Ancient Chinese Contributions

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Today's world is slowly developing one global culture. Countries share elements of their cultures with one another, and groups of people grow to understand one another better. The United States of America is a great example of a country whose culture is comprised of bits and pieces of many other cultures. One culture in particular that has had an effect on many Americans is the Chinese culture. China's long history has seen some extremely important inventions emerge, most noticeably gunpowder, paper making, compass, and silk.

Few substances in history have had as profound an effect on human history as gunpowder... and its discovery was an accident! Ancient alchemists in China spent centuries trying to discover an elixir of life that would render the user immortal. One important ingredient in many of the failed elixirs was saltpetre, also known as potassium nitrate. Many western history books over the years have stated that the Chinese used this discovery only for fireworks, but that is not true. Song Dynasty military forces as early as 904 A.D. used gunpowder devices against their primary enemy, the Mongols. And, although the Chinese did use gunpowder in fireworks for religious purposes, they also used gunpowder in cannons, rockets, and guns. Other Song military applications of gunpowder included primitive hand grenades, poisonous gas shells, flame throwers and land mines.

Paper was invented by Cai Lun in 105 AD. Cai Lun not only greatly improved the papermaking technique, but also made it possible to use a variety of materials, such as tree bark, hemp, rags, etc. Paper appears to have been made by from a suspension of hemp waste in water, washed, soaked, and beaten to a pulp with a wooden mallet. Eventually, tree bark, bamboo, and other plant fibers were used in addition to hemp. Bamboo paper was produced in the Tang Dynasty and is probably the best-known paper, which is mainly used in Chinese painting and calligraphy. Xuan...
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