A well-known fact is that the Chinese invented gunpowder and the compass, but did you know that the Chinese are also responsible for one of the favorite deserts in the world?
In an ancient and fascinating culture like China’s, there’s a lot to explore and discover. For this reason, we collected ten fun facts about China that we find the most surprising and beneficial for international managers to know.
If you’ve ever strolled along a Chinese street, you’ve probably noticed Chinese ladies walking around with parasols (commonly used term for sunshades). But guess what? Umbrellas actually date back 4000 years as a way to get shelter from the rain. Originally inspired by children using lotus leaves, a Chinese carpenter ingeniously crafted the first rain protection umbrellas using durable silk and bamboo. Back then, umbrellas were a status symbol, even making their way into Chinese art. Nowadays, apart from their practical rain-shielding and sun-shading usages, they’re mostly about making a fashion statement.
The Chinese are renowned for inventing various types of paper. Paper banknotes, for example, were introduced during the Tang dynasty, featuring a death penalty warning to those who counterfeited them. Toilet paper, another notable invention, traces its origins back to the 9th century B.C. However, it gained prominence in the 14th century when it was reserved exclusively for the emperor and his family.
- Riced ice cream
Rice, an essential part of Chinese cuisine, has played a significant role in culinary history, contributing to the creation of many beloved dishes. In fact, China’s ice cream roots go back to the second century B.C., when an early version was made by freezing a mixture of milk and rice in the snow. Today, China offers a delightful array of ice cream flavors and colors, ranging from classic chocolate to unique combinations like pork floss, wasabi, and green beans. Don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in this diverse ice cream experience during your visit.
The Chinese language and numbers
- Chinese characters
The Chinese language has no alphabet. As such, it comprises over half a million characters, each character representing a specific word. If you find this number mind-boggling, you’re definitely not alone! Even native Chinese speakers don’t have mastery over all 500,000+ characters. On average, an everyday Chinese speaker comfortably uses around 3,000 to 4,000 commonly used characters. Professors and highly educated individuals typically have a broader vocabulary, ranging from 8,000 to 10,000 characters.
Some good news for foreign Chinese learners is that Chinese can be transcribed into characters using Pinyin – a system that spells Chinese words with the Latin alphabet based on their pronunciation. So, don’t freak out about memorizing those thousands of characters just yet!
- Sounds and meaning – Important for managers visiting partners in China!
The Chinese language has plenty of words with similar pronunciations, so it is no surprise that Chinese culture takes the meaning of words and their sound very seriously. For instance, the words ‘clock’ and ‘end’ in Chinese are both pronounced zhōng, and because of this, giving a Chinese person a clock as a gift is not a good idea. Alternatively, during many holidays in China, it is customary to eat fish, because the Chinese word for fish (yú鱼), sounds like the word for abundance and wealth (yú余).
- Lucky numbers in China
There is great significance to the pronunciation of words when it comes to numbers too. Because of that, names of numbers resembling other Chinese words that signify luck are considered “good numbers”, for example, the numbers six (Liù六) and eight (Bā八). However, the number four (Sì四) is regarded as a “bad number”, because its pronunciation sounds like the word “death” (Sǐ 死). In fact, having a phone number with 514 in it is considered the worst, as saying 514 (wǔ yāo sì) sounds like you are saying “I want to die” (wǒ yào sǐ). So, next time you travel to China, don’t be surprised if you can’t find the 4th floor in the hotel elevator.
- Numbers and hand gestures
Have you ever bargained over a price? In China, bargaining involves not only verbal negotiation but also your hands. Hand gestures representing numbers 1 to 10 are used to communicate prices and quantities. It was developed to overcome the challenges posed by the diverse dialects spoken across China, which often complicate communication. In particular, certain number pronunciations, such as “four” (sì) and “ten” (shí), can be difficult to distinguish due to dialectal variations. This hand gesture system helps clear up confusion when bargaining or doing business in China. Today these gestures are fully integrated into Chinese Sign Language.
- Shanghai marriage market
Picture a lively, bustling marketplace, but instead of the usual fragrances of spices and fresh produce, love fills the air. This is Shanghai’s Marriage Market, a cherished tradition that has been ongoing since 2004, taking place every weekend from 12 to 5 pm. Anxious parents can be seen energetically waving their children’s resumes, showcasing their finest qualities in the hopes of finding them a suitable match. It’s a unique scene where “vendors” set up their stalls using umbrellas, lining the sidewalks with eye-catching posters. These posters proudly display the bachelor’s or bachelorette’s portraits, accompanied by personal information. Has your mom ever set you up on a date?
- Yiwu market – The world’s biggest wholesale market
In the Yiwu market, ” one-stop-shop ” is not just a concept – it is the reality. Located approximately two hours west of Shanghai via high-speed train, lies the world’s largest wholesale market, spanning over 5.5 million square meters and stretching an impressive 7 kilometers long. Its 40,000 shops offer any inexpensive, non-technical, mass-market product you can think of, from stationery and Christmas decorations to toys, watches, suitcases, and home supplies.
To easily navigate the “city of small commodities,” the market is divided into five “districts” containing around 4000 shops each. If you want to explore it from end to end, it is recommended to dedicate at least two to three days.
Read also about the 5 most important ports for logistics in China
- The Chinese market
The Chinese market is the second-largest market in the world, and it exerts a growing influence on other developing economies through trade and investment. Over the past two and a half decades, the Chinese economy has grown unprecedentedly, so much so that in 2022, amidst the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, China generated nearly one-fifth of the world’s GDP. According to the World Bank, China’s GDP growth is expected to rebound to 5.1% in 2023, from 3% in 2022.
For these reasons, the Chinese market is still a lucrative business destination to expand to, as it offers plenty of opportunities for foreign companies to grow and thrive globally.
For over two decades, PTL Group has assisted international companies in entering the Chinese market and growing their business. We would be happy to assist you too! Read more about our services and feel free to reach out with any queries.