Chinese Discoveriesand Inventions18.1 Introduct ion
In Chapter 17. you learned about economic changes in China during the Songdynasty. In this chapter, you will explore discoveries tnd inventions made bythe Chinese betwecn about 200 and 1400 c.e. Many of these advances came duringthe Tang and Song dynasties.
Over thc centuries, Chinese scholars and scientists studied engineering, mathe-matics, science, and rnedicine. among other subjects. Their studies led to impressivescientific and technological progress that was otien far ahead of European advances.
To understand the importance of one Chinese invention, imagine that you are atrader in the lOth century. You are lar out at sea on a Chinese junk loaded withgoods you are bringing to Korea. Without any landmarks to guide you. how do youknow which direction you're headed? Normally you might steer by the sun or thestars. But what if clouds cover the sky? Can you stil l l igure out which way to travel?
In the past, you might have been lost. But thanks to the magnetic compirss. youcan find your way. Your compass is a magnetized ncedle that aligns itself with theEarth's magnetic poles so that one endpoints north and the other south. Bythe Song dynasty. the Chinese wereusing this type of compass to helpthem navigate on long voyages.People stil l use the same kind ofdevice today.
Like the compass. other Chineseinventions and discoveries allowedpeople to do things they had neverdone before. ln this chapter, youwill learn about Chinese advancesin exploration and travel,industry, military technology,everyday obiects, and diseaseprevention. As you'll see, theinfluence of many Chinese ideasreached far beyond China.
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Paddlewheel boats were easilymaneuvered, which made themeffective warships.
18.2 Exploration andTravelSeveral Chinese inventions made exploration and travel safer and
faster. Some innovations benefited traders and other voyagers whoventured out to sea. Others improved travel on rivers, lakes, canals,and bridses inside China.
lmproving Travel by SeaThe Chinese developed the firstcompass as early as the thirdcentury B.c.E. The first Chinesecompasses were pieces of a mag-netic mineral called lodestone.The Earth itself is like a giantmagnet with north and southpoles. Because lodestone is mag-netic, it is influenced by Eanh'smagnetic poles. If you Put a Pieceof lodestone on wood and float itin a bowl of water, the lodestonewill tum until it points in a north-south direction.
The Chinese eventuallyreplaced the lodestone with asteel needle. They had leamedthar rubbing a needle with lode-stone made the needle magnetic.A needle used as a compass gavea more accurate reading than aoiece of lodestone.
By the Song dynasty, the Chinese were using magnetic compassesfor navigation at sea. Compasses made long sea voyages possiblebecause sailors could figure out directions even without a landmarkor a point in the sky to steer by. The compass remains an importantnavigational tool today.
The Chinese also made sea travel safer by improving boat construc-tion. By the second century c.E., they discovered how to build shipswith watertight compartments. Builders divided the ships into sectionsand sealed each section with caulk, a sealant that keeps out water. Ifthere was a leak, it would be isolated in one compartment. The othercompartments would stay dry, keeping the ship afloat. Modern ship-builders stil l use this technique.
lmproving Travel on Rivers, Lakes, Canals, andBridges Within China, people often traveled by boat on rivers oracross lakes. An invention called the paddlewheel boat speeded tp thistvDe of travel.
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Have you ever paddled a canoe or other small boat? As you pushyour paddle through the watet the boat moves tbrward. In the flfth cen-tury, the Chinese adapted this idea by ananging a series of paddles in awheel. As the paddlewheel turned, the paddles moved continuouslythrough the water, causing the boat to move forward.
Paddlewheel boats allowed the Chinese to travel much taster onrivers and lakes. We still use this type of boat for pleasure trips today.
Another innovation. the canal lock, was invented in the lOth cen-tury. during the Song dynasty. As you've leamed, the Chinese usedcanals extensively. As the surrounding land sloped up, parts of canalswere at difTerent levels. Before canal locks were invented. the Chinesehad to drag their boats up stone ramps to reach water at a higher level.Sometimes the boats would be seriously damaged.
Canal locks solved this problem. When a boat entered the lock, agate was lowered to hold in water. The water was then allowed to riseuntil it reached the level of the water up ahead. Then the boat floatedon. To go "downhill," water was let out of the lock until it fell to thelevel of the water down below.
