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Top 18 Ancient Chinese Inventions and Discoveries

Top 18 Ancient Chinese Inventions and Discoveries

The early Chinese were awe-inspiring and determined. They met their everyday needs by inventing and creating many of the most significant and durable items in the history of mankind. The earliest Chinese inventions go back to the Paleolithic period. The Chinese had always been ahead of their counterparts when they came up with valuable items.

They’ve given us the top four inventions of all time including the compass, gunpowder paper, printing, and the compass and the list of inventions does not end there. You can generate and get lots of chinese names ideas with a chinese name generator.

Here are the most important 18 (including two that date to the middle ages) most well-known Chinese inventions:

Ancient Chinese Inventions

1. Movable Type Printing

A major breakthrough that changed the course of print technology occurred following the Chinese inventions of movable clay printing in the Bi Sheng dynasty (990-1051) within the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127). The printing process was comprised of four phases: making the types, writing your text then retrieving the moving type. Later, in 1298 it was revived through Wang Zhen during the Yuan Dynasty. 

Wang Zhen produced one hundred copies of Nong Shu or Book of Agriculture with more than 30,000 wooden moveable kinds. The book is comprised of more than sixty thousand Chinese characters. Metal-movable type printing was invented in Jin (1115-1234) and Southern Song (1127-1279) dynasties during the 12th century. It was made mostly of bronze and was employed for printing money.

2. Gunpowder

The very first chemical explosive referred to as black powder or gunpowder was made of charcoal, sulfur, as well as potassium nitrate (saltpeter). Gunpowder wasn’t invented as a fad. The Chinese already used saltpeter from around the 1st century AD for various treatments. Gunpowder was developed in the Tang dynasty during the 9th century, however, it was not till the Song dynasty of the eleventh century that the very first formula was recorded. The Chinese employed gunpowder as well as gunpowder-based weapons for defense.

3. The Silk Road

Silk Road Silk Road used to be a long-standing route for trading used by traders, merchants, and city dwellers connecting Asia with the Mediterranean. The origins of the Silk Road can be traced back to the Han Dynasty. Its term “Silk Road” came into existence because of the silk industry, which was lucrative and exported silk across the world. Silk Road Silk Road was 6,400 miles long and was regarded as significant, as it allowed for the industry of silk to thrive.

4. The Great Wall

The Great Wall of China was constructed by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang (260-210 BC) to protect the country from invaders from the north. The five-and-a-half-mile wall was constructed by criminals, slaves, and peasants. It is believed to be that as many as a million people worked on the Great Wall over a period of 1,000 years. The majority parts of the Great Wall which we observe today was constructed in the Ming dynasty. Rice flour that was glutinous could be utilized as a binding material to tie the bricks.

5. The Seismograph

In the year 132 AD, Zhang Heng (78-139 AD) of the Han dynasty, invented the first seismograph known as “Houfeng Didong” to measure the movement of the earth as well as seasonal winds. The seismograph was like an urn composed of copper with an internal pendulum. 

The eight dragons that are on the surface, each with the copper inside its mouth and pointing out the eight directions that are different east, south, northwest, west, north northeast, southwest, and northwest. If there was an earthquake the dragon’s mouth was the closest to the earthquake’s source opened, and the ball fell into the mouth of the frog making a sound. This informs people of which direction the earthquake is heading.

6. Acupuncture

There is evidence from archeological excavations that the practice of acupuncture was prevalent in early China beginning at beginning of the Paleolithic period. Different kinds of bamboo, stone knives, and bone needles that were used for healing were all discovered in China. Acupuncture’s development was revolutionary in the time under Huang Di, the Yellow Emperor (2697-2597 BC). The first book in Chinese medicine is called the Nei Jing, which was written between 305 BC and 204 BC. It’s an exchange with Huang Di and his physicist Qi Bo about the whole variety of Chinese medical sciences.

7. The Wheelbarrow

There is evidence from archeological excavations of wheelbarrows found in ancient China dating back to the Han dynasty, which can be seen in Hui’s tomb’s murals as well as reliefs of the brick tomb. The invention of the wheelbarrow could be attributed to prime chief Zhuge Liang (181-234 AD) of Shu Han sometime between 197 and 234 AD. Liang developed the wheelbarrow in order to transport weapons of war and also to remove injured and dead soldiers off the battlefield.

8. Iron and Steel Smelting

In the Paleolithic period, the Chinese employed arrowheads constructed of stone to hunt and fish. Further, in the Neolithic period, wars began to develop between different groups, and the Chinese began to alter their fishing and farming equipment with dangerous weapons. And in the Shang and Zhou period, the process of melting bronze was perfected in order to create various weapons, as well as tools for agriculture.

