The first recorded instance of a Chinese person seeing a bicycle is in the spring of 1866. Bin Chun, a diplomat on a political trip to Europe following the end of the Second Opium War, spotted one on the streets of Paris and it made quite an impression.
“On avenues, people ride on a vehicle with only two wheels, which is held together by a pipe,” Bin Chun wrote in his travel diary. “They sit above this pipe and push forward with movements of their feet. They dash along like galloping horses.”
The modern bicycle had been invented only a few years prior. Out were the gigantic front wheels of the impractical penny farthing, and in were the low-profile, gear-and-chain powered bikes of today.