Author: changabula

Chinese Inventions, Discoveries and Other Contributions   [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2007-1-25 18:03:44 |Display all floors
(c. 600 AD)

It seems that porcelain was not a sudden invention, although some claim that Tao-Yue (c.608 - c.676 AD) was the legendary inventor of porcelain. He used so-called 'white clay' (kaolin) which he found along the Yangzte river where he was born. He added other types of clay to produce the first white porcelain, which he sold as 'artificial jade' in the capital Chang-an.

But archeological finds push back the date of true porcelain before the third century AD. and by the Sung Dynasty (960-1279) porcelain had reached the height of its artistry.

By the time Europe learned the secret of making porcelain in 1709, Chinese artisans had been producing it for over one thousand years. First, scientists studied and learned the properties of silicate glazes. The potter's wheel was invented to shape the clay. High-temperature kilns were constructed to fuse the glazed clay into porcelain. These three scientific realities were necessary before the fine art of porcelain-making could be practiced. Exquisite Chinese porcelain pieces remain from centuries long ago, as well as from just yesterday.

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Post time 2007-1-25 18:04:32 |Display all floors
The Rudder

The world's oldest depiction of a ship's rudder can be seen on a pottery model of a Chinese ship dating from the first century AD. Later on, large ships with enormous rudders were used on the Chinese voyages of discoveries to Indonesia, Australia and around Africa.

Until Europeans adopted the rudder from the Chinese, Western ships had to use steering oars, which made long voyages of discoveries difficult. The oldest European evidence for rudders is found in church carvings around the year 1180 AD.

Another traditional Chinese invention was the "fenestrated rudder," which is simply a rudder with holes made in it. The Chinese soon discovered that while easing the task of turning the rudder through the water, the holes did not appreciably diminish its steering function. However, it was not until 1901 that fenestrated rudders were introduced to the West. Until that time, a coal-fired torpedo boat traveling at 30 knots (nearly 34 miles per hour) was unable to turn its

The earliest rudders in China were what is called 'balanced' rudders. This means that part of the blade projected in front of the post. Such rudders are easier to use, but Europeans did not adopt them until the nineteenth century. One of the earliest ships to use such a rudder was the Great Britain of 1843. The British were in the forefront when it came to adopting Chinese inventions for naval use, with this as well as the square-pallet chain pump as a bilge pump and watertight compartments in hulls. It is no exaggeration to say that the superiority of the British Navy was to a large extent due to its readiness to adopt Chinese inventions more rapidly than other European powers.

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The rudder came into use after the Han Dynasty. A ship model unearthed in a Changsha mausoleum of Central China's Hunan Province had a functioning rudder. From a book in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) is written the lines, "lives of thousands of the passengers hinge on the rudder," demonstrating people's clear awareness about the importance of rudders at the time.

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Post time 2007-1-25 18:06:01 |Display all floors

The earliest form of compass was a naturally magnetic piece of lodestone used to indicate direction, which preceded the more advanced idea of using needles. They were used on land only and are described as south-pointing devices in a text dating from the 4th cent. BC.

Much later, between 850 AD and 1050, the needle compass came to be used for navigation at sea. At that time the Chinese established also that the needle always deviates slightly to the east, and does not point directly at the south, recognizing the shift of the magnetic field of the earth.

The first mention of the magnetic compass in European writings occuured in the year 1190, and it was not until the early fifteenth century that Europeans knew about the magnetic declination.

The earliest documentation that comes from the use of the compass was found in the 3rd century. "When the people of the State of Zheng go out in search of jade, they carry a south pointer with them so as not to lose their way in the mountains." This quote was one of the earliest documentation which tell the use of a tool which they used to find their way of getting back home and not getting lost in their travels. The worlds first compass was first made in China during the Qin dynasty (221-206 B.C.), by balancing a piece of loadstone carved in the shape of a laddle on a round, bronze plate. The first person to use this tool was Zheng He (1371-1435), a moslem from the Yunnan province. By order of the emperor he made seven ocean voyages between 1405 and 1433.

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Without the compass many discoveries would have been delayed by hundreds of years or maybe not discovered at all. It is the tool of sea that is still in use today in nearly its same form. Actually, the compass can be attributed with saving many lives by helping people on land, sea, and in the air find their way to safety.

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Post time 2007-1-25 18:07:07 |Display all floors

Did you know that the Ancient Chinese invented the crossbow. In those times the crossbow was used for fighting, and for shooting cables across canyons to make bridges. It was the Ancient Chinese equivalent of the AK-47!

A Chinese text credited the invention of the crossbow to a Mr Ch'in in the seventh century BC. Further evidence of the crossbow is from the famous book 'The Art of War' by Sun Tzu which dates from at least 345 BC and is reputed to date from 498 BC.

