10 surprising facts about Asia | Top Universities

10 surprising facts about Asia

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Joseph Birdsey

Updated May 06, 2024



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Ahead of the launch of the QS University Rankings: Asia 2015 (out tomorrow!), we’re taking a tour of some of the region’s more unusual trivia. Check out these 10 surprising facts about Asia – and remember to visit the ranking tables tomorrow to see what further surprises are in store…

1. Singapore has a building inspired by a Star Wars robot

Yes, you read that right. It wasn’t just a nerdy architect having a laugh, either. ‘The Sandcrawler’, which was named after its on-screen counterpart, looks similarly ready to shudder across the sands of Tatooine in search of droids for scrap.

First opened in 2013, the building now houses Lucasfilm Ltd.’s Asia offices, and is a ‘state-of-the-art complex housing animation offices and ILM Singapore.’ If you’re a Star Wars fan, this could be another great reason for you to study abroad in Singapore – your chance to see the mighty Sandcrawler in person!

2. There are over 1,600 temples in Kyoto, Japan

Are you hoping to study in Japan? Be sure to check out ancient Kyoto, which was the country’s imperial capital for more than a thousand years. Kyoto is home to 1.5 million people, who live alongside the city’s many heritage sites and historical buildings.

The ‘Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto’ are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the Kennin-ji temple often regarded as the oldest temple. It was built in 1202 CE, and is home to the final resting place of Eisai, the monk who is thought to have brought Zen Buddhism to Japan.

3. Hong Kong means ‘fragrant harbor’

This might be even more of a surprising fact for anyone who’s visited the modern-day city! Hong Kong’s transition from a colonial outpost to a busy port, and finally the global financial center it is today, may have replaced its previously pleasant scent with more industrial, modern city aromas… but it nevertheless remains a popular study abroad destination among those looking to study in Asia.

With its unique history and culture, ‘Asia’s world city’ is ranked as the world’s number five city for students in the QS Best Student Cities 2015 – it is Asia’s highest ranking entry.

4. China produces 45 billion pairs of chopsticks each year

OK, so there are a lot of people in China – but that’s still a pretty large number! In addition to the nation’s own chopstick production industry, some Chinese restaurants now import chopsticks made by US producers, who often use a lighter wood that doesn’t need to be bleached.

When travelling to Asia, be sure to brush up on your chopstick etiquette. Be aware that it is considered bad manners to tap your chopsticks on the side of your bowl, and pointing your rested chopsticks at fellow diners is downright rude!

5. South Korea has a separate Valentine’s Day for single people

In many Western cultures, Valentine’s Day (14 February) tends to be dominated by loved-up couples who buy each other gifts. But in South Korea, the celebration is slightly different. February 14th is just one of 12 ‘love days’, which are celebrated on the 14th of each month.

In South Korea, February’s Valentine’s Day sees women give chocolates to men as a sign of affection. A month later, on 14 March, White Day is celebrated, when men traditionally reciprocate with another gift.

If you didn’t receive any gifts at all, then fear not: there’s a day for you too! April 14th is an unofficial holiday known as Black Day, and is a day for unhitched singles to get together and grumble over a bowl of jajangmyeon, the black noodle dish that gives the day its name.

6. There are more than 150 volcanoes in Indonesia

Indonesia is located on the boundary of the pacific plate – an area known as the ‘Ring of Fire’. With 127 of the country’s volcanoes currently active, it’s easy to see how it got this name!

Indonesia’s most active volcano is Mount Merapi (pictured above), on the island of Java. It typically erupts every two to three years, with larger eruptions every decade or so. A particularly large eruption in 1006 is said to have left the entire island blanketed in ash.

7. Japan has produced 22 Nobel Laureates

That’s more per capita than any other Asian country! Japan has long enjoyed a proud reputation as a technological, cultural and artistic powerhouse, which started long before the country’s first Nobel Prize was won by Hideki Yukawa in 1949.

Yukawa worked at Kyoto Imperial University as a theoretical physicist. He won the Nobel Prize for his work on subatomic particles, and went on to win countless awards in Japan and beyond, including the prestigious Lomonosov Gold Medal in 1964.

8. South East Asia is home to the world’s largest flower…

How many flower-based facts about Asia do you know? Not so many? Well, here’s one to remember… The Rafflesia, found growing on the forest floors of MalaysiaThailand and Indonesia, produces huge flowers of up to a meter across. Their distinctive shape and size have earned them an emblematic status, and the Rafflesia has been adopted as Indonesia’s official state flower.

If you encounter one on a study abroad adventure, however, don’t get too close! The Rafflesia is known colloquially as the ‘corpse flower’ or the ‘stinking lily’, due to its physical appearance, and the foul odor it uses to attract pollinating insects.

9. …and the world’s smallest mammal!

Western Thailand is home to the Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, also known as the bumblebee bat, which is regarded by some as the world’s smallest mammal. These tiny bats give birth to one offspring annually, and typically live as part of a colony of a 100 or so, usually in caves. Despite their ‘threatened’ status, the species was discovered in Burma in 2001, sparking hopes for more colonies outside of the bat’s native Thailand.

10. Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country

And finally on our list of surprising facts about Asia – did you know that Indonesia follows China, India and the US, to claim the world’s fourth-largest population? The area of the country’s total landmass is around three times the size of Texas, and is made up of thousands of islands of varying size, which span an area of over 5,000 kilometers from east to west. This enormous scale has produced a nation of highly diverse cultures, with different customs and traditions from island to island. 


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