History >> Ancient ChinaThe Ancient Chinese were famous for their inventions and technology. Many of their inventions had lasting impact on the entire world. Other inventions led to great feats of engineering like the Grand Canal and the Great Wall of China.

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Chinese Rocket by NASA
Here are some of the notable inventions and discoveries made by the engineers and scientists of Ancient China:Silk - Silk was a soft and light material much desired by the wealthy throughout the world. It became such a valuable export that the trade route running from Europe to China became known as the Silk Road. The Chinese learned how to make silk from the cocoons of silkworms. They managed to keep the process for making silk a secret for hundreds of years.Paper - Paper was invented by the Chinese as well as many interesting uses for paper like paper money and playing cards. The first paper was invented in the 2nd century BC and the manufacture later perfected around 105 AD.Printing - Wood block printing was invented in AD 868 and then moveable type around 200 years later. This was actually hundreds of years before the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg in Europe.
The Compass - The Chinese invented the magnetic compass to help determine the correct direction. They used this in city planning at first, but it became very important to map makers and for the navigation of ships.
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Gunpowder - Gunpowder was invented in the 9th century by chemists trying to find the Elixir of Immortality. Not long after, engineers figured out how to use gunpowder for military uses such as bombs, guns, mines, and even rockets. They also invented fireworks and made great beautiful displays of fireworks for celebrations.Boat Rudder - The rudder was invented as a way to steer large ships. This enabled the Chinese to build huge ships as early as 200 AD, well before they were ever built in Europe.Other - Other inventions include the umbrella, porcelain, the wheelbarrow, iron casting, hot air balloons, seismographs to measure earthquakes, kites, matches, stirrups for riding horses, and acupuncture.Fun FactsGunpowder, paper, printing, and the compass are sometimes called the Four Great Inventions of Ancient China.Kites were first used as a way for the army to signal warnings.Umbrellas were invented for protection from the sun as well as the rain.Chinese doctors knew about certain herbs to help sick people. They also knew that eating good foods was important to being healthy.Compasses were often used to make sure that homes were built facing the correct direction so they would be in harmony with nature.The Grand Canal in China is the longest manmade canal or river in the world. It is over 1,100 miles long and stretches from Beijing to Hangzhou.They invented the abacus in the 2nd century BC. This was a calculator that used sliding beads to help compute math problems quickly.A clear coating called lacquer was made to protect and enhance certain works of art and furniture.Paper money was first developed and used in China during the Tang dynasty (7th century).

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ActivitiesListen to a recorded reading of this page:Your browser does not support the audio element.For more information on the civilization of Ancient China:
OverviewTimeline of Ancient ChinaGeography of Ancient ChinaSilk RoadThe Great WallForbidden CityTerracotta ArmyThe Grand CanalBattle of Red CliffsOpium WarsInventions of Ancient ChinaGlossary and TermsDynastiesMajor DynastiesXia DynastyShang DynastyZhou DynastyHan DynastyPeriod of DisunionSui DynastyTang DynastySong DyanastyYuan DynastyMing DynastyQing DynastyCultureDaily Life in Ancient ChinaReligionMythologyNumbers and ColorsLegend of SilkChinese CalendarFestivalsCivil ServiceChinese ArtClothingEntertainment and GamesLiteraturePeopleConfuciusKangxi EmperorGenghis KhanKublai KhanMarco PoloPuyi (The Last Emperor)Emperor QinEmperor TaizongSun TzuEmpress WuZheng HeEmperors of China
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