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Ancient Chinese Inventions History Essay

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Updated: May 20th, 2020


The ancient Chinese civilization made great inventions and contributions which are still being used today. In this article, I highlight some of the inventions and contributions and examine four that I consider to be outstanding. I then point out one and explain why I find it the most significant in my life.

Useful Inventions by Ancient Chinese

The ancient Chinese people are credited for many inventions and contributions. Many of these inventions and contributions have been modified and are in full use today. A sample of these inventions and contributions include “silk, tea, porcelain, paper, printing, gunpowder, the mariner compass, medicines, lacquer, and some games” (Bodde, 2004, p. 1).

  • Silk: Assumed to be oldest known Chinese invention, it is dated to about 1300B.C.
  • Tea: Use of tea in China is approximated to started between A.D. 264 and 273 (Bodde, 2004).
  • Porcelain: Porcelain was probably invented early than A.D. 300 (Bodde, 2004).
  • Paper: Invention of paper is dated to A.D. 105 (Bodde, 2004).
  • Printing: This took place stepwise over a number of centuries (Bodde, 2004).
  • Gun powder: As early as the T’ang dynasty (A.D. 618-906) gunpowder was used in making fireworks (Bodde, 2004).
  • The Mariner’s compass: The compass is speculated to have been invented around 1766 – 1123 B.C. (Bodde, 2004).
  • Medicines: Between 1552 and 1578 Chinese are said to have had more than 8,160 medical prescriptions (Bodde, 2004).
  • Lacquer: This is speculated to have been invented in the first century A.D. (Bodde, 2004).
  • Games: Games invented by the ancient Chinese include dominoes, kite flying, shadow play, and cards (Backus, 2002).

4 Ingenious Inventions and Why

Of the many inventions and contributions by the Chinese, I consider the following four to be of great ingenuity.


Use of tea in China is said to have started between A.D. 264 and 273. Tea is a very popular drink in the modern society. It is mainly taken for breakfast but can also be taken at any time of the day or night. Though tea has substitutes, not all people are comfortable with the substitutes. Tea is planted in large scale by some countries for export (Deng, 2011).


The ancient Chinese greatly contributed to the medical world. By 1578, the Chinese had compiled a book that described 1,871 medicines meant to be subscriptions for up to 8, 160 medical conditions. The chaulmoogra, for instance, is still in use today and is the only treatment available for leprosy. Ephedrine is also widely used in treatment of colds. Medicine is important for the preservation of life. With modern technology, the ancient Chinese medicinal prescriptions can be further researched and improved. Just as chaulmoogra and ephedrine are still being used today, the other prescriptions might be found to be worth researching on (Bodde, 2004).


The significance of paper to the modern society cannot be overemphasized. Even with the emergence of computer and the internet, papers still play great roles in the modern society especially in schools. It will be very hard to teach students without the help of papers. Important official documents are printed on papers. All the concepts of modern technologies were once stored in papers. Even today not all important information is digitized as some in stored in the format of papers (Bodde, 2004).


The Chinese printing was a step towards modern printing. Printing has become part of our society. It is used in spreading information. It is especially important in the education sector. Papers have to be printed to turn them into text books and writing materials. Without printing, spreading of information will be very slow because original copies of materials will not be produced quickly. Printing has also been extended to cover many aspects apart from paper printing (Discovery, n.d).

Vital invention and why

I consider the paper invention the greatest idea of the ancient Chinese. Probably to the ancient Chinese it might have not been the greatest, but to the modern society it definitely is. Personally, a paper is something that I will struggle to live without. As a student, papers form part of my everyday life. I need papers to make notes of what I learn in class. My diary accompanies me mostly and every now and then I update it. Being a student, I do not see how I will manage my studies if there were no papers. I use the internet sometimes to carry out my study work but there are times that I print some of the resources I find online. Some concepts are better learned when they are in the format of a paper. For instance, if you are discussing detailed chart, for instance the periodic table, you will do it better if you make use of a big chart on a piece of A2 paper. A paper therefore means a lot to me.


The ancient Chinese made many inventions and contributions to civilization. Many of these inventions and contributions are still in use today. Of these inventions, I find the invention of a paper the most significant. This is because I use papers everyday in my studies. Papers have also helped to preserve and pass down information.


Backus, M. (2002). Ancient China. New York, NY: Lorenz Educational Press.

Bodde, D. (2004). . Columbia University. Web.

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

Discovery. (n.d). Brilliant Achievement of Science and Technology in Ancient China. Discovery TCM. Web.

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