One of the little-known secrets of history is the immense contribution of Chinese society, including technology, to the Western world (or more precisely to the rest of the world). Often the invention or discovery served a singular purpose, and the science was not explored, understood, nor developed. Equally interesting, is the failure of some discoveries in China to cross over to other civilizations, or even to survive into modern times.
Bibliography of references consulted.
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History of Chinese Invention and Discovery

History of Chinese Invention and Discovery

The West's Debt to China?

            Timeline adapted primarily from observations as published Robert Temple and Joseph Needham. Dates on Timeline indicate technology developing in China, and the approximations of discovery in Western civilization refer to some form of the invention observed later.
1.6 Million BC Yuanmou Man Earliest human findings in China.
Stone tools and use of fire.
Human origins in Asia and Africa?
 
700,000
-500,000
Yuanmou Man,
Lantian Man,
Peking Man (Zhoukoudian)
20,000
-15,000
Upper Cave Man
5,000 BC YangShao Culture Farming villages in the Yellow River valleys, painted pottery.
2,500 BC LongShan Culture East China and Central River valleys. Wheel-made pottery, divination and ancestral worship.

Lacquer, the first plastic (about 4th century BC) - about 5000 years later adopted in Western civilization

3000
-2205 BC
Three Rulers & Five Emperors Mythical rulers, credited with inventing farming, building, medicine, silk culture.
2205
-1766 BC
Xia Dynasty China's legendary first dynasty. Emperor Yu is credited with flood control and irrigation systems.
1766
-~1100 BC
Shang Dynasty First verifiable dynasty. Ritual bronze vessels and "oracle bones" calligraphy. Evidence of a relatively sophisticated medical system using acupuncture needles and medical observations.

Decimal place system (14th century BC) - 2300 years later in Western civilization

~1100
-256 BC
Zhou Dynasty Western Zhou later cited as a model period. Capital city near Xian. Confucius born in 551 BC. Flowering in classical literature, arts, and philosophy; Confucianism, Taoism. Laozi and Zhuangzi lived around this period.

Internal alchemy, meditation, and breathing techniques developed.
The first transportation canals were built.
Monetary coins - several hundred years later in Western civilization

6th century BC

Row cultivation of crops and intensive hoeing - 2200 years later in Western civilization
Iron plow - about 2000 years later in Western civilization
Blood circulation studied - refined 1800 years later in Western civilization
The large tuned bell developed - 2500 years later in Western civilization

5th century BC

Spouting bowls and standing waves experimentation.
Geobotanical prospecting - 2100 years later in Western civilization
The kite - about 2000 years later in Western civilization

4th century BC

   The trace efficient horse harness - 500 years later in Western civilization
   Double-acting piston bellows, air and liquid - 1900-2100 years later in Western civilization
   Petroleum and natural gas as fuel - 2300 years later in Western civilization
   A place for zero in math - 1400 years later in Western civilization
   The first compass- 1500 years later in Western civilization
   The First Law of Motion- 1300 years later in Western civilization (but 2000 to Newton)
   Manned flight with kites - 1650 years later in Western civilization
War technology
   Chemical warfare: poison gas, smoke bombs, tear gas - 2300 years later in Western civilization
   The crossbow- Centuries later in Western civilization

770
-256 BC
Eastern Zhou
722
-481 BC
Spring and Autumn
403
-221 BC
Warring States
221
-206 BC
Qin Dynasty Unification of China under Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Four State walls are joined to form the Great Wall. Palace and mausoleum near Xian, standardization of weights, measures, calligraphy. Emperor Qin Shi Huang creates burial pit city including thousands of full-size clay soldier statues (Terracotta warriors).
206 BC
-220 AD
Han Dynasty

Capitals at Changan and Luoyang rivals that of Rome. Buddhism enters China from India. Confucian civil service institutionalized.

2nd century BC 

   Paper invented  - 1400 years later in Western civilization
Agricultural innovations
   The rotary winnowing fan - 2000 years later in the West
   The multi-tube seed drill - 1800 years later in the West
Engineering - 
   Crank handle - 1100 years later in the West
   Gimbals, or Cardan suspension  - 1100 years later in the West
   Manufacture of steel from cast iron - 2000 years later in the West
   Science of endocrinology - 2100 years later in the West
   Hexagonal structure of snowflakes - 1800 years later in the West
   Parachute - 2000 years later in the West
   Miniature hot-air balloons - 1400 years later in the West
   Tuned drums - 2000 years later in the West

1st century BC 
Zhang Qian journeyed to the Western Regions, pioneering the world-famous Silk Road.

  Deep drilling for natural gas - 1900 years later in the West
  Belt drive - 1400-1800 years later in the West
  Wheelbarrow - 1300 years later in the West
  Sliding calipers - 1700 years later in the West
  Hermetically sealed labs - bout 2000 years later in the West

1st century AD

  Water power - 1200 years later in the West
  Chain pump - 1400 years later in the West
  Suspension bridge - 1800 years later in the West
  The rudder - 1100 years later in the West
  Seismograph (130 AD) - 1400 years later in the West

206 BC
-9 AD
Western Han
25-220 AD Hou Han
Later or Eastern Han
220-280   San Kuo (Three Kingdoms)
Wei, Shu-Han, Wu
Han generals divide empire. This period is romanticized as a time of chivalry and heroism in later literature.

