||Chinese legend tells
that the new invention of paper was presented
to the Emperor in the year 105 AD by Cai Lun. Archeological evidence,
however, shows that paper was in use two hundred years before then. Either
way, the Chinese were significantly ahead of the rest of the world.
The craft of papermaking relied upon an abundance of bamboo fiber to
produce a fine quality paper. In China: Ancient Arts and Sciences,
the papermaker uses only the traditional materials and methods to
produce fine art paper.
|The Chinese invention of
moveable type, credited to Bi Sheng in
the year 1045 AD, did not significantly impact Chinese society. Three
hundred years later in Europe, Gutenberg's development of moveable type
revolutionized the Western world. Why? The Chinese language uses 3000 to
5000 characters in an average newspaper. The English language, in comparison,
uses 26 characters in an average newspaper. Clearly, manipulating 5000
characters on a printing press took much longer than moving 26. Still, the
invention of moveable type furthered Chinese technology and its role in
the advancement of human civilization.
||Imagine their enemy's surprise when
the Chinese first demonstrated
their newest invention in the eighth century AD. Chinese scientists
discovered that an explosive mixture could be produced by combining sulfur,
charcoal, and saltpeter (potassium nitrate). The military applications
were clear. New weapons were rapidly developed, including rockets and others
that were launched from a bamboo tube. Once again, the raw materials at
hand, like bamboo, contributed ideas for new technologies.
|By the third century AD,
Chinese scientists had studied and learned
much about magnetism in nature. For example, they knew that iron ore, called
magnetite, tended to align itself in a North/South position. Scientists
learned to "make magnets" by heating pieces of ore to red hot temperatures
and then cooling the pieces in a North/South position. The magnet was then
placed on a piece of reed and floated in a bowl of water marked with
directional bearings. These first navigational compasses were widely used
on Chinese ships by the eleventh century AD.