Seriously I was just crunching some numbers on this stuff and the numbers are insane. Like they dwarf most other civ eco bonuses and yet haven’t been touched significantly ever.

Edit:

As a heuristic the following is approximately equivalent to their extra villagers + penalty:

+3 villagers upon researching feudal age. No start penalty. Yes it’s that good.

No matter how you look at it the extra villagers are the main problem. Assuming you are reasonably competent at a Chinese opening, you get at least +1 villagers until the alternate civ gets loom and +2 villagers afterward. This bonus persists for at least 25 minutes. If you’re an expert player who can basically start the first new villager at 25 seconds you’ll be up 2 then 3.

To show that this is unbalanced we proceed with a kind of proof by contradiction. According to the penalty, +3 villagers is “worth” -250 resources at the start. However if you integrate the resources between a regular and a Chinese civ and then discount, you require like a 14% rate *per minute* discount rate to make this statement true. If this were true then the Lithuanians +150 food would be worth the same as *600 food* by 10 minutes, and Persians 50w/50f would be worth *200w/200f* at the 10m mark. Clearly replacing these with their ‘equivalent’ at 10m would be outrageously strong bonuses which means that ~14% per minute is way too high. Thus +3 villagers must be worth more than 250.

So what discount factors are reasonable? Well a 5% rate per minute implies that 150 to start is worth ~250 after 10m. This is more than reasonable and any lower will increase our estimate so lets stick with it. At this discount rate, we can estimate a good player would get a net present value of 550 resources from those 3 extra villagers. But this implies the Chinese villagers alone even with the penalty is worth a whopping 300 resources! Yes I realize these bonuses aren’t actually equivalent and it’s just a measuring tool to compare it with others. For reference the Franks berry + farm bonus is also worth ~300 when discounted at 5%. Free lumber upgrades is worth 250. Both of these are for the cost alone (not including the extra productivity from having it earlier).

Anyway the point is that the Civ has other bonuses on top of this. Immediate 25w saved from 10pop tc, the farm team bonus and the massive tech discount once you research the expensive castle + imperial techs. Combine this with the empirical data showing that Chinese are absolutely systematically advantaged in win rates and preferentially selected by high ranked players. Its pretty hard to deny that something is unbalanced, and a bonus this large is definitely suspect. I’d like to think that I’m wrong and made a simple error because this is pretty easy to math out, so someone should have brought it up at some point in 20 years.

Just for fun discounting all the bonuses + penalty together along a rough timeline got me a present value of 600. IDK of any other civ that could come close to this kind of discounted value on their civ eco bonuses so even if I was off by 50% that would still be big. Like I’m surprised it wasn’t changed to get a free villager upon building a TC or something a long time ago.

See here to play with/check the math for +3 villagers yourself: Graphing Calculator