There are many reasons to visit China, the cuisine, the vibrant landscape and the centuries of history just waiting to be explored; The Great Wall anyone?
But that’s what can be found in China, have you ever stopped and wondered what China has given the rest of the world?
Here’s our list of the 20 best things to come from China.
Firstly I think we can all agree that Chinese food is one of the greatest things we’ve been blessed with. Everything, and we mean everything, is utterly delicious, incorporating delicious morsels from prawns to pork and beef, alongside a variety of sweet and spicy sauces – we’ve all got our favourite meals; no wonder we love a Chinese buffet over here.
Mainly known for using chopsticks, you may be surprised that the fork originated in China. With forks being discovered at burial sites dating back to the Xia Dynasty, the utensil was primarily used by the ruling classes in two and three pronged varieties. It wasn’t until around 4,000 years later that Europeans began using them.
A life saver for vegetarians across the globe when it comes to dining, tofu isn’t the modern day creation many of us may think it is. In fact it’s an invention credited to Han-Dynasty King Liu Ann, who lived between 179 – 122 BC. It’s also reported that the process of making tofu is essentially the same now as it was all those years ago.
Us Brits are well known for enjoying the odd beverage over the weekend. But it would appear the earliest known alcohol makers were in fact Chinese; back in the Xia Dynasty between 2000 BC – 1600 BC. Noted for having a 4 – 5% alcoholic content during this time, by 1000 BC the Chinese had created a beverage with more than 11%, which didn’t happen in Europe until the 12th century.
Ahhh the great love of the British, where would we be without a cup of tea? Initially used as a medicinal herb, before becoming processed and used as a drink no later than the 1st Century BC; the tea plant is indigenous to Western Yunnan. It didn’t become popular in Britain until the 17th century; but we haven’t been without it since.
Luckily the Chinese also created porcelain during the Shang Dynasty. Of course you can get fancy vases and ornaments, but we’re truly thankful for it allowing us to drink our beloved cups of tea. European porcelain wasn’t created until 1708, thus ending China’s monopoly over the product.
- Paper making
Quite possibly the most important thing to come out of China, yes even more important than the food, is paper. Noted as the first country to make proper paper, this was made during the Han Dynasty, 202 BC – 9 AD, and was successfully created through the use of tree bark, fish nets, rags and bits of rope.
- Toilet paper
Obviously with the creation of paper, came the manufacturing of toilet paper, for which we will forever be thankful. Seriously where would we be without it – probably still using the Roman ‘sponge on a stick’ method. The use of toilet paper was noted as far back as 851 AD, and scented toilet paper, used by the royal family, has been noted as far back as 1393.
- Horror films
When it comes to horror films, many believe Hollywood has become a little stagnant, which is why Asian horror films are often considered the best around. AlthoughJapan gets credited with the best of this genre, often remade in America, we shouldn’t underestimate Chinese horror. Films such as Gin Gwai have been given the Hollywood treatment recently, remade in 2008 with Jessica Alba as The Eye.
- Martial Arts films
Of course we can’t talk about Chinese cinema without giving a shout out to the high flying world of martial arts movies. Across the decades we’ve seen huge hits from Enter the Dragon in the 1970s to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon more recently. They’ve even been credited with influencing Hollywood hits such as Kill Bill Volume 1 and 2.
- Martial Arts
Of course we wouldn’t have martial arts movies without martial arts inthe first place. Generally called Kung Fu, to refer to the various fighting styles, these have been developed over centuries in China and are now practiced by many across the globe.
- Jet Li
Of course we can’t discuss Chinese martial arts without talking about one of China’s biggest stars, Jet Li. Originally an award winning martial artist, he made the transition into movies and broke into Hollywood with films including Lethal Weapon 4 and all three of The Expendables movies; making him one of the biggest screen stars to come from China.
The beautiful game was seemingly adopted by us in western society, with football first being played by members of the Chinese Han Dynasty, 206 BC – 220 AD. Back then the sport was played by both men and women, and was considered an effective form of military training, whereas the ball was filled with hair, or other soft fillings, rather than air.
Acupuncture exploded a few years ago thanks to countless celebrity endorsements, but it wasn’t as new as you may have thought. The traditional Chinese medicinal practice, used to relieve pain and for general therapeutic purposes, dates back to somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd century; a truly tried and tested technique then.
So we’ve already established how the Chinese were at the forefront of paper production, but they also helped put an end to carrying tons of loose change wherever you go. Beginning during the Tang Dynasty, merchants and wholesalers would use a receipt system to avoid the bulk of change; which we can all understand. As the years went on the Song Dynasty gradually introduced a paper money system, with nationwide paper currency being created by the government between 1265 and 1274.
A popular staple throughout the end of October and early November, thanks Guy Fawkes, fireworks actually date back to the Song Dynasty. Even then they were used for grand displays, much the same as today.
You know that trusty compass you can find on your iPhone? Well without the Song Dynasty, it probably wouldn’t be there. Initially created for Feng Shui purposes, as to harmonise environments and buildings for geometric principles, they were eventually used for navigation; the first recoded instance of this was in 1102.
Ok, so silk is created by silk worms, we know. But it was the Chinese that invented a way to harvest the silk, using it to create both clothing and paper – they really were ahead of the game. With the oldest silk dating back to around 3630 BC, it was of vital importance to China, with the 2,000 year old Silk Road still an important commercial, cultural and technological exchange path between the East and West.
Although a relatively new craze, adopted by many in the attempt to quit cigarettes, the e-cig first came to fruition more than a decade ago. Hon Lik, a pharmacist, is widely credited with creating the first electronic cigarette back in 2003.
- Rotary Fan
There’s nothing worse than being hot all summer long with nothing to relieve your sweaty pain. This thought, so it seems, was also had by Han Dynasty engineer Ding Huan, who created a fan with seven wheels, during the Tang Dynasty for the purpose of air conditioning. Hydraulic power was later added to help the fan rotate, and they became popular during the Song Dynasty. It wasn’t until the 16th century that they were first used in Europe.