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Ancient Chinese Inventions and Contributions Essay

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Updated: Jan 30th, 2022

What could be more normal than sitting on a bed with silk bed covers, sipping tea out of a porcelain cup, reading a book or a newspaper, getting ready to have noodles for lunch? This average description of a modern person’s day is filled with things that centuries ago were considered the most miraculous and amazing inventions of their times. And all of them came directly from China.

Nowadays Chinese firms and companies are being accused of copying and faking inventions of other countries, starting mass production of bad quality goods, and flooding modern markets with them. In spite of this stereotype, China is the Motherland of many inventions of the past. As Deng (2011) notices, the achievements of Chinese civilization and culture have contributed immensely to human society.

Paper and printing were invented in ancient China. This influenced multiple spheres of human life – traveling, discoveries, communication, and learning. Centuries later, paper still remains one of the most essential objects of human life. The first mention of noodles was made around four thousand years ago, states Clark (n.d., para. 2). Silk became China’s link to the rest of the world. In the process of turning a cocoon into a thread, the spinning wheel was invented. Being one of the most popular and valuable goods of that time, silk helped Chinese trade ways and the famous Silk Way spread to Europe.

Also ancient Chinese were trying to conquer the sea territory and came up with snorkels, which eventually started to be used in the military, the diver with a snorkel was supposed to track approaching ships, place a pot filled with gunpowder under them, and set it on fire. Kites come from China, of course. Beautiful, gracious kites floating in the wind first were used for fishing without a boat. Kites were used for military purposes too; they were designed to deliver packs of gunpowder to the soldiers. Porcelain is another beautiful material that originates in China and is a common object of modern life. Porcelain quickly became one of the most valuable Chinese goods.

Vessels and vases made of porcelain had some new qualities that pottery of that time was unable to compete with. First of all, porcelain was much thinner than clay. It also had a white color that was easy to paint on. It is also known that alcohol is mentioned in Chinese legends. It turns out that beer was brewed in ancient China long before it appeared in Europe. Another well-known Chinese product is tea. But to make good tea, the tea leaves had to be cut to pieces first. The handmade shredding of tea leaves was taking too much time until a special shredding device was created. It was used to cut the leaves into strips and made the process of tea making much easier.

Gunpowder is one of the most significant and well-known inventions of ancient China. Clark says that according to an old legend, “gunpowder was accidentally discovered by alchemists looking for a concoction that would create immortality” (n. d., para. 1). Instead of immortality, this product has brought many deaths, this is a historical irony. Gunpowder is the first of the four inventions that, to my mind, made the biggest impact on human history, as it drastically changed the way wars were fought. Besides, gunpowder became the base for the production of fireworks. The next invention I admire is, of course, the compass.

Initially, the Chinese compasses were designed to point to the South. Needless to say, that without the proper navigation to discover the world around us, traveling and creating maps would be impossible. Also, the modern world would never be the way it is now without paper and printing. Even though the modern world is becoming more and more paperless, the invention of paper and printing has made an enormous impact on our education, navigation, communication and culture. Paper and printing are the inventions that I use the most in my everyday life. Documents, books, magazines and newspapers, advertisement, food industry, paper bags, cigarettes, hygiene, medicine, engineering – paper penetrates every modern person’s life all the time.

Is it fascinating, how Chinese minds have managed to lay the foundation of so many outstanding innovations that have been so popular for centuries? Even today we cannot imagine our lives without some of these amazing inventions. Many of the most significant ancient Chinese inventions were used in the military. As well as in every other civilization, wars and battles in China, fought by Chinese people, served as a great stimulation for the progress in engineering and design, science and construction.

There is also a more peaceful explanation of unbelievable progress in ancient China. Needham and Wang (2004) suspect that the Chinese way of thinking of that time may have been the main source and reason for such unusual ideas. Ancient Chinese thinkers did not separate the spiritual and the material; they saw the world around them as a whole. This special way of perception resulted in a big breakthrough in the science and engineering of the whole civilization.

Reference List

Clark, J. (n.d). . Web.

Deng, Y. (2011). Ancient Chinese Inventions. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Needham, J., & Wang, L. (2004). Science and Civilization in China. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

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