Ancient Chinese Inventions: Symbols of Innovation, Creativity

Ancient Chinese inventions have the greatest global significance, with most of the countless inventions continuing to hold prominence in global life. 

Chinese have been at the forefront of inventions and China showcased four of the most famous of its inventions in the recent Olympic Games in Beijing. No other ancient culture comes close to the Chinese when it comes to counting the number of inventions, especially in during the ancient period.
 
Here are the top Chinese inventions:

Ancient Chinese Inventions - Compass

1.    Compass

The Chinese created the magnetic compass for use in navigation in the 11th century. However, historians have differing opinions on the reason behind the invention, with some claiming that the compass was invented as an aid in navigation while others believing that the earliest Chinese compasses were invented to establish harmony between nature and manmade structures to conform to the geometric principles of Feng Shui.

It was only in the 14th century that the compass came to Europe.  With the compass, the Chinese fleets went around the world and in fact some historical records indicate that when Christopher Columbus went to discover the "New World" he was using Chinese Maps. 
 
2.    Paper

The invention of paper was a significant contribution from the Chinese to the development of human civilization and paved the way for printing technology. 
 
3.    Gunpowder

A mixture of saltpeter, charcoal, and sulfur, gunpowder is known as black powder since the late 19th century. In ancient China, gunpowder -based weapons were used by armed forced to dispel invasion at the borders. It is used as propeller in firearms but was used during that time for fireworks during festive occasions for the Emperor's enjoyment.

4.    Wheelbarrow

The first wheelbarrow with a single wheel was invented by the Chinese to ease the burden of humans. The wheelbarrow was used to carry weights by farmers, builders, and soldiers. It came to Europe almost 1,000 years later.

5.    Seismograph

One of the greatest ancient Chinese inventions is the seismograph to detect earthquakes. The ancient earthquake detector had a bronze vase covered with toads and dragons, with a long metal pendulum hanging inside while eight dragon heads with a ball in their mouth were evenly spaced and mounted outside the vase. The toads beneath each dragon had their mouths open.

In the event of an earthquake, the pendulum would swing in the direction of the tremor and hitting a rod inside the vase. As a result, a ball from a dragon's mouth would fall into the mouth of the toad beneath it, producing noise as an earthquake alert.  This piece of equipment can be found in the palace in Beijing and is one of the wonders of the ancient world still working today. 

6.    Porcelain

Porcelain utensils are widely popular world over for their beautiful designs and aesthetics. The Chinese are credited for the invention of porcelain - a kind of ceramic produced in extreme temperatures. The first prototype of porcelain appeared during the Shang Dynasty, which was later perfected in the Tang Dynasty. During the Song Dynasty, porcelain had become popular all over the world. European porcelain was invented later in 1708 by German Physicist Tschirnhausen. 

Ancient Chinese inventions - silk

7.    Silk

The Chinese are still renowned for their invention of harvesting silk. In the ancient period, silk was a bridge connecting China with the rest of the world. The Silk Road, stretching from China to ancient Rome or present day Italy, came into being around 100 B.C. to cater to the global demand for Chinese silk. 

In the book the "Secret History of the Mongols", Genghis Khan at that time noted that Chinese and his empire was wearing silk and as Europe was still in the "Dark Ages", he stopped his invasion of Europe as they were too poor.

8.    Printing technique

There's no shortage of ancient Chinese inventions! Taking inspiration from engraved name seals, the Chinese came up with the fixed-type engraved printing technique around 600 A.D. However, it wasn't long before the moveable type printing was invented by Bi Sheng in the Shong Dynasty using clay fired characters.  This was perhaps the predecessor of the printing press as we know it.

9.    Mechanical clock

Yi Xing is credited for inventing the mechanical clock during the Tang Dynasty. The first mechanical clock operated with drops of water gradually dripping on the wheel that completed a revolution within 24 hours. Later, clocks began to be made of bronze and iron, which were then replaced hundreds of years later by more sophisticated clocks.

10.    Iron plows

Last on the list of ancient Chinese inventions, the invention of iron moldboard plows in the 4th century BC was a major development by the ancient Chinese in the field of agriculture. The plow, with an adjustable strut, became widely popular in the Han Dynasty and came to Europe in the 17th century.


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