The invention of locks made canal travel much easier. Locks couldraise boats as much as 100 feet above sea level. They are used today onrivers and canals around the world, including the tamous Panama Canal.
The Chinese also found ways to improve bridges. For example,in 610 c.E., a Chinese engineer invented a new type of arched bridge.In Europe, Roman-designed bridges rested on arches that were half-circles. The new Chinese bridge used arches that were a smaller part.or segment, of a circle. This made the bridges broader and flatter thansemicircular arches. Called a segmental arch bridge, the newbridge took less material to build, and it was stronger as well.
The segmental arch bridge is one of Chinr's most prized rechno-logical achievements. Today bridges with this design stretch overexDresswavs rround lhe world.
canal lock a gated chambsr ina canal used to raise or lower thewater levelsegmental arch bridge abr idge supported by arches thatare shallow segments (parts) ofa crrc le
The Great Stone Br idge spanning theriver Chiao Shui was the world's firstsegmental arch br idge. l t has a spanof 123 feet.
movable type individual char-acters made of wood or metal thatcan be arranged to create a jobfor printing and then used overagarn
The scene on the woodblock below(center) was carved with the engrav-ing tools shown. l t was then coveredwith ink, and paper was pressed ontoit to create the print at the bottom.Not ice that the pr inted scene is amirror image of the carved sceneon the woodblock.
18.3 IndustrySome ofthe advances made by the Chinese led to new industries.
ln this section, you'll leam about China's paper, printing, porcelain, andsteel industries.
Paper The Chinese invented the art of papermaking by the secondcentury c.E. The earliest Chinese paper was probably made out of thebark of the mulberry tree. Later, rags were used.
Papermaking became an imponant industry in China. For more than500 years, the Chinese were the only people in the world who knewthe secret of making paper. From China, knowledge of papermakingtraveled to Japan and across Central Asia. Europeans probably firstleamed about this art after I100. Considering how important paperis for recording and transmitting information, it's hard to think of aninvention that touches our daily lives more today.
Printing The invention of paper made another key developmentpossible-printing. In about the seventh century, the Chinese invented atechnique called woodblock printing- The printer first drew characters
(symbols) on paper. He then glued the paper to awooden block. When the glue was dry, the printercarved out the wood around the characters, leav-ing the characters raised on the wood.
To print from the block, the printer coveredthe characters with black ink. Then he spreadpaper over the block and smoothed the paperwith a brush. Some artists still use block printingtoday to create fine art prints.
By the 8th century, there was an entire wood-block printing industry in China. Printers turnedout religious and other works on scrolls. In theloth century, the Chinese started printing mod-em-style books with pages.
In the I lth century, during the Song dynasty,the Chinese invented movable type. Movabletype consists of separate blocks for each charac-ter. Printers made their type by carving charactersout of clay and baking them. To print, theyselected the characters they needed and placedthem in an iron frame in the order they wouldappear on the page. When the printing job wasdone, the type could be removed from the frameand used again.
With the invention of movable type, printersno longer had to create a new set of woodblocksfor each item they printed. This dramatically
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Iowered the cost of pr int ing. Byrntking wrilte n nratcrials nrorcwidcly avai lable. advances inprinting hclped spreld learningthroughout China.
Eunrpe first dcveloped rnovabletype in the l . l (X)s. Unt i l recent ly. a l lnewspapcrs. books. and nragazincsrlerc printcd using movable tvpc.
Porcelaan A lanrous Chincscinvention is thc typc of fine pottelycal led porcelain. Sonte histor iunsthink the filst porcelain ',ras ntadcas early as the lirst century c.[.
Porcclain is nrrrde by corrbiningclay r ith the rocks quartz andteldspar. 1 'he nr ixture is baked in a k i ln. or ovcn. at \ cr) h igh tenrpcr-atules. l 'he rcsulting ponely is r'"hitc. hald. and rraterprool. Light canpass lhrouglr it. which rnakes ir look quite dclicale and beaurilirl.
By thc lOth ccntury. thc Chincsc uere nraking porcelain of lrcltbeauty. Cralispcople learned how 10 painl pictures orr porcclain pieces.They llso nadc coloretl glazes to tlecorate their porcelain.
Porcelain rnaking becrnrc a rnrjor indLrstry il China. Hundreds ofthousunds ol'people workcd to mass-p