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Unfolding the Wisdom: An Essay Sample on Ancient Chinese Contributions

Today’s world is developing people’s common global culture. Every country contributes a piece of its own culture. Chinese culture was one of the most important cultures that influenced the evolution of human civilization. The history of this country is very rich and glorious. Its citizens were very inventive. Ancient Chinese created many useful things and devices and made many inventions. They had a great impact on the life of every person. Ancient China was in the foreground of science and technology. This country gave birth to many scientific and technological inventions and led the world in these innovations for many centuries.

The most important and helpful contributions the Chinese made to modern people’s lives were: paper, abacus, gunpowder, printing press, umbrellas, clocks, compass, porcelains, maps, wheelbarrows, and silk. Chinese made major developments “in farming, iron and copper metallurgy, exploitation of coal and petroleum, machinery, medicine, astronomy, mathematics, porcelain, silk, and winemaking” (Yinke, 2011). It is important to single out four of the most important inventions made by Chinese civilization. They are the invention of paper and printing, gunpowder, magnetic compasses, and silk.

Among all the inventions of the ancient world, only a few may be compared in significance with the invention of paper and printing by the ancient Chinese. Before the Chinese used paper for writing at the beginning of the Christian era, they selected various hard and soft materials for documents, historical records, and personal communication (Needham, 1985). Chinese made them from bones of animals, shells, bronze, iron, gold, and silver. Cai Lun invented paper sometime before the Christian era. Ancient Chinese made paper by hand and mostly with natural resources. Paper made of hemp had already been in use before Cai Lun, but he improved both the techniques and its quality while using various materials, such as tree bark, hemp, and rags (Sayre, 2011). By the seventh century A.D., the Chinese invented the first printing press. The movable type appeared later. Chinese made it of wood, metal, and a variety of ceramics. Europe did not know anything about printing at that time. Paper and printing originated in China, and only later did the Chinese spread it worldwide. The importance of the invention of paper and printing is obvious. Although new means of communication have developed recently, the unique combination of ink, paper, and printing is still the most basic, important, permanent, and accessible communication device known today.

The invention of gunpowder is also of great importance. An interesting fact is that the invention of gunpowder was an accident. Chinese alchemists wanted to make an elixir of immortal life. They mixed sulfur, saltpeter, and charcoal and, by accident, created a powder for weapons. The invention of gunpowder dates back to 142 A.D., during the reign of the Han dynasty. Firstly people used it as fireworks, and only later did the Chinese begin to use gunpowder in wars. Ancient Chinese put gunpowder in cannons, guns, and rockets. People invented gunpowder to have an immortal life, but it is the cause of people’s death. Still, gunpowder is one of the most important inventions that have changed methods of war and warfare.

The magnetic compass is another very important invention in the history of humanity. The first compass ever created was a spoon made of lodestone put on a bronze plate, and the tail of the spoon (the handle) always pointed to the South (Nguyen). Ancient Chinese designed a compass not for navigation; they used the compass for harmonization and order in their lives. First Chinese compasses pointed to the South, but Europeans used compasses that pointed to the North. So, Europeans also invented the compass, but some time later than the Chinese. The compass is a very important device that greatly impacted people’s lives. While traveling, knowing what direction a person is facing is very important. Compass makes it easier to navigate through the oceans to find ships’ way to land, helps people find their way home, and allows exploration of other continents and countries. To sum up, the compass is a very useful invention, and with the help of a compass, one can navigate his or her way and the way of different vehicles.

Finally, the fourth among the most important inventions is silk. For many centuries, European people knew little about silk and those people who discovered it. According to the legend, the wife of the Chinese Emperor, Leizu, discovered silk. She found a silkworm that made a fine thread. Silk was very valuable in Ancient China. Silk cloth was the symbol of status. Chinese used silk for clothing, paper, fishing lines, musical instruments, and painting.

In some cases, it was used as a currency. The discovery of silk was very important in the history of human civilization because people had used clothing made of birds for many centuries before. The invention of silk influenced Chinese culture and the economy of the world.

To sum up, the Ancient Chinese contributed a lot to the history of human civilization. They invented many devices. Among the most useful are: paper, compass, gunpowder, and silk. Chinese invented writing independently, without any knowledge of developments elsewhere in the world, and the art of writing – or calligraphy – is highly regarded (Allan, 2012). To my mind, the invention of paper is the most important event. If we did not have paper, we would be unable to save and store written communications, and perhaps, many of us would be illiterate. Books printed many centuries ago are still in good condition. Chinese invented paper many centuries ago, but we still use it daily. With the invention of paper and printing, the Chinese influenced the development of the world greatly.

📎 References:

1. Allan, T. & Phillips, C. (2012). Ancient China’s myths and beliefs. New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc.
2. Yinka, D. (2011). Ancient Chinese inventions. (3rd ed., p. 162). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
3. Needham, J. (1985). Science and civilization in China. (p. 485). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
4. Nguyen, D. (n.d.). The invention of the compass. Retrieved from http://www.culture-4-travel.com/invention-of-the-compass.html
5. Sayre, H. (2011). The humanities: culture, continuity, and change. (Vol. 1, p. 673). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.