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12 Ancient Chinese Inventions

Did you know that Ancient China was famous for its inventions and technology, many of which had a lasting impact on the entire world? The Four Great Inventions of Ancient China include gunpowder, paper, printing and the compass. Other inventions led to amazing feats of engineering like the Great Wall of China!

Take a look at 12 of the awesome things the Chinese invented, and you’ll be amazed! Without these, the world would be a very different place today!


Silk – 4,000 BC

Silk ties rolled in a shop window display

The Chinese learned how the secret of how to use the cocoons of silkworms to make silk, a soft material much prized by wealthy Westerners. Silk was such a valuable material, it opened up China to trade. In fact, the route from Europe to China became known as the Silk Road. Westerners had to pay for silk with gold of the same weight!


Tea2700 BC


Tea was first discovered by the Chinese Father of Agriculture, when some dried leaves landed in a cup of boiling water! It started as a medicinal drink and didn’t became popular in Britain until the 17th century.


Umbrella – 1,500 BC


A Chinese carpenter invented the first umbrella. He was inspired by children using lotus leaves to shelter from both the sun and the rain.


Kite – 1000 BC


Early kites were made of wood. They were mainly used for military purposes, as a way for the army to signal warnings.


Abacus – 200 BC


An abacus was an early calculator using beads to help solve maths questions.


Paper – 200 BC


The Chinese invented paper and one of it’s first uses was for maps to explore the world. It was later used as a writing medium. Paper money and playing cards were also invented by the Chinese.


Wheelbarrow – 200 AD


The earliest wheelbarrows were originally a war implement. They were used by Chinese soldiers to transport heavy supplies along narrow embankments.


Clock -725 AD


The world’s first mechanical clock was invented by a Buddhist monk. It was operated by dripping water which powered a wheel that made one revolution in 24 hours.


Printing – 900 AD


Wood block printing was invented first, followed by a moveable type of printer in later years. Both were still hundreds of years before the European invention of the printing press in 1450! And now we’ve moved on to 3D printing!


Gunpowder – 1000 AD


Gunpowder was invented by Chinese alchemists who were trying to find a potion for immortality! The Chinese mainly used it for firecrackers while Europeans then used it for military purposes, such as bombs, cannons and guns!


Compass – 1100 AD


Looking more like a sundial at first, the compass was originally used for reading a person’s destiny. It was then used to ensure Chinese homes were built facing the correct direction to be in harmony with nature. Finally, compasses were used as magnetic navigational instruments on ships.


Toothbrush – 1500 AD


People basically chewed on twigs to clean their teeth until the Chinese first made bristle toothbrushes. They used horse hairs attached to bamboo handles!

If you would like to learn about more modern inventions than these, you can find out all about the best inventions of 2016 here!