Facts about China: INVENTIONS & FIRSTS

China Mike’s 100% verified, no B.S. China facts (interesting & fun statistics):


The Chinese invented noodles, which they’ve been eating for at least 4,000 years, according to radiocarbon dating of ancient noodles discovered near the Yellow River in 2005.
[ BBC News “Oldest noodles unearthed in China” Oct. 12, 2005 ]


Ice cream was invented in China around 200 BC, when the Chinese made a frozen mixture of milk, a rice mixture and snow.
[BBC News “The origin of ice-cream”; Wikipedia “Ice cream”]


The first documented use of toilet paper dates back to the 6th century in China. However, it was only produced for use by the Imperial Court. Records show that by the early 14th century, millions of packages were being mass-produced in China annually.
[Wikipedia “Toilet paper”]



The Chinese invented eyeglasses over a 1,000 years ago, according to British scientist and historian Sir Joseph Needman. By the time Marco Polo arrived in China around 1270, eyeglasses (which he mentions in his accounts) were widely used in Chinese upper class.
[ Wikipedia “Glasses” ]



Silk has been used by the Chinese for approximately 5,000 years. The earliest evidence of silk dates back to around 4,000-3,000 BC in Shanxi province, where a culture silk cocoon was found. However, the earliest evidence of silk fabric dates back to around 2700BC.
[ Wikipedia “History of Silk”]


In ancient China, the process of making silk making was a closely guarded secret…punishable by the death penalty. It remained a secret for thousands of years, despite the fact that it became widely exported. The Romans—who were great admirers of silk—believed that the fabric was taken from trees. It’s unclear how or when the secret was lost, however, it was transmitted to Japan around 300AD (brought there by four Chinese girls according to one legend). Another popular legend says that the secret was transmitted to India via a Chinese princess who hid some eggs in the lining of her head dress. Another legend has it that European monks—who were sent to China in the sixth century to discover the secret of silk—smuggled some silkworm eggs out.
[ Wikipedia “History of Silk”]



Drinking tea is widely considered to have started first in China, which has the earliest surviving records of tea drinking dating back to the first millennium BC. Chinese records show that tea was used medicinally during the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) but didn’t gain widespread popularity as a beverage until the around the Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD).
[ Wikipedia “History of Tea in China”]


According to Chinese legend, tea was discovered much earlier in 2737BC by a Chinese emperor who preferred to have his water boiled before drinking. A dead tea leaf somehow fell into his water and tea was accidentally discovered as a beverage.
[ Wikipedia “History of Tea in China”]

Gunpowder is one of “Four Great Inventions of ancient China”. 9th century Chinese alchemists accidentally discovered it while searching for an elixir for immortality. Its introduction to Europe around 1300 would have an enormous effect (the first recorded use was by English against the French in 1346).
[ Wikipedia “Four Great Inventions of ancient China”]



The other “Four Great Inventions of ancient China” are paper-making, printing, and the compass.
[ Wikipedia “Four Great Inventions of ancient China”]


About 3,000 years ago, the Chinese were recording events in a written language of thousands of characters. In the early 1900’s, archeologists discovered about 20,000 pieces of Oracle Bones (inscriptions on bones and turtle shells) using about 4,000 characters. Before they were recognized for what they were, locals thought they were dragon bones and were grinding them up as medicine to cure malaria.
[Wikipedia]

Evolution of the character Hao ("good").


The world’s oldest surviving book is Chinese—a Buddhist text called the Diamond Sutra, which bears the date 868 AD. Along with other printed manuscripts, the book was discovered in 1907 in a walled-up cave in Dunhang (north-west China) and is on display at the British Library.
[ Wikipedia, BBC News ]

The Diamond Sutra: the world's oldest book


Before the development of paper, the Chinese were using woodblock printing to print on silk. The earliest surviving woodblock printed are silk fragments that date back to the Han Dynasty.
[ Wikipedia]


The Chinese invented moveable type printing in the 11th century in 1040 AD during the Song Dynasty. The invention made its way to Korea in the 13th century… over two centuries before Gutenburg invented the printing press around 1450.
[Wikipedia]



The Chinese were the first in the world to use paper money, during the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century. Its use evolved from merchant receipts of deposit and was widely printed by the government after a copper shortage.
[ Wikipedia “Banknote” ]


Some of the world’s earliest pottery was found in a Yuchanyan Cave in southern China. A 2009 report of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that it dates back to 18,000 years ago.
[Wikipedia]


The Chinese invented porcelain around the Han Dynasty (206-220 AD), when experts estimated the Chinese were baking pottery at extremely high temperatures (1260-1300 C) to produce high-quality, thin and hard porcelain. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), porcelain was mass-produced in large quanties and exported to the Islamic world. When it reached Europe, it was called “china”.
[Wikipedia]

Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) porcelain

The Chinese invented the world’s first seismometer (earthquake detector) in 132 AD, using a large bronze vessel with eight dragon’s heads that held bronze balls. During an earthquake, the earth’s movement would cause a ball to fall, indicating the direction of the quake.
[Wikipedia “Seismometer”]



Martial arts was first practiced in China around the 5th century BC. According to legend, Shaolin kung fu originated about a thousand years later (5th/6th century) from Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk from India.
[Wikipedia]



The Chinese invented the crossbow around the 5th century BC, having evolved in the form of unattended traps. The invention was transmitted to Europe during the Middle Ages fifteen centuries later.
[ Wikipedia “Crossbow”]


The legendary military strategist Zhuge Liang (181-234 AD) is credited for inventing the repeating crossbow, which was capable of firing 10 bolts in 15 seconds.
[ Wikipedia “Repeating crossbow”]

Ancient Chinese repeating crossbow


The Chinese were the first to use the decimal system….about a thousand years before any other civilization. They also independently developed negative numbers, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and a binary system.
[ Wikipedia “Chinese mathematics” ]


The Chinese invented the hot air balloon during the Three Kingdoms era (220-80 AD). The unmanned balloons—known as Kongming lanterns— were airborne lanterns that were used for military signaling.
[ Wikipedia “Hot air balloon”]

Chinese Latern Festival


NEXT: China Facts: CHINESE SUPERSTITIONS >>

Return to Facts about China home page