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Ancient China was renowned for a rich culture characterized by countless inventions from great thinkers of the time. These inventions contributed to the worldwide civilization evolution, apart from leaving a generous legacy for the Chinese. Most of the contributions are traced back to Han Dynasty between 206 BCE to 220 CE (Loewe, 1999). The technologies brought forth by the Chinese ranged from mathematics and mechanics to hydraulics and could be applied in nautics, astronomy, agriculture, horology, warfare, engineering, and music theory. These inventions included paper, hot air balloons, wheelbarrow, silk, glazed pottery, seismograph, map, bellows (hydraulic powered), and belt drive (Deng, 2005). Nevertheless, there are four most important inventions from ancient China that the world has appreciated the most, namely invention of compass, gunpowder, paper, and silk. Actually, they are considered very significant because they became the bedrock for other inventions and technological advancements. They are also considered among the greatest contributions from the Chinese for a number of other reasons described below.
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A compass was invented in fulfillment of religious requirements. It was used in examining whether a building under construction was facing the required direction in a way harmonized with the nature. For instance, the Chinese scientists at that time believed that if a house was constructed facing north, then the inhabitants would be in perfect harmony with the nature. Therefore, a compass evolved from serving in divination to being used as a directional device. The inventors made something resembling of a wooden circle and inscribed marks on its surface, together with a magnetic spoon at the top. Actually, this invention was of high sigificance not only as far as culture is concerned, but also in exploration in the modern world. Actually, this development later led to the use of magnetized needle instead of spoon, especially by Chinese navigators, by floating it on a bowl of water, which enabled them to sail as far as Egypt and East Africa (Adshead, 2000).
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It is an undoubted fact that gunpowder was invented by the Chinese. This invention sparked or mothered a number of creations, such as making of grenades and bombs, which were employed by the Chinese army before the dawn of the 11th century. Other array of inventions included land mine, cannonballs, fore lance, rocket bombs with explosive payloads, hand cannon, multistage rockets, and naval mines (Deng, 2005). Besides, the Chinese also used this in making fireworks for religious ceremonies, as well as in guns and rockets. For instance, in a bid to act in defense of Kaifeng city (capital of Sung Empire), they used rocket arrows made out of gunpowder. It is from China that the rockets and the gunpowder found their way to Europe by the 13th century (Chen, 1995). Gunpowder was a fabulous invention in the history of China since it caused a great revolution in the world as far as weaponry technologies are concerned.
The world is indebted to the ancient China for the invention of paper, which is used in all parts of the world today. The Chinese used over 80,000 symbols and it was prudent for them to invent something to write the symbols on, hence giving a rise to paper (Chen, 1995). Production of paper came from three distinct sources, namely wooden strips, silk rags, hemp clothes, and bamboo. This invention laid foundation for the Chinese to pioneer the whole iidea of ink; they also became the first humans to come up with a printer and to print a book. Therefore, the ancient China was at the forefront in development of the printed word.
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The ancient China brought forth a variety of silk as well as taught the rest of the world to harvest silk out of silk worms. Besides, the ancient Chinese also devised various techniques and ways of creating paper, clothes, fans, and other articles from silk. This invention was instrumental to the economy of the ancient China, as it became a big exporter to Europe. It gave room for the Chinese to link to the rest of the world through trade, as well as building of Silk Road. Therefore, Silk provided a way through which China could interact perfectly, before the eggs of silkworms were illegally smuggled into Europe from China.
Despite the fact that the developments experienced in the ancient China at the time were overshadowed by a number of accomplishments in Europe, the inventions from the ancient China not only managed to shape the ancient civilization but also continued to influence and transform the modern world of today. Of the four inventions, one of the inventions that may not be possible to do without is the invention of paper. This is explained by the fact that there are countless books in the world – some are used in elementary schools, high schools, colleges, universities and in all institutions in the world and this is owed to the ancient China that came about with this superb and profound invention. Actually, most books today are read on papers; therefore, it would be true to say that the invention of paper by the ancient Chinese has been and will continue to be of great relevance in educational, economic, recreational, and other sectors in the world.
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