Most products and food in China are completely unregulated. Due to this and the profit-motive, almost anything you buy in China might be fake. This can be good if you know about it and maybe want a designer purse but can be very dangerous especially with food products. For example milk, pork, eggs, rice, beef and even alcohol can be fake. Anything you consume in China can be a health risk.
Blind Massages Are Awesome
Traditional massage for relaxation and health purposes have been practiced in China for over 2,000 years. Pretty much anywhere you go to in China you can find a massage studio advertising a different kind of massage. Foot massages, pressure point massages and even blind massages are the most common. China has the largest population of blind people in the world, and many go to specialized universities to get trained. Additionally, blind people in Chinese culture are considered to be naturally gifted at massages. Some people say their blind massages were the best they’ve had anywhere in their life. If you’re there, definitely give it a try!
KFC Is Huge In China
While the government limits foreign businesses and chains that operate in the country, KFC is very present and popular. Some menu items include rice congee, corn frozen yogurt, egg tarts, fried chicken wraps, chicken cutlets, vegetable soup and hot soy milk drinks.
Fastest Electric Train In The World
China is well known for having some of the best public transportation in the world. If you fly into the Shanghai Pudong Airport, you can hop on the fastest commercial electric train in the world. It is called the Shangai Maglev Train. The maximum operating speed is 431 km/h or 268 mph.
You Can Eat Amazing French Food
There is an area in Shanghai that is very international and called “The Shanghai French Concession.” It was a foreign concession from 1849 to 1943 under the authority of France. While it has undergone some changes int he last decades, the French influence can be seen everywhere from the architecture to the jazz bars to the amazing restaurants! Some of the best French food outside of France is located there.
Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders
Surprisingly the “Nanjing Massacre” is not well known around the world, but it was an absolute historical nightmare. In 1937 the Japanese army occupied Nanjing which was the capital city of China. The Japanese army committed numerous atrocities including mass execution, rape, and torture against civilians. It is estimated 300,000 civilians and Chinese soldiers died. This event can be remembered at the Memorial Hall of Victims which is a very well known museum in Nanjing. There are memorials, personal items, and exhibits about the Nanjing Massacre and also other World War 2 events.
Spiciest Food Is Sichuan
China has amazing food that differs from city to city. Every place is known for something special whether it is Peking Duck in Beijing or sweeter food in Suzhou. The spiciest food in China is definitely Sichuan food. Some spicy dishes include ma po tofu, dan dan noodles, and saliva chicken.
Terracotta Army In Xi’an
The Terracotta Army in Xian, aka Terracotta Warriors and Horses, is one of the most intriguing things to see in the world! The Terracotta Army was discovered in 1974 by farmers. Fragments of the warriors and things like bricks and roofing tiles were found. This lead Chinese archeologists to search and they found the largest pottery figurine group ever in China. A museum since has been created in the area which features life-size terracotta sculptures in battle formations. There are over 8,000 figurines to see! This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must see, you will be amazed!
Jews Lived In The “Shanghai Ghetto” During WW2
Did you know Shanghai was the temporary home for about 20,000 Jewish Holocaust refugees? Shanghai allowed thousands of Jews to immigrate there during and after World War 2. They lived in the “Shanghai Ghetto” and now there is a museum called “The Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum” commemorating their time in China. The museum has photos, films, personal items and documents of the Jews that lived there. Who would have thought?
You Can Go To North Korea
The only place in the world where a tourist can enter into North Korea is from China. North Korea has closed borders, and only allows tours in a very, very limited capacity. Tourists must go on guided tours and follow very strict rules while within the country. People that have gone say the tour is incredibly interesting and it is an experience like none other in the world.
Mount Everest is located in Tibet and it is Earth’s highest mountain! Its elevation is 20,029 ft. Some people that like to live on the edge hike it and some go on guided tours in vans. The vans have oxygen tanks and some people very much struggle with the high elevation. Nonetheless, it is one of the most beautiful places in the world!
Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival
Harbin is the capital of the Heilongjiang province and is the largest city in the northeastern region of the People’s Republic of China. It is very close to Russia and has the climate to prove it! It is extremely cold there during the winter. One really cool thing about Harbin is every winter there is an annual festival that features the largest ice sculptures in the world! In recent years it has gained an international following and people come from all other the world to both participate and see the beautiful sculptures.
Chinese Birthplace Of Kungfu
The Shaolin Monastery or Shaolin Temple is the birthplace of Chan Buddhism and martial arts in China! It is located in Dengfeng County, in the Henan Province of China. It was founded over 1,500 years ago by Fang Lu-Hao. The first Chinese patriarch and Buddhist monk, Bodhidharma, is credited with introducing Chan Buddhism and martial arts to China at Shaolin. According to history, he began the physical training of the monks of Shaolin Monastery which led to the creation of Shaolin kungfu. These days it is still the heart of Chan Buddhism and is a beautiful site to see! Besides the temple, the surrounding area has an amazing Pagoda Forest. Both the monastery and the forest were inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2010.
There’s A “Chinese Hawaii”
That’s right! The city is called Sanya and it is located in China’s most Southern providence: Hainan. It has several bays with gorgeous beach resorts, upscale hotels, and is surrounded by beautiful islands. Tourists can see coral reefs, scuba dive, surf or just hang out at the beach.
Anywhere you go to in China you can easily find a spa that does cupping. It has been part of traditional Chinese medicine for a very, very long time. It is believed this procedure improves “qi flow” by increasing your blood circulation and relaxing your muscles. It is used to treat all sorts of health problems including respiratory issues and musculoskeletal conditions. There are wet, dry and fire techniques and it can be done anywhere on your body including your feet! Before you do it, just be aware it leaves a mark for a couple days!
Monks Are Vegan
In general, vegetarian and vegans are few and far between in China. The main group of veggie people in China are actually Buddhist monks! While different schools of thought have different interpretations of Budha’s teachings on this subject, many monks (especially the Sutras and the Mahayana) refuse to each any flesh of any sentient being and keep a strict vegan diet.
Pudong Seen From The Bund
The Bund is a beautiful waterfront area in central Shanghai. It has a ton of historical buildings along the Huangpu River which light up at night. It is one of the best views in all of Shanghai! Many of the buildings are famous, especially the Pearl Tower.
In most places in China, dryers are forbidden. It is unclear why this is the rule, but our guess it has to do with overpopulation and energy consumption. People in China always hang dry their clothes because of this. It takes a little longer, but the job still gets done!
Of course tea is a huge part of Chinese culture and traditional Chinese medicine. Tea leaves are grown throughout the country according to traditional techniques. People there drink tea all day, every day including during meals and instead of plain water. Chinese very much believe tea is the key to health and really consume as much as possible! There are many different blends designed for various health problems and conditions. There is even tea to help with constipation! It is called pu’er tea. Proceed with caution, it is very effective!
Great Wall Of China
The Great Wall is located in Beijing and is the world’s largest man-made structure! Did you know it took over 1,000 years to build? It was originally intended to be a line of defense from threats in the north. Now it is one of the most visited places in China and makes for one long, beautiful hike!
Fake Great Wall Of China
Architectural replicas are becoming more and more popular in China in recent years. The Fake Great Wall Of China is so well done, it even tricks some tourists to believe it is the real thing! The copy of the Great Wall is located in Nanchang and is about 13,000 kilometers shorter than the real thing.
Have you heard of Mobike? It is a company founded in Beijing that offers fully station-less bicycle sharing. Using the app you can pick up a bike for a set duration, and return it to any Mobike station easily. The best part is it only costs 1 RMB to rent it! It is the world’s largest shared bicycle operator and as of 2016, Shanghai was the world’s largest bike sharing city. Mobikes can now be found in most Chinese cities and 15 other countries!
