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Watch: The Surprising History of the Chinese Takeout Box

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Spoiler: It's actually an American invention

White cardboard boxes are an iconic vessel for Chinese takeout, at least in the United States; they're typically delivered to hungry customers' front doors brimming with Americanized fare like General Tso's chicken and chow mein and accompanied by cellophane-wrapped fortune cookies. But the takeout boxes themselves are actually an American invention, as this video from Great Big Story explains.

To further add to the cultural confusion, the folding style of the box was inspired by Japanese origami. The box design was patented way back in the 1890s by a Chicago inventor, around the same time Chinese immigrants were flooding into California, but it wasn't until the great suburban migration of the post-World War II era that Chinese food delivery really took off.

And it probably goes without saying, but these "Chinese" takeout boxes have never been used in China. In fact, most Chinese food in America has very little to do with what's actually eaten day-to-day in the world's largest country.

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