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120 votes

Did China ever consider a phonetic writing system?

No, there is no known record of that kind of native linguistic script analysis in pre-modern China, although its quite possible it came up and was rejected, for reasons I'll outline below. The main ...
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100 votes

Why was Britain willing to return Hong Kong but not Gibraltar?

Despite common misconception, both Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula were ceded to the United Kingdom in perpetuity, via the Treaty of Nanking and the Convention of Peking, respectively. ...
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80 votes
Accepted

How do ancient Chinese "mirrors" such as these in the National Museum function?

They’re displaying the back of the mirrors. Here are a couple of images I found via Google that shows both sides: Chinese Museums typically exhibit the back of these mirrors, because doing so ...
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76 votes
Accepted

Why aren't there any Chinese colonies?

They did. Depending on the preferred definition of "colonies", Chinese states in fact established innumerable colonies throughout history. Certainly the most common form was overland colonies created ...
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60 votes
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Given their reputation for fighting to the last man in the Pacific, why did 700,000 Japanese troops surrender in Manchuria?

Because the Japanese Government surrendered on 15 August. Naturally, the Japanese military was ordered to lay down their arms. For Manchuria this meant the much-reduced Kwantung Army, which ...
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58 votes

Did China ever consider a phonetic writing system?

Yes, but neither by the Chinese nor only for Chinese. Kublai Khan ordered the Tibetan Sakya trizin Phagpa to create a universal alphabet to be used by the languages of his empire. It's usually known ...
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54 votes
Accepted

Did Chinese emperors wear a rectangular hat with suspended gems?

You're describing the mian (冕), a style of classical Chinese head dress that was indeed worn by successive Emperors of China. The basic design consisted of a hat secured to the head with a red string (...
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53 votes

If the Ch’in dynasty was so short-lived, why was China named for it?

The original question is a bit vague as to who exactly is calling China, well, "China." This also means that it's a bit tricky to pin down what exactly the word "China" refers to (e.g. is it the same ...
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51 votes
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Why could China keep most of the lands it conquered after 17th century but European powers could not?

The Chinese situation was fundamentally different from the Western European colonial empires. In fact it's rather more like Russia, who also managed to keep her Eurasian empire, or the United States, ...
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49 votes

Why was the US so pro-China and so anti-Japan before WW2?

Japan was a threat to the US's Pacific territories, and those of other European powers. China was not. Unlike China, and every other Asian nation at the time, Japan had defeated and humiliated a ...
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45 votes

Why did Sun Tzu believe you shouldn't wait beside a river when eager to fight?

Verse 3. After crossing a river, you should get far away from it. If the river is a barrier, you can be hemmed in against it. If your enemy is the one hemmed in, they also have a defense on at ...
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44 votes
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Why did the Republic of China retract its simplified Chinese characters?

Victor Henry Mair is an American Sinologist and professor of Chinese at the University of Pennsylvania, and this is what he wrote (emphasis mine): An English language report in The Quarterly ...
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43 votes

Why did the Chinese Nationalist party members go to the island of Taiwan and not to any other island?

Taiwan was basically a part of China, and under Nationalist control at the time. (The Philippines were a foreign country.) Also,the Nationalist army, while weaker than the Communists, was far stronger ...
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41 votes
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Did people in China resort to cannibalism during the reign of Mao?

Yes we have at least one account of cannibalism. First source: A teenage orphan kills and eats her four-year-old brother. Guardian Second source: I didn't know that there were thousands of cases of ...
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40 votes
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Why didn't China assist in the Vietnam War like they did in Korea?

Everyone learnt from the Korean War and wished to avoid a repeat of a bloody direct Chinese-American fighting. At the onset of the escalated American involvement in 1965, Beijing made it clear where ...
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39 votes
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Were Russians in the cold war era USA discriminated against for their ethnicity?

Because of emigration restrictions from the Soviet Union imposed from at least the 1920's on, there were very few ethnic Russians of recent arrival in the U.S., and the Western world in general, ...
39 votes
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When and how did the Han ethnic group become by far the biggest ethnic group in China?

China is a continental scale country, thus "Han" is a category sorta like "European". One visit to Beijing or Shanghai will make it obvious that China is indeed a cosmopolitan, ...
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38 votes
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Why did China annex Tibet?

The other two answers speak in terms of Tibet's legal status; and these answers, while correct, don't properly explain why Tibet is important to China. This answer relates entirely to geography. The ...
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36 votes

Why did the Chinese Nationalist party members go to the island of Taiwan and not to any other island?

Tom Au is right; his answer is the correct answer. I want to add two more data points: Hainan was closer to Mainland China and would be more difficult to defend against amphibious assault, Taiwan had ...
  • 7,222
35 votes

Why did the Soviet Union not "grant" Inner Mongolia to Mongolia after World War Two?

Actually some of the answer is found on Wikipedia, but in the pan-Mongolism article: In 1943, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office predicted that the Soviet Union would promote the idea of a ...
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34 votes

Did people in China resort to cannibalism during the reign of Mao?

Jung Chang -author of bestseller Wild Swans (Harper Collins, London 1992) together with her husband, British sinologist, Jon Halliday, in their biography, Mao,The Unknown Story (Cape, London 2005) ...
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30 votes

Why was Britain willing to return Hong Kong but not Gibraltar?

I find it interesting that many answers belong to "armchair generals", that point only to the military power, and logistics,¹ but forget to mention the issues that could lead to a war in the first ...
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29 votes

Does Chinese history really span the past 5000 years?

The basis for the 5,000 years figure comes from tracing Chinese "history" to the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors. This figure includes over 1,000 years of legends. The next 1000 years are semi-...
  • 96.3k
29 votes

Did China ever consider a phonetic writing system?

TLDR: Phonetic scripts won't work because of how the Chinese languages are structured. So it never really came up before Europeans arrived. Language Issues: There are several ways to answer this ...
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28 votes
Accepted

Why were China and India able to peacefully co-exist for so long?

Because China was actually pretty far from India. For most of the past millennia, China and India were not "neighbouring countries" in any meaningful sense of the word. Most Chinese empires did not ...
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26 votes
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Had there been instances of national states banning harmful imports before the mid-19th C Opium Wars?

"Banning harmful imports" was often done. Prime example being the satanic brew. Coffee was banned in Mecca, Italy, Contantinople/Ottoman Empire, Prussia. Similarly: tea was banned in East Frisia, ...
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25 votes
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How did the First Emperor of Qin "burn the books" prior to the invention of paper?

The Chinese term for the Qin emperor's "burning books and burying scholars alive" is 焚書坑儒 (character by character: burn/book/bury [alive]/followers of Confucius). The character for book or ...
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23 votes
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Why does Japan celebrate the Gregorian New Year but China still celebrates Chinese New Year?

The short answer is because the Japanese government does not designate the old lunisolar new year as a public holiday. Officially, China does in fact celebrate New Year's Day (元旦) on the Western (...
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21 votes
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Why did Hideyoshi invade Korea?

Hideyoshi's reasons were not singular. A number of factors motivated his invasion of Korea. Although speculative hypothesis regarding his mental state is popular, domestic pressure for expansion ...
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21 votes
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When was tofu invented? Was it specifically for vegetarian consumption from the beginning?

Tofu's origins are not conclusively known. The leading theory, however, is that it was invented during the Western Han Dynasty by Liu An, the king of Huai Nan. The earliest known reference to this is ...
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