Some trivia about China

Here is some trivia about China that I have found in books and on the internet. Once again I hope that most of it is true:

The first flush toilet was discovered in China in 2000 in the palace of a king of the Han Dynasty (206 BC–AD 220). It is a stone latrine with a seat, armrest and a system of pipes for flushing the pan.

Westerners find it terribly hard to pronounce Chinese words, and the Chinese find it hard to pronounce ours. In the nineteenth century when British merchants were over in China trying to trade opium, they found that the locals couldn’t even say the word business, and instead pronounced it pidgin, which is why strange colonial dialects are still called pidgin English. And we’re so bad at pronouncing Chinese that when we want one of their phrases we don’t adopt them as we would a French one, we just give in and translate. Do you have any idea how to pronounce xi nao? Luckily, you don’t need to, as we translated it to brainwashing (it was originally a form of Buddhist meditation). We never lost face by trying to pronounce tiu lien, instead we took the phrase and translated it to lose face. As for Mao Tse Tung’s tsuh lao fu, we call them paper tigers. However, some Chinese words do get into the language, mostly because of the delicious food. These remain untranslated, which is generally a good thing. Kumquats and dim sum might sell more if English-speakers knew that they meant golden orange and touch the heart; however, fish brine would probably not sell as much as ketchup, odds and ends (basically leftovers) doesn’t sound as exotic as chop suey, and nobody would eat tofu if they knew that it meant rotten beans.

The fastest supercomputer,China’s Tianhe-1, is capable of 2.5 quadrillion flops. (A “flop” is the number of mathematical operations involving decimal fractions that a computer can make in a second.)

In northern China, an estimated 40 million people currently live in cave homes known as yaodong. As the human population of the entire planet in 8,000 BC was probably only five million, there are eight times as many cavemen now than there were people of any kind then.

While Europeans were still cutting up carcasses on the dinner table, the Chinese had for centuries considered the practice barbaric. A Chinese proverb, “We sit at the dinner table to eat, not cut up carcasses,” dictated that eating should be simplified, and so food was cut into bite sizes in the kitchen before serving. The chopstick (from kwaitsze, which means “quick ones”) was the perfect instrument to convey this pre-cut food to the mouth.

Here is a famous quote about Chinese cuisine:“The Chinese eat everything with four legs, except tables; and everything that flies, except airplanes

In China, men currently outnumber women 6 to 5.

The Chinese played football for over 2,000 years before the English claimed it. Cuju or tsu’ chu – literally ‘kick-ball’ – began as a military training exercise but was soon popular all over China. It used a leather ball (stuffed with fur or feathers) and two teams trying to score goals at opposite ends without using their hands. According to some accounts, each goal was a hole cut into a sheet of silk hung between bamboo posts. Cuju was first recorded in the fifth century BC and was at its peak during the Song Dynasty (AD 960–1279), when cuju players became the world’s first professional footballers. The sport eventually fell into oblivion during the Ming period (AD 1368–1644).

The first paper currency was made from wood-pulp paper. When gold and silver coins became too heavy to carry around, in the eleventh century during the Song dynasty, ‘promissory notes’ were issued in China. These were pieces of paper agreeing to pay over to the bearer the equivalent value in gold or silver coins if asked. The notes were made of dried, dyed mulberry bark printed with official seals and signatures. It was called ‘convenient money’. It is thought that local issues of non-metal money were made as early as the Tang dynasty in Sichuan.

Chinese dogs say wang wang,

If the entire population of China jumped as high as they could and landed at the same time, the resulting thump would not, as some have suggested, be enough to knock the Earth from its orbit, or set off a tidal wave lethal to the world, but it would be equivalent to about half a megaton of TNT.

The domesticated goldfish was first documented in China in the tenth century. They were popular among the privileged classes and eating them was forbidden. The first book about goldfish was Essay About the Goldfish, written in China in 1596.

During the Lunar New Year celebrations in China, an estimated 1.3 billion city workers migrate back to their rural family homes. In 2010, c. 2.26 billion railroad journeys were made in China over this 40-day period.

The Imperial Palace in the centre of Beijing,China, covers 960 x 750 metres over an area of 178 hectares. The outline survives from the construction under the third Ming Emperor, Yongle (1402–24), but owing to constant reconstruction most of the internal buildings are from the 18th century. By way of comparison, the Palace of Versailles, completed for Louis XIV in 1682, is 580 metres long.

One of my favourite Adam Smith quotes, from The Theory of Moral Sentiments, is about China:

Let us suppose that the great empire of China, with all its myriads of inhabitants, was suddenly swallowed up by an earthquake, and let us consider how a man of humanity in Europe, who had no sort of connection with that part of the world, would be affected upon receiving intelligence of this dreadful calamity. He would, I imagine, first of all, express very strongly his sorrow for the misfortune of that unhappy people, he would make many melancholy reflections upon the precariousness of human life, and the vanity of all the labours of man, which could thus be annihilated in a moment. He would too, perhaps, if he was a man of speculation, enter into many reasonings concerning the effects which this disaster might produce upon the commerce of Europe, and the trade and business of the world in general. And when all this fine philosophy was over, when all these humane sentiments had been once fairly expressed, he would pursue his business or his pleasure, take his repose or his diversion, with the same ease and tranquillity, as if no such accident had happened. The most frivolous disaster which could befall himself would occasion a more real disturbance. If he was to lose his little finger to-morrow, he would not sleep to-night; but, provided he never saw them, he will snore with the most profound security over the ruin of a hundred millions of his brethren, and the destruction of that immense multitude seems plainly an object less interesting to him, than this paltry misfortune of his own.

The tallest woman ever Zeng Jinlian (248 cm) was Chinese. Sadly she died in 1982 at the age of 16.

Humans first began drilling for oil in China as early as ad 347. Drilling was achieved to depths of 787 ft(240 m) using rudimentary drill bits attached to “pipes” made from bamboo

On December 3,2010, a CRH380A-type unmodified passenger train reached 486 km/hon a stretch of track between Zaozhuang City in Shandong Province and Bengbu City in eastern Anhui Province,China. At the time of going to press, this is the fastest officially confirmed speed ever attained by an unmodified passenger train.

China is the country with the highest consumption of cigarettes. A breathtaking 1.69 trillion cigarettes are smoked in China each year, and one out of every three cigarettes smoked in the world is smoked there.


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