An Iron Age began in ancient China during the Zhou dynasty (1050 BC – 256 BC) in which iron was used in the creation of weapons, agricultural tools, and household goods. In the Han dynasty, the private industry of manufacturing iron was banned and the state was able to dominate the iron smelting business.

9. Alcoholic Beverages

The drinking of beer started in the early days of China approximately 9000 years ago, during the Neolithic period. They utilized hawthorn, rice, honey, and grapes to create the beer. A four-five percent alcohol beer was popularized due to Yi Di and Du Kang of the Xia Dynasty. Numerous bronze vessels that have been preserved during the Shang dynasty show that they were once stocked with alcohol.

10. Noodles

An archeological excavation in 2002 in the Lajia site of the Qijia culture revealed ancient noodles made from millet grass grains. The 50cm long yellow strands of noodles are thought to be around 4,000 years old. Prior to this, the first noodles were believed to have been consumed during the Han dynasty. There was a major debate regarding whether the Arabs or the Italians or the Chinese were the first to develop noodles.

11. The Compass

The Chinese believed that the south was their primary direction. The original compass was developed by the Chinese by using a lodestone to point to the south. It was referred to as”the South Pointe. Lodestone is a kind of magnetite mineral that aligns itself with the earth’s magnetic field. It was in the past that the Chinese discovered that suspended lodestones could turn in a directional manner and point toward the poles of the magnetic field. In the Han dynasty, the lodestone was used primarily to determine the geomancy of a location and also for fortune-telling. 

It was in the eleventh century of the Song dynasty, that the Chinese realized that the lodestone, which was mostly used for divination was also able to show direction to travelers. In the book Shorter Science and Civilization in China volume 3 published by Joseph Needham, it is mentioned that the Chinese began using the compass to navigate between the 9th and 11th centuries.

12. Porcelain

Porcelain is not a recent invention. An ancient version of the material existed in the Shang dynasty (1600 BC-1046 BC). It was refined in the Tang dynasty and exported to the Middle East. In the Song dynasty (960-1279 AD), the manufacturing of porcelain became organized and ascended to new levels. In the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 AD), porcelain was shipped into Europe, Africa, and Asia through the Silk Road.

13. Deep Drilling (Second Century BC)

The Chinese created the technology of drilling to extract brine from the surface of the earth. It was invented within the province that was landlocked, Szechuan which is located around 1200 miles from the sea and was designed to extract the salt out of boreholes. The technology of deep drilling boreholes slowly progressed, and the early Chinese could finally extract natural gas from boreholes. Gas was transported by bamboo pipes to its destination and was used to fuel. In the 11th century, the Chinese were capable of drilling boreholes that were more than 3000 feet deep. This same technology was also used to start the first oil well in California in the early 1860s.

14. The Seed Drill (250 BC)

The Babylonians in the early days of Mesopotamia developed single tube drills in the 1500s BC however, these didn’t make it to Europe and Asia. Chinese farmers usually plant seeds manually, which took a lot of time and was unproductive. The majority of seeds did not germinate because of insects and elements. The early Chinese discovered a solution to this issue. In the Zhou dynasty, they discovered the seed drill, which allowed … But it wasn’t until the second century BC that they came up with the multi-tube iron seed drill that allowed for the production of food on a greater scale.

15. Kites

It is believed that the Chinese had a head start over the world when it came to producing silk and utilized this silk to construct kites. They added a durable and light bamboo frame to high-tensile strength silk. Chinese Philosophers Lu Ban and Mozi documented the first kites in ancient China in the 5th century BC. In 549 AD the first kites made of paper were used to transmit messages to aid in rescue missions. The medieval period was when the Chinese employed kites to test winds, measure distances, and also for military communications.

16. Tea Production (2737 BC)

Tea was first discovered in ancient China by the Chinese Emperor Shennong in 2737 BC. Shennong was fond of drinking hot water. On one occasion in the course of a march, his troops took a break to rest, and his servant made hot waters for him. A brown leaf dropped into the water and the water turned brown. The servant gave it to the emperor. the emperor drank it and found it refreshing.

17. Silk

Silk’s development is believed to date to the fourth millennium BC in the Neolithic period. In addition to clothing, silk was used extensively across a range of industries like fishing, writing as well as musical instruments. Silk was primarily used by the elite and emperors, however, it was later adopted by all the people. In the Han dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) silk was more than a commodity. Silk was utilized as a reward for the most reputable Chinese citizen or official of the government.

18. Papermaking (50-121 AD)

Prior to when the paper was invented people utilized different materials such as stone, wood, and even bone for writing. In the 2200s BC in the 2200 BC period, the Egyptians discovered a form of reed known as papyrus that was able to be written on using interspersed thin strips immersed in water. The word “paper” was derived from papyrus.


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