Top 10 Ancient Chinese Inventions

The Ancient Chinese history extends far back from 10,000 BCE and that my friend is a long  long time ago. Starting with The Neolithic period, which began in around  10,000 B.C. and concluding with the introduction of metallurgy about 8,000 years later, the Ancient China was characterized by the development of settled communities that relied primarily on farming and domesticated animals rather than hunting and gathering.

A distinctly Chinese artistic tradition can be traced to the middle of the Neolithic period, about 4000 B.C. Two groups of artifacts provide the earliest surviving evidence of this tradition. It is now thought that these cultures developed their own traditions for the most part independently, creating distinctive kinds of architecture and types of burial customs, but with some communication and cultural exchange between them. This was only but the start of a history that would be remembered until there are humans on the face of this earth.

And so as a part of the bigger picture the age of dynasties took over china at around 2100 BC. The first dynasty was Xia dynasty and successively dynasties settled and destroyed up until as recent as 1911 A.D when China became a republic. In between dates of 10000 BCE and 1911 A.D these people from ancient China gave the world invaluable knowledge and inventions of which the top 10 are here.

So let’s have a look at the top 10 ancient Chinese inventions that are among us.

10. Porcelain


Ancient Chinese Invention: Porcelain

It seems that porcelain was not a sudden invention, although some claim that Tao-Yue in the 600’s AD was the legendary inventor of porcelain. He used so-called ‘white clay’ (kaolin) which he found along the Yangtze 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. By around 900 AD, porcelain was perfected, incorporating the
translucent minerals quartz and feldspar.

Porcelain was much finer than other clay ceramics, so thin as to be translucent. Its white color could be painted in many colors. Porcelain was one of the most highly prized products from China, and in fact came to be called “china” which makes it one of the finest Chinese inventions today.

9. Seismograph


Ancient Chinese Invention: Seismograph

Although the Chinese couldn’t tell anyone exactly what an earthquake measured on the Richter scale (since the Richter scale wasn’t created until 1935), they did manage to invent the world’s first earthquake detector — a seismograph. Not only did imperial astronomer Chang Heng create a seismograph during the Han Dynasty in the early second century, he created a magnificently beautiful one. Heng’s creation was a heavy bronze vessel with nine dragons facing downward embedded into its outside.

The dragons were spaced equidistant from one another on the vessel, and below each dragon, a detached frog looked upward as each frog held its mouth open. Inside the vessel, a pendulum hung motionless until a tremor moved it. At this point, the pendulum’s swing set the seismograph internal levers in motion.

This would trigger the release of a ball held in the mouth of the dragon facing the direction of the earthquake’s epicenter. The ball would then fall into the mouth of the frog directly below it. This first seismograph seems a bit basic, but it would be another 1,500 years before Western nations developed their own versions of this Chinese Invention that worked pretty accurate!

8. Alcohol


Ancient Chinese Invention: Alcohol

The lovely bitter sweet liquid that suits so well whether it’s rainy or sunny, sad or happy, just name it. The earliest alcohol makers in Chinese legend were Yi Di and Du Kang of the Xia Dynasty (about 2000 BC-1600 BC). Research shows that ordinary beer, with an alcoholic content of 4% to 5%, was widely consumed in ancient China and was even mentioned on oracle bone inscriptions as offerings to spirits during sacrifices in the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC-1046 BC).

After that, Chinese discovered that adding more cooked grain in water during fermentation could increase the alcohol content, so stronger drinks began to appear. Around 1000 BC, the Chinese created an alcoholic beverage which was stronger than 11%. The potent libation was mentioned in poetry throughout the Zhou Dynasty (1050 BC–256 BC).

Meanwhile, no beer in the West reached 11% until the 12th century, when distilled alcohol was first made in Italy. So thanks to the Chinese we can hang out in our backyards on hot summer days with a bottle of chilled beer. Cheers!!

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Ankur is curious about a lot of things and and he'd love to tell you about them some day.