Did you know the Chinese sometimes use ducks rather than dogs when it comes to police work? It’s true, they have incredible vision and they’re insanely aggressive so they’re not a bad alternative when it comes to crime fighting. Still, ducks chasing down thieves through the streets of Beijing is an odd visual to imagine and it’s a perfect example of how different China is compared to the United States. It’s strange to imagine another developed nation having vastly different norms than our homeland, but it’s very much the case. In fact, the journey to get them to where they are now is even weirder. I’ll go as far as to say, there isn’t a country with a more off-the-wall origin story than China. The things they let fly and considered a social norm 100-1,000 years ago are certain to leave you speechless, and to prove it here are 15 chilling facts about ancient China you’ll be shocked to know:
15. They Loved Deformed Feet
“Foot binding” is the technical term more commonly used to describe the process of physically deforming a girl’s foot for cosmetic reasons. Beginning in the 10th-century and lasting up until the early 1900s, girls between the ages of four and nine would have their feet soaked in animal blood, have their toenails cut off, and then have their toes broken and folded beneath the arch of their foot (which was also broken) before having them wrapped in bandages and shoved into tiny shoes. Over time, if the feet are properly cared for, they grow in the forced shape seen above. The practice started as a sign of affluence because women of the upper class wouldn’t need to be on their feet to work, but over the years it became a typical sign of beauty and elegance among all the citizens of China. Finally, at the start of the 20th-century, foot binding was finally outlawed, but some elderly women can still be found with crushed feet, tip-toeing around China.
14. They Ate Eggs Soaked In Urine
That’s pee in that bucket. Gross, isn’t it? Well, not if you’re in China. If you’re in China these piss soaked eggs are considered a delicacy. The food commonly referred to as “boy eggs” is a springtime tradition in Dongyang, Zhejiang, China. The urine, which must come from a virgin boy, is sourced locally and then brought to a boil. Then the eggs are added, cooked and taken out of the bubbling bucket of little boy pee. I know what you’re thinking, IF someone put a gun to your head, maybe you could stomach one egg. The shell acts somewhat as a protective wrapper so maybe once it’s removed… let me stop you right there. Once the eggs are removed from the bucket, they are then cracked ever so slightly and then returned to a piping hot bucket of fresh urine. So, you can be sure that local flavor is cooking deep down into that yolk.
13. Lice = Delicious Meal
They seem a little small to be considered at all filling, but to each his own I suppose. Back in ancient China, the people were so covered in filth that having mites procreating in between your hair follicles became less of an issue and more of a way of life. In fact, having lice became so standard, people would pull them right out of their hair and eat them. Why? Because why not. People would fill up on lice so often, doctors often had to employ medieval methods to make sure the little buggers weren’t colonizing inside stomachs. These guys would mix up a cocktail of ash and boiled comb water (that’s water boiled with old combs) tell you to drink it down and call them in the morning. Supposedly the concoction wipes your body of all its lice, but you have to eat lice to find out if it works or not.
12. They Smelled Terrible
Nobody likes smelling terrible. It’s off-putting to absolutely everyone and all it takes to eliminate is a fifty-cent stick of deodorant and eight seconds. This love affair with smelling like a bed of roses is no new thing either. Back in ancient China, let’s say around the 10th-century, women would walk around with potpourri strapped to their hips, while the men would dangle their robes over burning incense for hours just to hang on to even a little bit of that aroma. The poor, however, didn’t have the luxury flowers and incense, actually, all they had was their own piss (if you’re getting tired of human waste making its way into this list then skip ahead to the bottom because for some reason, it comes up a lot). The poverty stricken would pee into their hands and slap it on under their arms like the finest Chanel eau de toilette. Anything was better than the foul odor of your own sweat.
11. They Used Poop For Medical Purposes
Do you know what a fecal transplant is? It’s basically when doctors take one person’s stool and put it up into another person’s body. Why? Basically just to replace the good bacteria that may have been taken away through antibiotics or other wacky ways. Western medicine came up with this idea just last century, however, China figured this one out thousands of years ago. Apparently, ancient Chinese medicine men would stir up some poop with water and make their patients chug down the murky, yellow water, and guess what – it worked. The bad bacteria was replaced with the good and POOF, their diarrhea would be history. I know, drinking poop to stop diarrhea may seem counterintuitive but it worked.
10. They Chopped Off Their Private Parts
The Ming Dynasty lasted nearly 300 years from 1368-1644 in China. It’s gone down in history as “one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history,” that’s a pretty impressive title. How did the entire land mass of China stay so calm? It could have been because over 100,000 of the men had their private parts chopped right off. Back then, work was pretty difficult to come by, but one place was hiring – the Ming’s! The catch was, no balls allowed. Men would castrate themselves willingly and even take the makeshift surgical knife to their sons on the off chance they may one day have an opportunity to work in a palace (which was quite the leg up compared to using urine as body wash). Problem was the palace only employed 250 eunuch men, so thousands upon thousands of regular Chinese citizens with regular jobs hacked off their unmentionables for no good reason.
9. Nothing Went To Waste, Even Human Waste
Back in the day, China was a bunch of normal guys and gals just trying to figure out how to get more out of their trips to the bathroom (of course there was no bathroom) at least based on my research alone. Take for example the farmers of ancient China, who would relieve themselves over the troughs of their pigs to do their part in feeding the hungry animals (makes you wonder what bacon tasted like). Even after the country started using toilets there was no sewage system, and people would happily go door to door collecting buckets of sh*t to be used as fertilizer and feed back on the farm to help grow crops and animals which would then be harvested, sold, cooked, eaten and digested back into… wow, that’s the circle of life for ya right there.
