Great Chinese Inventions
The World is forever in debt to China for its innovations.
Ancient China was extreme advance and many of its discoveries are
still in use today. This is what Robert Temple, the author of The
Genius of China 3000 years of science, discovery and invention. The
book is based on 11 main parts of Chinese innovation. Within these 11
categories, there are 3 main parts that contain the most significant
inventions. Robert Temple concentrates the bulk of his examples in
these three categories, agriculture, domestic and industrial
technology , and engineering. Temple's examples were not limited
to these fields of innovation. The Chinese excelled in many other
areas, including mathematics, warfare and transportation, to name a
few. Although Temple wrote about eleven fields of invention, I feel
that these three sections contain the greatest examples of Chinese
innovation, and the debt that the modern world owes China.
The first main area is the field of engineering. Within this
chapter, the development of iron and steel is the greatest
achievement. The development of iron and steel led to other advances.
By at least the 4th century the Chinese have developed blast furnaces
to obtain cast iron from iron ore. This was 1200 years before the
first blast furnace showed up in Europe. The reasons that the author
gave to explain the reasons why the Chinese developed this technology
are simple. The Chinese had access to large amounts of clay, the key
ingredient in making blast furnaces. The Chinese also figured out
that by adding a substance they called "Black Earth," they could lower
the melting point of iron.
Another major invention of the Chinese, that led to other
achievements, is steel. The common belief today is that Henry Bessemer
discovered the process of refining iron into steel. The fact is
Chinese had developed the process to refine iron into steel in the
second century BC The Chinese learned that by injecting oxygen into
the blast furnace, they could remove the carbon from the iron. The
Chinese called this process the "hundred refinings method" since they
repeated the process that many times. The finished product was highly
prized in China for its strength and ability to hold an edge on a
sword. The Chinese would weld the steel onto weaker iron thus creating
a strong edge and a superior weapon. The Chinese iron and steel
workers were the best at making different types of metals into modern
times. But then, no one else could have done so at the time, since
iron existed nowhere else but in China.
The Chinese invented the chain pump in the first century AD The
chain pump allows water to the pumped from lower to higher elevations.
The chain pumps were used for draining and pumping in civil
engineering, but what is more important is it was used for irrigation.
Irrigation allows for greater and more intense farming, thus resulting
in a better crop yield. With the greater crop yields larger
populations can be supported. The chain pump was exported to all parts
of the world by way of visiting ambassadors and dignitaries. The first
European chain pump appeared in the sixteenth century, and was a
direct copy of the Chinese version. The second area of great Chinese
achievement is in domestic and industrial technology. The most
recognized Chinese invention is in the field of domestic and
industrial technology, paper. Paper was invented around the second
century BC and was used as clothing. One might not believe that paper
could be used as clothing, but the paper made at that time used
thicker and tougher paper fibers. Not only was paper used for
clothing, it was also used for military body armor. The Chinese found
out that pleated sheets of paper could stop the penetration of arrows.
The paper armor was standard issue with Chinese land and sea units.
Paper's writing property was not discovered till about one century
after its discovery. The earliest example of writing on paper was
found an abandon military post. The paper found dates back to 110 AD
and contained two dozen readable characters.
The area that let China grow and expand was the innovations in
the area of agriculture. The greatest achievement in the field of
agriculture is row cultivation and intensive hoeing. In Europe, as
with the rest of the world, they practiced scatter seed farming.
Scatter seed farming is the practice of throwing the seed onto the
fields at random. By throwing the seed randomly, half the seeds would
not grow and make it impossible to weed the field. The Chinese on the
other hand, planted individual seeds and rows, thus reducing seed
loss. The planting of crops in rows also allowed for intensive
hoeing, which in turn reduce weeds. Another major advancement in the
field of agriculture is the seed drill. The seed drill complements the
row farming of the Chinese. The seed drill is a device that plants the
seed into the ground. It replaces the farmer to plant the seeds by
hand, thus allowing the farmer to plant more acreage. The first seed
drill was introduced to Europe in sixteenth century, 3500 years after
the Chinese had invented it.
In conclusion, I believe that the author has proved his original
idea, that the modern world is in debt to China. The author has given
many examples of Chinese innovation and intelligence that are seen in
use today. Chinese innovation in agriculture has not only allowed the
Chinese to grow, it has also allowed the modern world to grow.
The growth of these other countries is directly linked to the
inventions that they copied from the Chinese. Many of the Chinese
engineering feats are still practiced today. The process of refining
iron into steel is still used today, though the process has been
refined. The suspension bridge, invented by the Chinese in the first
century AD, is still the bridge of choice when one has to span a great
distance. The greatest area of Chinese invention is in agriculture.
The Chinese excelled in farming, not only did they discover the seed
drill, they discovered row farming that is still used today.
I would recommend this book with one wants to read about the past
glory of China and the huge potentional of the future. It gave
in-depth views into each Chinese invention, while not over doing the
techical explaination. The Author is clear and concise on his point,
the modern world is in debt to the Chinese. He gave many examples of
Chinese invoation, and how the rest of the world copied the Chinese.
Not did the rest of the world copy Chinese inventions, they claimed
that they were the first to invent it. The author opened my eyes to
the greatness of anicent China. What the author, Robert Temple, did do
gave me even more reason to respect China.
Temple, Robert. "The Genius of China 3000 years of Science, discovery,