Technological innovation is the highlight of any progressive society and as such its use towards the development of early societies is integral towards determining how such societies progressed as a result of new innovations that changed their way of living. Examples of innovations that changed societies can be seen in the development of maritime technology in Ancient Greece which made the various Greek city states the first maritime powers.
The development of tempered steel in Japan helped to usher in a new way to wage war and the development of the samurai culture embodied by the tempered steel blade of the katana. Finally, the development of techniques in food preservation and the development of sturdier and faster Viking long boats led to their historic reputation as a race of invaders. As it can be seen in such examples technological innovation within early societies has always resulted in “societal leaps” wherein their very cultures and ways of living changed as a result of these new innovations (Asia, 12).
No where is this more evident than in the development of early societies in Asia particularly the Chinese, Indians and Koreans (Asia, 12). This statement is based on the fact that the level of technological sophistication attained by these early societies rose to such a degree that it enabled them to achieve new heights of cultural distinction and prowess not seen in other early societies for at least several thousand years after they were created by Asian societies.
Inventions of Ancient Asian Civilizations that Changed Asian Society
While China has had the distinction of being credited with the development of literally hundreds of different inventions the fact remains of all the technological innovations it has been credited for the top four are: the development of the compass for maritime navigation, the creation of gunpowder, their innovations in papermaking and the development of mass printing actually helped to shape both Chinese and Asian society for several thousand years (Karasick, 66).
Historical records show that before China became an insular and closed off kingdom it initially had a great maritime exploratory fleet that precipitated trade between the various countries in South and East Asia. In fact the proliferation of Chinese made goods today is nothing more than a reproduction of events in the past wherein great Chinese merchant fleets brought products from China to several early Asian societies which precipitated the first occurrence of international maritime trade within the region (Karasick, 66).
This was possible through the development of the compass which helped Chinese navigators accurately navigate from port to port based on maps and the directions of the compass. The development of gunpowder on the other hand facilitated a new generation of modern warfare in Chinese society wherein gunpowder was used for antipersonnel mines to even the equivalent of today’s RPG launchers.
In fact the use of gunpowder has such far reaching results in Chinese history that it became a staple of Chinese warfare for several thousand years and was responsible for the deaths of millions. One particular invention that has had a lasting impact on ancient early societies was the development of book printing in the early 7th century.
While the innovation itself was not exclusive to the Chinese since both the Koreans and the Japanese had similar innovations (it has been theorized that this may have been due to the early international maritime trade and cultural exchange) the development of printing actually facilitated the spread of intellectual knowledge throughout the Asian region particularly in China and Korea where the use of printing is more prevalent.
The end result was the development of a highly intellectual society wherein knowledge was not limited to the upper echelons of society but was spread throughout the various classes which helped to fuel a drive for knowledge and innovation following the 7th century which lasted for several thousand years. While the early innovations in Chinese society impacted the economic and intellectual aspects of early Asian society the development of the early Indus Valley Civilization in modern day India became the impetus for the creation of future urban civilizations and cities in the Indian sub continent (Indus valley civilization, 1).
It must be noted that the early Indus Valley Civilization was actually one of the first early civilization by 3300 BC to actually develop the concept of an urban megalopolis, namely, the concentration of people within a single urban area that is built out of bricks, stones and had a modern day drainage system (Asia Minor, 1). In fact the creation of the Indus valley civilization was in itself an innovation since it was the first modern city within the area and became the template for future cities within the South Asian region (Asia Minor, 1).
It must be noted that the early Indus valley civilization was noted for its development of modern day metallurgy techniques wherein they were able to develop products composed of bronze, tin, lead and copper. In fact it was these innovations that helped to influence future techniques in metallurgy throughout Asia which can all be attributed to the early techniques developed by the Indus Valley Civilization (Asia Minor, 1).
It must be noted that due to the increased level of cultural interaction throughout Asia as a result of both land and maritime trade technologies, inventions and customs were often exchanged as result of multicultural interactions. In other words each civilization “borrowed” aspects of other civilizations they encountered and incorporated them in their own. No where is this more evident that in the development of metal printing in Korea during the 12th century.
While the invention of early Asian printing was attributed to the Chinese during the 7th century the fact remains that the initial medium utilized was wood blocks which the Koreans found expensive to accurately reproduce. As such they incorporate the technique used in making printing blocks and used metal instead of wood. The result was the first modernized method of metal printing which enabled the Korean civilization to create their own version of a literary industry which facilitated a greater degree of cultural knowledge and development (Chung, 5 – 7).
Based on the facts presented in this essay it can be seen that the development of technology has had a significant impact in the way early civilizations in Asia developed and prospered. It must be noted though that due to the degree of cultural sharing that occurred between the various civilizations technological developments were also shared which led to the spread of technologies from one civilization to another as a result of cultural exchanged.
As such it can be stated that technological innovation in one society may in fact lead to the development of another as seen in the case of Korea and China wherein Chinese innovations actually led to innovations Korean society as technologies were exchanged leading to new developments in both countries. It is due to this that the statement “technology provides the impetus for change” is proven since through constant technological development in one part of Asia the rest of Asia benefited as a result.
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“Indus valley civilization.” Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition (2010): 1. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web.
Karasick, Joan, and Phyllis Levy Mandell. “Ancient Chinese Inventions.” School Library Journal 49.11 (2003): 66. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web.