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Bamboo water clock

Science and Technology in Ancient China

The history of science and technology in China is both long and rich with many contributions to science and technology. In antiquity, independently of Greek philosophers and other civilizations, ancient Chinese philosophers made significant advances in science, technology, mathematics, and astronomy. The first recorded observations of comets, solar eclipses, and supernovae were made in China. Traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture and herbal medicine were also practiced.

Among the earliest inventions were the abacus, the "shadow clock, " and the first flying machines such as kites and Kongming lanterns. The four Great Inventions of ancient China: the compass, gunpowder, papermaking, and printing, were among the most important technological advances, only known in Europe by the end of the Middle Ages. The Tang Dynasty (AD 618 - 906) in particular, was a time of great innovation. A good deal of exchange occurred between Western and Chinese discoveries up to the Qing Dynasty.

The Jesuit China missions of the 16th and 17th centuries introduced Western science and astronomy, then undergoing its own revolution, to China, and knowledge of Chinese technology was brought to Europe. Much of the early Western work in the history of science in China was done by Joseph Needham.


Anesthetic - third century found a wine that acted like anesthetic, and they also used herbs before the age of written history

Astronomy - Planetarium - They produced the first planetarium, which was actually made by an emperor. The planetarium was a big enclosed place with stars and constellations on the inside. The person using the planetarium would sit in a chair that was hanging from the top of the enclosed dome.

Bamboo - They made most toys, machines, houses, and other things from bamboo.

Blast Furnace - which was water powered

Block Printmaking / Printing Technology

Clocks - The first clock that they devised was for astronomical uses. In the first clock ever, there was a puppet that would hold up a plaque that would tell the time. They also invented giant water clocks, which rang every fifteen minutes.

Compass - was for religious use. When a new houses was being built, the used it to see if the house was faced in perfect harmony with nature (which meant they thought if you faced your house to magnetic north, you and nature would get along). The compass started out as a wooden circle with markings on it, and a magnetic spoon on top.


Earthquakes - Designed with a machine called the Earthquake weathercock, which was a contraption that told them when and where an earthquake would come. This machine looked like a giant six-foot bronze pot that had dragon heads lining the top, and ivory frogs under each dragon.

Fan - which was mostly carried by women and soldiers. Most of the fans were made out of bamboo and silk. The fan was basically many bamboo spines sticking out in almost a half circle with silk wrapped around it.

Fireworks - invented in the T'ang dynasty. These were originally for shows, but later on they used them to scare of enemies in war. The fireworks were mainly small bamboo cases filled with gunpowder, and a fuse was put on the side.


Harness - revolutionized agriculture by harnessing animals

Hot Air Balloon

Iron casting around the sixth century, when they mixed tin and copper together.

Kites - which mostly children played with. The kites were most of the time silk squares, held together by bamboo. Created many things with bamboo, which made a lot of baskets and holders and were really strong.


Mathematics - They invented the Asian Abacus. The main applications of mathematics in traditional China were architecture and geography. Pi was calculated by 5th century mathematician Zu Chongzhi to the seventh digit. The decimal system was used in China as early as 14 Century BC. "Pascal's" Triangle was discovered by mathematician Liu Ju-Hsieh, long before Pascal was born.

Military Inventions

Military innovations include the crossbow and the grid sight, crossbow stirrup, repeating crossbows, poison gas (smoke from burning dried mustard), tear gas made from powdered lime, relief maps for battle planning, manned kites, fire lance, rockets, gunpowder incendiaries, gunpowder grenades, proto-handguns, various gun-related ammunition types and the cannon.

Gunpowder - In the T'ang dynasty gunpowder was accidentally invented in an attempt to make the elixir of life, to make the emperor immortal. Cannon - were just bamboo cases holding gunpowder and were put in a big iron cannon. Bamboo or iron basket, which was like a smaller version of the cannon, that had arrows with rockets attached to them. The arrow rockets would shoot out of the miniature cannon like bullets out of a gun wood.

The nest cart was a mobile lookout, for oncoming armies and other things. The people in the nest cart also dropped bombs from their perch, which was perfect because they had a bird's eye view.

The first to make bombs for war, in the 17th Century, which were no more then a bamboo shell, about the thickness of two men's legs, and the length of a man's leg. The bombs were then filled with gunpowder, and a fuse like the fireworks, was installed.





Silk - first harvest silk, and make clothes, fans, kites, toys, paper, and lots of other things from it.



Wheelbarrow - Invented in the Han dynasty and used for carrying loads too heavy for a normal person's back to support. The wheelbarrow was originally wood, so the Chinese nick named it the 'wooden ox'.


Ancient Chinese were the first to invent paper and printing. Their early script contained 80, 000 different characters.

They went on to invent books and had book shops in every city by the end of the T'ang dynasty.

There were 3 different important kinds of paper, the very first being silk rags. The cheap kinds were no more the wooden strips, and the most expensive was silk cloth. Although most of the kinds of paper was made from over 50%bamboo, some of the other things they were made of were silk, cloth, hemp, mulberry bark, and plant fibers.

In the Han dynasty, 206B.C.-A.D.220, paper and ink were invented.

In the T'ang dynasty, 618-906, the first printer was invented. In 868 AD the earliest known book ever was printed.

Water powered plant clock.
Water powered plant clock.
Bamboo water clock at Ryoanji, Kyoto, Japan
Bamboo water clock at Ryoanji, Kyoto, Japan
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