Ancient Chinese Contributions Essay

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Chinese Inventions

The ancient Chinese were an innovative people who were able to independently develop the ideas for many of the things we take for granted today. Even though these ideas originated in the East they have proven valuable throughout the world, disseminated by such explorers as Marco Polo and others who realized the importance of the things they had seen. Francis Bacon viewed many of these Chinese inventions as crucial to the development and transformation of European society during the 16th and 17th centuries (Selin, 1997, p.261). These inventions changed the world as we know it and not always for the better. However, the myriad inventions continue to influence the way that people all over the world live their lives every day.

Overview of Chinese Inventions

The ancient Chinese have been credited with inventions ranging from the mundane to supreme technological innovations in many different fields. For example, in the field of agriculture, the Chinese are credited with inventing the system of row cultivation. Instead of scattering seeds randomly on the ground as the Europeans did, the Chinese carefully planted individual seeds in a row. To achieve this, they used a seed drill, which was developed to plant the seeds directly into the ground. The Chinese were also the first to make silk from the cocoon of the silkworm moth and they eventually exported westward, leading to the creation of the "Silk Road," a passage for trade with the west (Krebs & Krebs, 2003, p.100).

They were also very interested in developing apparatuses for potential flight and gave us many of the early templates for eventual air travel. Their earliest flight-related invention was the kite, which was designed about 2000 years ago by a carpenter using bamboo pieces. Though initially used by the military to deliver gunpowder bombs to their enemies, the kite eventually became the entertainment vehicle it is today (Deng, 2011, p.122). They have also been credited with inventing the first hot air balloon and a toy helicopter rotor (Ong, 2011, p.170).
In the field of science and technology, they have been credited with creating the abacus, a tool for mathematical computation, a star atlas, acupuncture, and anesthetic and the decimal and binary systems. They also contributed advances in the field of iron, steel, and copper smelting. While all of these inventions were important in their own way, there were four particular Chinese innovations that had a lasting impact on the entire world.

Four Major Inventions

The four most important inventions the Chinese gave the world were the compass, gunpowder, paper, and printing. Paper was first invented by the Chinese during the second century B.C.E. Or perhaps even farther back in history. It was initially used for clothes, blankets, wrapping material, and tissues and toilet paper, rather than as a tool for writing and recording information (Krebs & Krebs, 2003, p.100). Like so many other Chinese inventions, paper spread westward along the Silk Road many centuries after its initial invention and became a major commodity, eventually surpassing wood and silk as the materials onto which characters were inscribed.

The invention of paper led directly to the development of various methods of printing and the Chinese were the first to devise several methods of printing. As early as the 5th century C.E. they used wooden seals pressed onto paper to imprint seals that were similar to today's rubber stamps (Krebs & Krebs, 2003, p.101). In the 2nd century C.E. developed wooden or metal block rubbings to reproduce calligraphy. They would place the paper over a carved surface of wood or metal and rub the paper with a mixture of wax and carbon black or blot with ink to raise the image on the carved surface onto the paper surface (Krebs & Krebs, 2003, p.101). To facilitate the dissemination of important messages created via paper and printing processes, the Chinese created an efficient postal service that operated until 1402 C.E. (Krebs & Krebs, 2003, p.102).….....

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