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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 paper is soft, smooth, white, absorbent and very durable. The invention and use of paper brought about a revolution in writing materials, paving the way for the invention of printing technology in the years to come. Paper money- allows our entire banking system to work smoothly; allows people to carry large amounts of denominations with a minimum weight. The Song dynasty was the first to issue true paper money in 1023, and it did so at first cautiously, issuing small amounts, used in a limited area, and good for a specific time period. Marco Polo was impressed by the efficiency of the Chinese system, as he chronicles in his The Travels of Marco Polo (Il Milione). "All these pieces of paper are issued with as much solemnity and authority as if they were of pure gold or silver; and on every piece a variety of officials, whose duty it is, have to write their names, and to put their seals. And when all is prepared duly, the chief officer deputed by the Khan smears the seal entrusted to him with vermilion, and impresses it on the paper, so that the form of the seal remains imprinted upon it in red; the money is then authentic. Anyone forging it would be punished with death. And the Khan causes every year to be made such a vast quantity of this money, which costs him nothing, that it must equal in amount all the treasure of the world." I feel that this is the one invention that in today’s world we cannot live without and has influenced all countries the most. The magnetic compass was invented in China for use by Feng Shui practitioners, to “align” the forces of the earth to help them maintain balance in their lives for later to become an important navigational tool. It was adapted from the “south pointing spoon,” or Si Nan. Because of variations over time in the earth’s magnetic fields, three compass systems were superimposed over each other during the span of half a millennium to establish the compass that Feng Shui practitioners use today. It consists of a magnetized pointer free to align itself accurately with Earth's magnetic field, which is of great assistance in navigation. The face of the compass generally highlights the cardinal points of north, south, east and west. A compass can be used in conjunction with a marine chronometer to calculate longitude and a sextant to calculate latitude, providing a very accurate navigation capability. This device greatly improved maritime trade by making travel safer and more efficient. Although silk is naturally created by silkworms, China invented how to harvest the silk and use it in clothing and paper at times. Silk was also a vital invention to Ancient China’s economy, as Europe imported a great deal of silk. They also coined the techniques of creating clothes, fans, kites, paper, and many other articles from it. Ancient China’s creation of silk allowed China to connect to the outside world through trade and led to the creation of the Silk Road which was an overland trade route. Silk allowed China to interact with the world through an invention that until the silkworm eggs were smuggled out of China into Europe was unique to Ancient China. These four inventions are simply a few of many that Ancient China contributed to the world. Ancient Chinese developments are often overshadowed by European accomplishments; however, these inventions prove that China’s innovation shaped not only their ancient civilization but that they continue to influence the modern world. The fork had been used in China long before the chopstick; a bone fork has been discovered by archaeologists at a burial site of the early Bronze Age Qijia culture (2400–1900 BC), and forks have been found in tombs of the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600–c. 1050 BC) and subsequent Chinese dynasties. Drums (made from clay) have been found over a broad area at the Neolithic sites from modern Shandong in the east to Qinghai in the west, dating to a period of 5500–2350 BC. In literary records, drums manifested shamanistic characteristics and were often used in ritual ceremonies. The earliest evidence of wooden coffin remains, dating from the 5000 BC are found in the Tomb 4 at Beishouling, Shaanxi. Clear evidence of wooden coffin in forms of rectangular shape are found in Tomb 152 in an early Banpo site. The earliest metal bells, with one found in the Taosi site, and four in the Erlitou site, dated to about 2000 BC, may have been derived from the earlier pottery prototype.Early bells not only have an important role in generating metal sound, but arguably played a prominent cultural role. One of the earliest salterns for the harvesting of salt is argued to have taken place on Lake Yuncheng, Shanxi by 6000 BC. Strong archaeological evidence of salt making dating to 2000 BC is found in the ruins of Zhongba at Chongqing. The Chinese invented the chain pump in the first century AD. The chain pump allows water to pump from lower to higher elevations. It was used for draining and pumping in civil engineering, but the most important thing is that it was used for irrigation. Irrigation allows greater and more intense farming. It helped because with the greater crop yields larger populations can be supported. Today Chinese chain pump is still in use but it has different technology. In conclusion, I believe that the modern world is in debt to China. I have given some examples of Chinese innovations that are still in use today. The world would sure be different without these and many more contributions.

Reference

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Chinese_inventions http://www.char4u.com/article_info.php?articles_id=98 http://www.bizaims.com/content/who-and-when-invented-compass http://ipst.gatech.edu/amp/collection/museum_invention_paper.htm http://asianhistory.about.com/od/asianinventions/a/InventGunpowder.htm http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/articles/china/ancient-china-inventions/2373 http://china.org.cn/e-gudai/8.htm

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