10 Interesting Facts about Ancient China

With written records dating back 4000 years, Chinese culture is a rich tapestry of knowledge, wisdom and some peculiarities. Here are our 10 interesting facts about ancient China.

1. Fat was Fashionable

In periods throughout the Tang Dynasty, chubby women were considered attractive and fashionable. Quite the opposite of today. 

2. The Chinese invented football and maybe ice cream.

Recognised by FIFA as the first form of football, the Chinese game, Cuju, was invented during the Han Dynasty. It involved kicking a ball into a net without using your hands. 

In modern China ice cream is hugely popular, so much so that Mcdonalds has restaurants that only serve ice cream. Think that the Italians invented ice cream? Apparently, one of the ice creams first incarnations was in China from 1618-97AD, discovered by packing milk and rice into the snow. 

3. White; Unlucky

In modern China, it’s still considered bad luck to be dressed in white. The reason being that in the past white was the colour worn at funerals.

4. The Only Empress

Wu Zetian was the only Empress of China in over two millennia of history. After starting out as a concubine for the then Emperor, she married his son after his death, who she also outlived and eventually took the throne.

5. The Biggest Capital in the World

The capital of the Song Dynasty was based in Hangzhou. It is believed that at the time it was the largest city in the world from 1180 to 1315. From 1348 to 1358 it had a population of over a million strong.

6. The Han Empire

Lasting over 2000 years and similar in size and population to the Roman empire, the Han empire is considered the golden age of Chinese history.

7. The Palace with 9 thousand, 9 hundred and 99 rooms.

The Forbidden City in Beijing is a palace previously off-limits to the public. The sprawling complex is said to have a stunning 9,999.5 rooms. 9 is an auspicious number in Chinese culture and because of the legend of the ‘king of heaven – The Jade Emperor’ having 10,000 rooms in his Purple Palace. The mortal Emperors believing that they should not have more rooms than their immortal Emperor.  However, it seems that after a survey of the building was done there were 8,707 rooms remaining.

8. Urine Eggs

The centuries-old delicacy of ‘virgin boy eggs’ are eggs that have been boiled in urine that’s been collected from primary schools. The urine should be from a boy below 10 years of age. The Chinese claim that eating these eggs have many health benefits.

9. Monkey Weapons

The Southern Song dynasty used burning monkeys as a way to cause havoc in battle. Monkeys were wrapped in straw, dipped in oil, set on fire and then let loose in enemy camps, setting fire to tents without risk to the Song army.

10. First Smallpox Inoculations

In the tenth century, the Chinese began inducing immunity to smallpox by developing a mild form of the disease in healthy people. Snorting ground scabs from smallpox infected patients helped to artificially prompt the body to resist infection.   

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