top of page

The Four Great Inventions of Ancient China

China has held a special place throughout ancient and modern history. The development of conflicting and inclusive civilizations stretching across the various environments of Asia embody the Ancient Chinese period, encompassing the Warring States Period and the Qin, Han, and Tang Dynasties starting from nearly 500 BC to the first millennium AD. The development of the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties that each ruled in various periods from around 1000 AD to the Communist Party of China was established in 1921. All of these societies have revolutionized some aspect of everyday life that is reflected in modern culture, whether it was the development of silk or the production of tea. However, four main inventions stand out from the rest of the products made by the Chinese due to their innovation and real-world utility: papermaking, printing, gunpowder, and the compass. Today, we are going to take a look at the four great inventions of Ancient China and how each developed throughout history.

Paper revolutioned the medium of expressing words and thoughts. Before the invention of paper, people used grass stalks and tree leaves in order to capture formulated sentences, stories, and ideas. The process of silk cultivation and its surrounding trade led to the development of paper from the resource. In the 2nd century, a court official was able to make a new kind of paper not from silk, but from bark. The resource reached outside Asia during the 12th cenutry, as people across Europe adopted to the new use of paper.

Printing started off as a stone-tablet rubbing practice during the time of the Han Dynasty around 150 B.C. Looking to find an easier way of engraving Confucian texts, Sui dynasty members in 600 A.D. engraving written words on a wooden board by smearing it with ink and printing the stories page by page. The practice of block printing was born from this development. Printng was introduced to a variety of Asian territories during the Tang Dynasty in Korea, Japean, Vietnmam, and the Philippines. This technology eventually spread to Europe, which led to the development of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg in 1448.

Buried in an Ancient Chinese primary source "The Collection of the Most Important Military Techniques" from 1044 were the three chemical formulas for making gunpowder, "explosive mixtures of salpeter, sulfur, and charcoal." The method of gunpowder was later introduced to the Arabs and Europeans in the 12th century and 14th century, respectively. Gunpowder was originally used in the manufavturing of just fireworks before its use in warfare.

The compass revolutionized the discovery of the new world as well as the experience of travel. Miners discovered the properties of a magnetite that pointed only to the north. After developments in technology, essays were written during the Song Dynasty that documented the use of a compass 100 years before its original discovery in Europe during the 14th century.

These four inventions that derived from the work of Ancient Chinese scholars and scientists point to the overall infleunce of the various empires throughout history.


637 views0 comments
bottom of page