Zhouzhuang Water Town
Zhouzhuang Water Town is near the main city of Suzhou and is considered to be the best water town in China. Its nickname is “Venice of The East” due to its beautiful canals. You might be wondering, what is a water town? It is an area with canals, temples, homes and businesses that were built decades ago. In most water towns, including Zhouzhuang, you can see traditional architecture, folk customs, have great street food, see beautiful canals and bridges, and even take a ride in a boat. In 2004, Zhouzhuang Water Town listed in the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is really a gem!
The Chengdu Panda Base or the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding is a non-profit research and breeding facility for giant pandas founded in 1987. It is well known giant pandas are an endangered species. When the base was founded it started with only 6 pandas that were rescued from the wild. Within 20 years the base is the home of nearly 200 pandas. Entry into the facility is pretty cheap, but if you want to hold a panda it costs about $300 USD! It might be worth it, they are so cute!
Katy Pery, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé Are Blacklisted in China
Censorship is pretty severe in China. The government censors all media that is able to reach a lot of people. This includes everything you can think of including books, television, radio, movies, text messaging and of course the internet. Just in the music world, songs by Lady Gaga, The Backstreet Boys, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga have all been banned and deemed as a threat to Chinese national security. The government states actions like this is part of protecting “the country’s youth from ‘poor taste and vulgar content’ online.”
Yep, China celebrates eligible bachelors and bachelorettes with an official holiday! Singles’ Day or Guanggun Jie is a day just for singles to take pride in their single status. It is celebrated on November 11th (11/11). This date was chosen because the number “1” is representative of one individual who is alone. It really is a commercial holiday and the day is now the largest offline and online shopping day in the world. In 2017 shoppers spent more than $25 billion!
In order to help improve air quality, vertical forests are now being tested in China. The idea belongs to Italian architect Stefano Boeri. His first construction is a two greenery-covered tower in Nanjing. It is estimated that one building can absorb about 25 tons of CO2 each year and generate 60 kilograms of oxygen per day!
Large buildings collapsing is a huge problem in China. It seems like almost weekly a big building plunders to the ground and results in many deaths and injuries. Construction is done extremely quickly in China, and some like to point fingers at the rural workers for doing a poor job. Others suggest architects design structures as “semi-permanent” from the start, and are often wrong about how long they will last.
Square or plaza dancing is seen everywhere and is super popular amongst middle-aged and retired Chinese women. It is really done for exercise and usually performed at night. According to CCTV, over 100 million people participate! So now if you see some older ladies dancing in public at night, you know why!
Gon bay which translates to “dry cup” really means cheers. China has very interesting drinking etiquette and people drink often for business and pleasure. Baiju is the most popular local drink, but be careful! It has between 40-60% alcohol by volume. It is common in China to have drinking competitions and ones ability to drink without hesitation is tied with the concept of saving face.
Teachers Are Worshipped In China
September 10th is an official national holiday to celebrate educators and teachers. The holiday has actually existed since the Middle Ages! Teachers are very much respected by students and parents in China. They are viewed as critical mentors for their children’s development. If you are a teacher in China expect many meaningful notes, gifts and thank yous on this day!
Frozen Eyes In Harbin
Harbin, China is known for the coldest weather and longest winters among major Chinese cities. It’s nicknamed the “Ice City” and averages −1.1 °F in the winter. Often in the winter when you step outside your eyes and eyelashes will freeze! Don’t worry, just keep blinking!
White Horse Temple
White Horse Temple is the first Buddhist temple in China! It was established in 68 A.D. during the rule of Emperor Ming. The temple is considered “the cradle of Chinese Buddhism” and includes the main temple, smaller temples, manicured gardens, courtyards, and plaques detailing the history of Buddhism. You can also see very interesting statues and figurines of important Buddhist figures.
2014 Shanghai Stampede
Overpopulation is a well-known problem in China, and is especially evident during vacations and holidays. On December 31, 2014, during a New Year’s Eve celebration, there was a deadly stampede in Shanghai. Over 300,000 people were in attendance, and the event resulted in 36 deaths. Yikes!