8. They Drank A Ton Of Pee
It’s all waste with these ancient guys, I’m telling ya. This time we’re back to pee to discuss the ancient Chinese developing the process of Endocrinology, which is simply put, the separation of hormones from human secretion. Well, the Chinese were privy to this concept thousands of years before everyone else. They would gather up a whole bunch of human male urine, and when I say a whole bunch I mean a whoooooole bunch, 150 gallons to be exact. They would then boil the urine until it crystallized and then they would suck down the crystals like morning vitamins with wine or soup. And just like that Western medicine was left to play catch-up yet again.
7. Smallpox Scabs = Healthy Meal
Do you have smallpox or did you ever? No, you didn’t. Do you know why? Because the ancient Chinese invented a vaccine for it. The first vaccine known to man actually. Doctors would travel around the country at the height of the epidemic, pick off the scabs of infected people, grind up their pluckings, and then blow the resulting powder up the noses of the healthy to ensure they wouldn’t get sick, pretty much the same idea of the flu shots at CVS. Only problem was, there weren’t that many doctors, so people did what they could to take matters into their own hands. People would pick the scabs off their skin and eat them like turkey sandwiches in hopes of curing their disease. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, it only made them look very gross.
6. They Invented Toilet Paper
I heard somewhere that a lot of the world still doesn’t use toilet paper after going number two, instead, they get the job done with their left hand and a few splashes of water and to that I say, “hey, whatever works for you,” but personally I prefer two-ply. And I have ancient China to thank for that because they invented the stuff thousands and thousands of years ago. But imagine this – watching someone use toilet paper for the first time when all you’ve even considered sane up to that point was using the water/hand method – you’d be horrified, as was the case with an Arabic drifter who wrote about witnessing toilet paper for the first time, claiming the Chinese, “do not care about cleanliness,” because they only wipe themselves with paper. I get it. It’s shocking to see.
5. Hairstyles Were Mandatory And Strictly Enforced
When the Manchu invaded China and took over the Qing Dynasty they brought their hairstyle along with them. Shaved bald except for the center hairs that were grown extremely long and braided (for the conqueror on the go) the cut was certainly unique. Which is why it was so important that the Manchu have every citizen of China don the signature look. You see, the takeover was met with quite a bit of resistance and those who did not comply with the haircut ordinance were labeled as traitors and subsequently executed on sight. When it comes to living or sporting a goofy haircut I choose the latter, but maybe I’m alone on this one.
4. They Were Cannibals
Imagine this – your parents aren’t feeling too good. They’re staying home, calling out of work, and you want to do whatever it is you can to help them get better. Would you cut off the inner part of your thigh and feed it to them, because in ancient China, when eating human flesh was thought to be a possible cure for the sick and dying, that’s exactly what a dutiful son did. The belief even led to several murders of fatally ill people killing others just to get a second chance at life. Even as recently as 2003, officials uncovered a black market business of smuggling dead fetuses into restaurants so chefs could cook them into soups and creams meant to bring youth and beauty back to the skin of whoever consumes it.
3. The Kids Poop In The Street
This is the last one involving defecation of any sort, I promise. In China, if there’s no diaper, it more or less means no problem. I can’t speak for the elderly, but Chinese children didn’t regularly use diapers until only recently. Up until now, it was pretty common to see toddlers scurrying around the streets with, well, basically a**less chaps, but think of them more like pyjamas or sweats with a hole that allows your butt to peek out the back. And when the little kiddies have to go they just went…right there in the street. When you think about it, it’s easier to hose down a sidewalk than it is to clean off yet another pair of poop covered toddler trousers. But, yeah, if you go to China you’ll most likely get mooned by dozens of little kids and the second you start laughing at their tiny bare butts they’ll start squatting.
2. They Ate Cats. A lot of Cats.
We’ve all heard the rumors. The one’s surrounding your local Chinese restaurant and how the orange chicken isn’t chicken at all, but rather a mouth-watering combination of dog and cat. Turns our there’s a good amount of truth to that rumor, well, maybe not at your local Asian eatery, but certainly back in the homeland. For thousands of years, the Chinese have consumed cat meat and many older citizens consider it to be a very warming meal. However, if you’re a cat lover you can rest easy knowing that in many parts of China eating cats is considered an unacceptable and barbaric act, on the other hand, statistics show over 4 million domestic cats are killed, skinned, cooked, and enjoyed as an entree each year and the number shows no sign of dwindling.
1. A Two-Year-Old Boy Was Emperor
In 1644 the Manchu State made up of Han Chinese successfully overthrew the Ming Dynasty which had controlled China for close to three centuries. The change of power was the beginning of the Qing Dynasty which lasted up until 1912 when the Wuchang Uprising led to the Republic of China. But if we rewind just a few short years we arrive at a time of civil unrest in the country. The Guangxu Emperor was poisoned in 1908 and his nephew, Puyi was appointed emperor of China at the age of two. Needless to say, if you want to start a revolution, doing so when the nation is run by a toddler (probably wearing assless chaps) is prime time to do so. Puyi was overthrown four years later and was made into a typical citizen until he rose to slight power again later in his life. Countless books and an Academy Award-winning movie, The Last Emperor, have been made about “Henry” Puyi, so if you can’t get enough of wacky ancient China, I highly recommend it.