Ancient Chinese Contributions
Contributions of the Ancient Chinese to the World
The world owes the ancient China a lot for a number of contributions it has made to the sectors of science, art and literature. These inventions have helped shape history due to their convenience and applicability. Without these advancements, world cultures and technology would have taken many more centuries to reach their current stage. Conceivably, no other ancient culture has contributed so immensely to the human progress than the ancient Chinese one. Some of these influential inventions include paper, movable type printing, the compass, silk, alcohol, gunpowder, tea, iron smelting and the world’s first clock (Cultural China, 2007).
Paper was invented first in ancient China around 105 A.C. Later, its use spread to the Arab world, Egypt, Syria, Spain, Morocco, France and other European countries. The Chinese have 80,000 unique symbols in their language, that prompted the invention of paper. Silk rugs, hemp or clothes, wooden strips and bamboo were its main sources. The inventions that followed were the conception of ink at around 206 B.C. to 220 A.D. and the movable type printer between 618 and 906 A.D. (Berthold, 1919).
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The ancient Chinese also invented the compass as a tool used to meet religious purposes. It was used to ascertain that a building under construction was facing the correct direction in a bid to harmonize with nature. For instance, they believed that if a house faced north, those living there would be in perfect accord with the environment. The compass bore some resemblance to a wooden circle, having a number of marks with a magnetic spoon placed on the top of it.
Chinese silk, which is a fine variety of this fabric, is probably the most important contribution made by the inhabitants of the country. The world now can harvest silk from silk worms thanks to them. They are also responsible for the inventions of various techniques of creating fans, clothes, kites, paper and other art products from this fabric.
Historical research shows that Tang Dynasty’s mathematician and a Buddhist monk, Yi Xing, invented the world’s first clock. It operated with water dripping steadily on a wheel designed to make a complete revolution in 24 hours. With time, advancements involving the use of iron and bronze system of pins, locks, hooks and rods were made on the clock, but the latter still maintained Yi Xing’s design. A mechanist and an astronomer, Su Song, of the Song Dynasty created a more sophisticated clock hundreds of years later (Gernet, 1972).
Archaeological evidence has confirmed that iron, which is made from melting pig-iron, was produced in ancient China’s Zhou Dynasty (between 1050 BC and 256 BC). China rose to a flourishing period of smelting steel during the Shang Dynasty (between 1600 BC and 1046 BC) and Eastern Zhou Dynasty (between1050 BC and 256 BC). Private enterprise that dealt with the making of iron was monopolized by the Han Dynasty (between 202 BC and 220 AD) resulting in the iron-smelting bloom. The use of cast and wrought iron to make steel was also invented in the ancient China (Gernet, 1972).
The Chinese invented gunpowder primarily for use in firecrackers in 1000 A.D. It most probably spread to the European countries at the time of the expansion of the Mongolian Empire from 1200 to 1300 A.D. However, this idea has not been proven yet. The Europeans, on the other hand, used the gunpowder in cannons and guns, and they used it to dominate China in the 1800s.
Research shows that beer, having an alcohol content of about 4% to 5% was extensively consumed by the ancient Chinese. It was even mentioned in oracle bone writings as a gift offered to spirits when sacrifices were made in the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC and 1046 BC). They later discovered that when cooked grain is added during the fermentation, the alcohol content could be increased leading to the emergence of stronger drinks. Potent libation was also mentioned in poems at the time of the Zhou Dynasty. The West never produced alcohol with alcohol content reaching 11% up to the 12th century when Italy made distilled alcohol.
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Cha Jing, which was written by Tang Dynasty’s Lu Yu, is recognized widely as the world’s first scientific work on the production of tea. According to the legend, Chinese Emperor, Shen Nong, first drunk it around 2737 BC. A Chinese inventor whose identity is unknown built the tea shredder which was a small machine that utilized a sharp wheel in the center of a wooden or ceramic pot that would cut the tea leaves into thin strands. Tea production developed fast during the Song (between 960 and 1279) and Tang (between 618 and 907) dynasties making it a popular drink in the country and around the world.
The Ancient Chinese are also responsible for the invention of the wheelbarrow. Jugo Liang, Han Dynasty’s general, came up with the idea of developing a cart with one wheel to carry heavy objects for military purposes. Wheelbarrows were used by the armed forces as mobile barricades and for transportation.
The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (1933 to 1940), Henry A. Wallace, introduced storage of excess grains by the government after reading a Chinese student’s dissertation on Confucian economic policies at Columbia University. He adapted the Confucian idea of the state purchasing the surplus amount of grain in order to provide food during times of scarcity. He also introduced the practice with the aim of dealing with over-production in the U.S. due to mechanization and the resultant drop in agricultural prices.
Other inventions accredited to the ancient Chinese include an object for counting called an abacus, the unique method of treatment named acupuncture, the first rudder, the first planetarium and the first water powered blast furnace (“Column,” 2014).