10 Interesting Facts about Ancient China

Ancient China, a civilization steeped in history, has given birth to numerous innovations, practices, and artifacts that continue to astound and intrigue us. In this 3000-word journey, we will delve into the annals of time and explore ten remarkable facets of ancient Chinese culture and history, including the iconic Great Wall of China, the revolutionary invention of paper, the mystical art of silk production, and more.

Foot Binding: The Painful Quest for Beauty

Intriguing and controversial, foot binding was a practice in ancient China that involved tightly binding young girls’ feet to deform them, making them appear smaller. This peculiar practice was considered a symbol of beauty and social status, despite its adverse effects on women’s health.

Self-Immolation: Devotion Amidst Flames

In some instances, widows in ancient China practiced self-immolation, a ritual involving setting themselves on fire on their husband’s funeral pyre. This extreme act was seen as a sign of unwavering devotion and loyalty to their deceased spouses, shedding light on the profound cultural practices of the time.

The Great Wall of China: A Monument of Defense and Legacy

The construction of the Great Wall of China, a symbol of human ingenuity, commenced over 2,000 years ago during the Qin Dynasty. This colossal endeavor aimed to safeguard China from the constant threat of nomadic tribes. Stretching over 13,000 miles, the Great Wall stands as a testament to the determination and innovation of ancient Chinese builders.

The Birth of Paper: Revolutionizing Communication

Around 105 AD, ancient Chinese scholars and inventors revolutionized the world with the invention of paper. This groundbreaking development transformed the way information was recorded and transmitted, marking a pivotal point in human history.

Silk Production: A Coveted Chinese Secret

China’s historical significance extends to the world of fashion and trade. The discovery and production of silk in China were closely guarded secrets. Silk became a valuable commodity along the Silk Road, captivating the imagination of traders and fashion enthusiasts alike.

The Terracotta Army: Guardians of the Afterlife

Image Source: Zossolino, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1974, an ordinary farmer in Xi’an stumbled upon a treasure trove – a vast army of terracotta soldiers, horses, and chariots buried alongside China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. This life-sized army was created to accompany the emperor in the afterlife, showcasing the craftsmanship of ancient Chinese artisans.

The Discovery of Gunpowder: A Game-Changer

Earliest known written formula for gunpowder, from the Wujing Zongyao of 1044 AD.

Ancient Chinese alchemists stumbled upon a serendipitous invention in the 9th century – gunpowder. This accidental discovery led to the development of fireworks and laid the foundation for early firearms and explosives, changing the course of history.

Bizarre Medicinal Practices: Mummy Powder

Ancient Chinese medicine featured a spectrum of peculiar treatments, including the use of “mummy powder.” This unusual practice involved grinding mummies into a fine powder and employing it as a supposed cure for various ailments, shedding light on the unconventional side of ancient medical practices.

Bezoar Stones: Medicinal Marvels

Finger ring with a bezoar stone, from 17th century

Ancient Chinese physicians held a belief in the healing properties of bezoar stones – concretions found in the digestive tracts of some animals. These highly sought-after stones were used to treat a wide range of ailments, contributing to the intriguing world of traditional Chinese medicine.

Animal Astrology: Unveiling Destiny

Chinese Zodiac | Image Source: Jakub Hałun, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ancient Chinese astrology introduced a captivating system of animal zodiac signs, with each year associated with a specific animal. These creatures were believed to influence one’s personality and destiny, a concept that still holds sway in modern Chinese culture.

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