China's long history has seen many extremely important inventions emerge. Besides the four most famous inventions - papermaking, moveable-type printing, gunpowder and the compass, how many other creations do you know? We have selected the top 10 greatest inventions in ancient China to help you learn more about Chinese history and culture.
The earliest alcohol makers in Chinese legend were Yi Di and Du Kang of the Xia Dynasty (about 2000 BC－1600 BC). [hudong.com]
The earliest alcohol makers in Chinese legend were Yi Di and Du Kang of the Xia Dynasty (about 2000 BC－1600 BC). Research shows that ordinary beer, with an alcoholic content of 4% to 5%, was widely consumed in ancient China and was even mentioned on oracle bone inscriptions as offerings to spirits during sacrifices in the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC–1046 BC). After that, Chinese discovered that adding more cooked grain in water during fermentation could increase the alcohol content, so stronger drinks began to appear. Around 1000 BC, the Chinese created an alcoholic beverage which was stronger than 11%. The potent libation was mentioned in poetry throughout the Zhou Dynasty (1050 BC–256 BC). Meanwhile, no beer in the West reached 11% until the 12th century, when distilled alcohol was first made in Italy.
#9 Mechanical Clock
A sundial is an ancient instrument that measures time by the position of the sun. [haokanbu.com]
The mechanical clock is an invention we all use today. According to historical research, the world's first clock was invented by Yi Xing, a Buddhist monk and mathematician of the Tang Dynasty (618－907). Yi's clock operated with water steadily dripping on a wheel that made a full revolution every 24 hours. As time went on, clocks were made with an iron and bronze system of hooks, pins, locks and rods, but still followed Yi Xing's clock design. Hundreds of years later, Su Song, an astronomer and mechanist of the Song Dynasty (960－1279), created a more sophisticated clock, making him the ancestor of the modern clock.
#8 Tea Production
During the Tang and Song dynasties, tea became a popular drink around the country and the world. [nipic.com]
According to Chinese legend, tea was first drunk by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong around 2,737 BC. Then, an unknown Chinese inventor created the tea shredder, a small device that used a sharp wheel in the center of a ceramic or wooden pot that would slice the leaves into thin strips. During the Tang (618－907) and Song (960－1279) dynasties, tea production developed rapidly, and tea became a popular drink around the country and the world. Cha Jing, written by Lu Yu in the Tang Dynasty, is widely recognized as the world's first scientific work about tea production.
It is Chinese people that invented how to harvest the silk and use it in clothing and paper thousands years ago. [xinhuanet.om]
It is silkworms that naturally create silk, however, it is Chinese people that invented how to harvest the silk and use it in clothing and paper thousands years ago. The oldest silk, which was found in Henan Province, came from the Chinese Neolithic period and dates to around 3,630 BC. Silk excavated from the Liangzhu culture site in Zhejiang Province date to roughly 2570 BC. In ancient China, silk was not only a vital invention for life but also a bridge connecting China to the outside world. The 2,000-year-old Silk Road is still an important path for cultural, commercial and technological exchange between East and West.
#6 Iron and steel smelting
Iron and steel smelting skills are invented in antient China. [nipic.com]
It has been confirmed by archaeological evidence that iron, made from melting pig-iron, was developed in ancient China in the early 5th century BC during the Zhou Dynasty (1050 BC－256 BC). During the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC－1046 BC) to the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (1050 BC－256 BC), China went into a flourishing period for steel smelting. In the Han Dynasty (202 BC－220 AD), private-enterprise iron-making was abolished and was monopolized by the state, creating an iron-smelting bloom. The first famous metallurgist in ancient China is Qiwu Huaiwen of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386－557 AD), who invented the process of using wrought iron and cast iron to make steel.
Porcelain is a very specific kind of ceramic produced in the extreme temperatures of a kiln. [nipic.com]
Porcelain is a very specific kind of ceramic produced in the extreme temperatures of a kiln. Porcelain, of course, originated in China; which is how China gets its name. Early in the 16th century BC during the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC－1046 BC), the ancient prototypes of porcelain had already appeared in China. In the Tang Dynasty (618－907), the skill of making porcelain was perfected, while in the Song Dynasty (960－1279), the art of Chinese porcelain reached its peak and became popular and famous throughout the world. In 1708, the German Physicist Tschirnhausen invented European porcelain, thus ending the Chinese porcelain monopoly.
The earliest Chinese compasses were originally invented to harmonize environments and buildings in accordance with the geometric principles of Feng Shui. [nipic.com]
The earliest Chinese compasses were probably not originally invented for navigation, but to harmonize environments and buildings in accordance with the geometric principles of Feng Shui. It is proved that the earliest Chinese reference recording a magnetic device used as a "direction finder" is in a Song Dynasty book dated during from 960 to1279. The earliest record about the actual use of a magnetized needle for navigation is Zhu Yu's book Pingzhou Table Talks, written in 1102. The invention of compass greatly improved the
safety and efficiency of travel, especially oceanic navigation.
Gunpowder, known since the late 19th century as black powder, is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal and potassium nitrate. [hwjyw.com]
Gunpowder, known since the late 19th century as black powder, is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal and potassium nitrate. Because it burns rapidly and generates a large amount of heat and gas, gunpowder has been widely used as a propellant in firearms and as a pyrotechnic composition in fireworks. In ancient China, gunpowder and gunpowder-based weapons were invented and widely used by military forces to dispel invasion at the borders. The prevailing academic consensus is that gunpowder was discovered in the 9th century by Chinese alchemists searching for an elixir of immortality. Wujing Zongyao, written by Zeng Gongliang and Ding Du in the Song Dynasty (960－1279), is the earliest treatise recording three formulas for making gunpowder.
#2 Movable-type printing
Bi Sheng of the Northern Song Dynasty (960－1127) invented movable clay type printing. [coinsky.com]
The Chinese invention of Woodblock printing first appeared over 2,000 years ago, and produced the world's first printings. In the Tang Dynasty (618－907), Chinese began to print with carved blocks. Then in the 1040s, Bi Sheng of the Northern Song Dynasty (960－1127) invented movable clay type printing, which marked a beginning of a major revolution in the history of printing. Bi's printing consisted of four processes: making the types, composing the text, printing and retrieving the movable types. After that, Wang Zhen of the Northern Song Dynasty and Hua Sui of the Ming Dynasty (1368－1644) invented wooden and metal movable-type printing. All later printing methods such as wooden-type, copper-type and lead-type printing invariably were developed on the basis of Bi Sheng' idea.
Cai Lun of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25－220) successfully invented the world's first batch of paper using fish nets, tree bark, bits of rope and rags. [xinhuanet.com]
It is known to all that China was the first country in the world to make proper paper. The invention of papermaking is one of China's significant contributions to the spread and the development of human civilization. According to research, paper was first made during the Western Han Dynasty (202 BC－9 AD). Cai Lun of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25－220) successfully invented the world's first batch of paper using fish nets, tree bark, bits of rope and rags.
Before paper was invented, the ancient Chinese carved characters on pottery, animal bones and stones, cast them in bronzes, or wrote them on bamboo or wooden strips and silk fabric. These materials, however, were either too heavy or two expensive for widespread use. The invention and use of paper brought a revolution in writing and paved the way for the invention of printing technology.