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Facts about Ancient China

Gaynor Borade Mar 17, 2020
Modern China is recognized as the evolved form of one of the world's oldest civilizations. Its existent culture has roots embedded in a history that dates back more than six millennia.

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China, as we know today, cradles remnants of one of the world's oldest prevailing civilizations. It still comprises trails of city-states and cultures that are wombs of the oldest written language system, and major inventions like the compass, paper, gunpowder, and printing.

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The ancient Chinese civilization thrived along the banks of the Yellow River, in the geological timezone called the Neolithic Era. It was rife with religions, customs, and philosophies that influenced many territories around it. Japan, Vietnam, etc., are bright examples of the same.

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Interestingly, the earliest evidence of human presence, the Homo erectus, was unearthed at the Zhoukoudian cave in China.

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Referred to as the Peking Man by paleontologists around the world, the specimen is believed to have inhabited the region more than half a million years ago.

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A look at the list of ancient China facts reveal the numerous inventions and time-tested rituals that the Chinese have influenced.

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  • China is considered to have the oldest civilization, with some historical markings dating as far back as 6000 BC.

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  • Ancient China has three main religions -Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism.
  • China has historical records dating as early as 1600 BC. They are called the Bamboo Annals.
  • Giant pandas existed in China as far back as two to three million years ago. They were considered a symbol of clout and bravery.
  • Ancient Chinese people chopped food in bite-size pieces because it took less time to cook and it also saved fuel. This gave rise to the need for chopsticks to eat food.

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  • The Forbidden City, built between 1406 to 1420, is a large empirical complex in the middle of Beijing, consisting of 980 buildings.
  • The Great Wall of China was originally a series of small unconnected walls in the north of China. The walls were unified during the Qin Dynasty. A major part was added later, during the Ming Dynasty, to form the Great Wall of China.
  • The Chinese invented kites and the art of kite flying.
  • The créme de la créme of the ancient Chinese society grew the nails on their little fingers very long, as a sign of wealth and might.
  • The lotus was considered to be a symbol of purity.


  • The last emperor of China, Puyi, was crowned as emperor when he was only 3.
  • The periods when China was not under a single ruler and was divided into multiple regimes were known as the Five Dynasties and the Six Dynasties.
  • Yellow was the imperial color, hence, the emperor always wore a yellow robe and lived under a roof made of yellow tiles.
  • The royal physicians were forbidden from touching the emperors.
  • Visitors to the royal court were expected to kneel on the ground and tap their forehead on the ground nine times as a mark of respect to their ruler.
  • Emperor Shih Huang-Ti built a network of 270 palaces, and slept in a different palace every night, because of the fear of being killed.


  • It is believed that the Chinese Goddess Nu Gua created humanity because she did not like the beautiful and elegant Yellow River being quiet and alone.
  • Ancient China was saved from invasions due to natural barriers - the Chinese Sea, the Yellow Sea, and the Himalayas.
  • Rivers were called 'The Great Sorrow' by many in ancient China, as they flooded and destroyed human property around them.
  • Ancient Chinese terrain consisted of plateaus and steppes alongside a vast coastal region. The north-eastern border of the empire lay in a cold and dry belt. Ancient China shared its border with the Mongolian empire, while the western part of China comprised a desert. 
  • This led to a number of tribes and communities of various cultures to prosper in China. Modern China, too, maintains links to the customs and cultures of these ancient tribes, who adjusted and evolved according to terrain limitations and compulsions.
  • Ancient China had more than 100,000 rivers.


  • Under the Shang Dynasty, it was compulsory for entire families to participate in military operations in case of a war.
  • The Shang military inventory consisted of dagger axes, pole axes, spears, and an assortment of stone weapons.
  • Saddle-attached stirrups for horses were invented in the 4th century, and upped the use of cavalry tactics in military warfare, which came to be very popular around Asia in the following centuries.
  • Under the Ming Dynasty, China flourished so much that the Chinese empire spread its wings to as far as Africa.


  • All educated people under the Tang Dynasty were supposed to greet goodbyes to others using a verse that was composed on the spot.
  • The earliest evidence of Chinese writing is oracle bones. Priests and astrologers used these bones to tell the future.
  • Ancient Chinese writers also wrote on bamboo strips before paper was invented.
  • I Ching, a fortune telling book, written in China around 800 BC, is one of the oldest existing pieces of literature.
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms, written by Luo Guanzhong in 1440 AD, is considered as one of China's all-time bestselling novel.
  • Li Ching Chao published six volumes of poetry and seven volumes of essays in the 11th century.


  • The Chinese invented paper and the science of printing.
  • Sun Song built a mechanical clock that ran on water and showed the accurate time, date, and constellation positions.
  • Zhang Heng, a Chinese astronomer, built the first instrument that was used to monitor earthquakes.
  • Fireworks was invented in China.
  • The Chinese started drilling natural gas much before the rest of the world.
  • Iron suspension bridges were built in China as far back as 25 BC.
  • In 240 BC, Chinese astronomers were the first to spot Halley's comet.
  • Gunpowder was invented in China around 270 AD.
  • The Chinese used an alternate medication method called acupuncture, which involved inserting thin metal pins into a patient's body.
  • Toilet paper was invented in China.
  • The Chinese invented ice cream, which was then transferred to the western world by Marco Polo.
  • Tea was invented in China.
  • The art of making silk from silkworms was invented in China. The Chinese guarded the secret of making silk for close to two thousand years. Anyone caught smuggling silk or silk eggs outside the empire was given capital punishment.
  • The Chinese zodiac structure has animals as zodiac signs - Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.


  • The Chinese did not have a word for sport until the early nineteenth century. There were no stadiums built, and the only sports that existed were wushu and tai chi.
  • Many historians believe soccer originated in China, although there's no official confirmation or acceptance of this fact.
  • A number of karate and judo style forms of martial arts originated in China. However, they were practiced more as self-defense techniques, rather than professional sports.
  • A version of badminton played in ancient China involved playing without the racket. Shuttlecocks made of corn peel and embroidered instead of being stringed together was hit by the hand instead of a racket.
  • Many ethnic groups in Southern China practiced an annual custom of dragon boat racing.


  • The Chinese invented the decimal system.
  • The Chinese were the first to figure out the concept of blood circulation throughout the body.
  • China developed the world's oldest calendar, a lunar calendar.
  • The Chinese writing system is the oldest known continuously-used writing system in the world.
Chinese introspection, between the facts and fiction in world history, and ingenious attempts to improve their own way of life, resulted in the development of a culture that is universally accepted, even today. It's the most ancient civilization, with a bag load of historical incidents, customs and traditions. At the end of it all, a lot of ancient China still remains a mystery.