The crossbow, which once greatly boosted the strength of the invincible Qin troops, first appeared in the Spring and Autumn Period. By the Han Dynasty (206BC-220), the precision and the flatness of the device were noticeable.

The Han crossbows were divided into eight categories, demonstrating the manufacturing standardization that was primarily established in China early in the Han Dynasty. The craftsmen's name was engraved on each of the crossbow.

In Europe, crossbow-type artillery pieces were known to the ancient Greeks; they were used in 397 BC at Syracuse. But with the decline of Rome, the crossbow fell into disuse and reappeared again in Europe only in the tenth century.

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(1) Chinese inventors continued to refine the crossbow for hundreds of years, producing a rapid-fire version in the 16th century that carried 10 bolts in a self-contained magazine.
(2) A Qin soilder shooting a crossbow, which was the most accurate weapon at the time.

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Post time 2007-1-25 18:07:55 |Display all floors

Gunpowder was invented by Chinese alchemists seeking an elixir of immortality. They began to recognize the characteristics of salpeter and sulfur, two ingredients essential for gunpowder. Between 300- 650 AD several recipes were written about inflammable mixtures. Some historians date the invention of gunpowder at 850 AD when a Taoist book warned of three specific elixir formulas as too dangerous to experiment.

Around 1040 AD Tseng Kung-Liang published a true gunpowder formula for the first time in history. However, this powder was not explosive but rather burned with a sudden combustion and was used in flame-throwers. Explosive gunpowder was definitely used in the beginning of the thirteenth century.

Wei Boyang was a famous alchemist that wrote a book called Book of the Kinship of the Three with enormous amount of information.

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The invention of gunpowder has had very far reaching ramifications. Throughout history, it is clear that countries that had weapons and used gunpowder were able to dominate during times of war. Just having weapons that used gun powder was enough of a threat to warrant off potential enemies.

The first textual evidence of a proto-gunpowder formula is contained in a work dated about 850. So far as we know, Essentials of the Military Arts records the first true gunpowder formula and describes how to produce it on a large scale. Its first use in warfare was as an incendiary, or fire-producing, compound.

Gunpowder was of many different types. Chinese texts identify blinding powder, flying powder, violent powder, poison powder, bruising and burning powder and smoke-screen powder.

Starting from the Tang or the beginning of the Song, small packages of gunpowder wrapped in paper or bamboo were attached to arrows, which marked the first use of gunpowder in war (see the illustration below). These would be lit with a fuse of some kind, so that the arrow became an incendiary, intended to set targets afire.

In the group of projectiles below, the different styles correspond to two different types of javelin-propulsion methods. Note the arrow with the gunpowder chamber.

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Post time 2007-1-25 18:08:36 |Display all floors

The earliest surviving gun has been excavated in Manchuria, it is more than a foot long, has an even bore, and dates from 1288. One can presume therefore, that guns evolved prior to that date in China, perhaps around 1250.

The earliest evidence of a gun in Europe is a picture of a bombard which fired arrows, depicted in a 1327 manuscript in a library at Oxford. The likeness of European and Chinese guns are so striking that it seems likely that actual guns were transported to Europe for actual copying after the vast Mongol empires had opened the trade roues between East and West.

Evidence of the first bronze hand-held gun dates to the early Yuan dynasty, but metal barrels were used as early as the Tang dynasty for fire lances that propelled gunpowder bombs intended to burn targets.

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Below is the earliest excavated gun, from the early Yuan dynasty. A wooden tube would have been inserted in the wide mouth for extra range. The gun was mounted on a wooden housing.

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Post time 2007-1-25 18:19:35 |Display all floors
Chinese medicine

Chinese medicine was not found by a single person. On the contrary, it was a effort made by several people which contributed to the advancement in this field.

The Book of Rites, a manual for ceremonies written in the Zhou dynasty (11th c.-256 B.C.), records the court physicians' division of medical teaching into internal medicine, surgery, nutrition and veterinary practice.

The Yellow Emperor's Canon of Internal Medicine, which appeared during the Warring States period (475- 221 B.C.), systematically presented what was known in China of physiology, pathology, diagnostics, treatment and preventive medicine. Bian Que, a noted doctor at that time, was the first man in the world to use the pulse for diagnosis.

In the first century came Shen Nong's Cannon on Materia Medica, China's earliest book on pharmacology compiled systematically.

Hua Tuo was also a famous doctor in the 2nd century, that applied an anesthetic powder in abdominal surgery.

The Chinese use of medicine to cure illnesses has spread throughout the world. Although they did not develop sophisticated remedies for illness and pain, the Chinese set the stage for further development in the field of medicine. It can be said that they opened the door for the rest of the world to follow.

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[ Last edited by changabula at 2007-1-25 08:33 PM ]

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