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How the Emperor’s New Toy Gave Way to Your Car

While many in history lay claim to inventing the first “self-propelled vehicle,” Beijing’s Forbidden City may be the birthplace of the world’s first automobile, an ancient steam-powered precursor to modern day cars. Even better? It was designed to be a toy for a (powerful) friend. Buckle up for the bizarre tale of how a 17th-century Flemish scientist escaped death, won an emperor’s heart and put humankind on the road to four wheels.

This Great Big Story was inspired by Genesis.