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Chinese Inventions

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China is unlike any other country I have read about; winning a trip to china would be a dream come true! As far back as it has been documented, China has created a number of useful inventions. And, their contributions to the world, in my opinion, cannot be compared to anyone else. These useful inventions and wonderful contributions are timeless. Items such as toilet paper, tooth brush, fork, and the calendar year are used every day and can practically be found in every household. While there are a variety of inventions the Chinese have made, to me, their extraordinary contributions to the society are paper, printing, gun powder, and compass because they have made a huge impact on the entire globe.
To begin, I must say, many different items that were used before paper was invented: bamboo silk, papyrus, and parchment. However, these items were not without problems associated with their usage. There were varying degrees of surface smoothness, expense, preservation, and storage requirements. By 105 BC Cai Lun overcame many of the limitations by inventing a new writing medium known as paper from bark, hemp, and rags. During this time, the raw materials could be found easily and at lower prices compared to former methods. Essentially, this contribution helped the development of civilization.
Another useful invention to come out of China was printing. The first form of “printing on paper” came from rubbings. The process consisted of smoothing a piece of paper with a brush, the paper was then carefully coaxed into the depressions, and afterwards left to dry with a fan. Anything from important decrees, texts, scriptures, poems, and pictures were inscribed on wood, bronze, and stone then copies were made on paper for distribution. Amazingly, centuries after this invention was created it is still as a form of printing today. As a result, the contribution of the invention enabled the development of the society and allowed for literacy to spread much more rapidly.
Unlike the invention of paper and printing, the birth of gun powder was quite an accident. Initially, alchemists intended to make a potion for immortality. As a result, they inadvertently made what we know as gun powder which derived from a mixture that consists of sulfur, saltpeter, and charcoal. Eventually, the gun powder was for enlisted in military affairs. Shortly, thereafter other countries began to follow suit. As it turns out later the gun powder was used for other purposes such as cannons, exploding cannonballs, and fireworks. The useful purposes of gun powder are pretty cool considering the invention was an accident!
The compass was also another extraordinary contribution to the world; invented somewhere in China during the Qin Dynasty it was originally made of a mineral known to us today as iron oxide. To look at the compass one would find the needle in the shape of a spoon and pointed in the south, unlike todays compass which points to the north. Records show it was used first by Chinese fortune tellers to give their client a sense of direction in life. Later, it was determined to be a type of navigation. The first known person to use the compass as a navigational tool onboard a ship was also Chinese by the name of Zheng. During his lifetime he sailed across the ocean 7 different times with his trusted compass in hand. What a brave fellow. With the compass in play, it opened a whole avenue for trade, opportunities to conquer lands, and most importantly helped one find their way back home.
Without the four inventions we have discussed above I cannot really say where we would be as a society. What I can say is that no one can argue that the course of the world has not changed due to the inventions. As we can see the contributions lent a hand to the development to civilization. The paper changed the course of learning. Printing allowed for the works to be spread throughout the globe. Gun powder changed the outcome of wars and later used as a source of entertainment. And, the compass gave people a sense of direction. All of the inventions discussed are still used to this very day because they make a contribution to the world in some shape or form. For me personally, one Chinese invention I would not be able to live without is paper. From what I have gathered, reading at the time not only required mental capacity, but physical strength as well. Due to my constant need to work outside of the home and travel this would have affected my ability to learn because the former writing mediums would have been too heavy for me to bear. As we know the paper writing medium has made writing useful much easier and faster, and can be found in schools and the workforce even in China where I would like to visit someday –hopefully really soon!

Reference: 1. Louvre. Retrieved on June 5, 2012 from http://www.louvre.fr/en

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