2nd century AD

   Recognition of sunspots as solar phenomena - 1300 years later in Western civilization
   The "magic lantern" - 1800 years later in Western civilization
   "Modern" geology - 1500 years later in Western civilization
   Batten sails - staggered masts - not adopted in Western civilization
   Multiple masts - fore and aft rigs - 1200 years later in Western civilization
   Watertight compartments in ships - 1700 years later in Western civilization

265-317 AD Western Chin (Jin) China briefly united under one Emperor. Capitals at Luoyang, Changan.

3rd century AD

   Cybernetic machine (south facing carriage) - 1600 years later in Western civilization
   Fishing reel - 1400 years later in Western civilization
   Stirrup - 300 years later in Western civilization
   Porcelain - 1700 years later in Western civilization
   Biological pest control - 1600 years later in Western civilization
   Deficiency diseases - 1600 years later in Western civilization
   Algebra used in geometry - 1000 years later in Western civilization
   Refined value of pi - 1200 years later in Western civilization
   Dial and pointer devices  - 1200 years later in Western civilization
   Understanding of musical timbre - 1600 years later in Western civilization

317-420 Eastern Chin (Jin)

4th century AD

   Umbrella - 1200 years later in Western civilization
   Helicopter rotor and propeller - 1000 years later in Western civilization

420-479 (Liu) Sung  
479-581 AD Southern and Northern Dynasties 5th century AD

   Essentials of steam engine - 1200 years later in Western civilization
   "Magic mirrors" - 1500 years later in Western civilization
   Co-fusion steel process - 1300 years later in Western civilization
   Paddle-wheel boat - 1000 years later in Western civilization

Succession of numerous dynasties, including 24 short-lived ones, on the north and south sides of the Yangtze. Developing period for Buddhism. Cave temples at Dunhuang, Yungang, and Longmen.

386-535 Northern Wei  
535-556 Western Wei Bohidarma (TaMo) arrives in China. Zen Buddhism develops. Shaolin Monastery built and Shaolin Kung Fu (wushu) flourishes.

 

534-550 Eastern Wei   Turkic invaders from central Asia invade north; drive Xiongnu Mongols north and east into western Asia; establish Toba-Wei kingdom.
550-577 Northern Ch'i  
557-581 Northern Chou  
 
581-618 AD Sui Dynasty Golden Age of China North conquers south and unites China. The Grand Canal is built. The capital is established at Changan.

6th century AD

   Discovery of the solar wind - 1400 years later in Western civilization
   Segmental arch bridge - 500 years later in Western civilization
   Matches - 1000 years later in Western civilization
   Chess - 500 years later in Western civilization
   Land sailing - 1050 years later in Western civilization
   Diabetes discovered by urine analysis - 1000 years later in the West

618-907 Tang Dynasty The Heavenly Khan Scholarship and the Arts flourish. 

   Rudimentary Mechanical clock - Some 500 years later in West (extended to true kinematic measurement)
   Sailing: leeboards - 700 years later in the West
   Block printing is invented in 8th century - 700 years later in the West
   Playing cards - 500 years later in the West
   Paper money, banknotes 806 AD - 850 years later in the West
   Magnetic declination - 600 years later in the West
War technology
   Gunpowder invented - some 300 years later in the West, about 1303
The silk road trade to Europe thrives.

907-960 Five Dynasties (North) and Ten Kingdoms (South) A period of war and fragmentation, as North and South divides into smaller kingdoms.
960-1279

Song Dynasty

   Chain drive - 800 years later in the West
   Canal pound-lock - 400 years later in the West
   Mercator map projection - 600 years later in the West
   Phosphorescent paint - 700 years later in the West
   Immunology - 800 years later in the West
War technology
   Flares and fireworks - 250 years later in the West
  "Soft" bombs and grenades - 400 years later in the West

   Movable type printing is invented in 1045 - adapted and enhanced 400 years later in the West


High culture develops. Painting, poetry, calligraphy becomes mainstream. Military powers decline. The Jin invade the North, the Song moves capital from Kaifeng to Hangzhou.

960-1127

Northern Song

1127-1279

Southern Song
1279-1368 Yuan Dynasty (Mongol) Kublai Khan conquers China. A new capital is established at Beijing and the Grand Canal is extended to supply the capital. Marco Polo visits and ignites Sino-trade enthusiasm.

War technology
   Bursting shells and mines - 250 years later in the West

1360   Zhang Sanfeng (Chang Sanfeng) travels to Wudang Mountains and is generally credited with inventing the 13 postures of Taijiquan (T'ai Chi Ch'uan).
1368-1644 Ming Dynasty Mongols are defeated. Strong Emperors bring about a prosperous era. Building of the Forbidden City and Imperial Tombs. Arrival of Jesuits. Changan city changes its name to Xian.

Medicine and Health
   Bristle toothbrush 1498- almost 300 years later in the West

1644-1911 Qing Dynasty (Manchu) Han People are subjugated by the Manchus. The neglected Forbidden City is restored and the Summer Palace is rebuilt.
1839-1842 Foreign trade pressures leads to the Opium War.
1850-1864 Taiping Rebellion in the south. Anti-Qing revolt is inspired by mixture of Chinese and Christian ideas.
1858-1860 Anglo-French invasions at Canton, Tianjin. Foreign troops destroy the Summer Palace near Peking.
1894-1895 Sino-Japanese War. Japan dominates Korea and Taiwan
1900 Anti-foreign Boxer Rebellion is suppressed by foreign troops. Qing court flees and Westerners occupy Peking.
1911-1949 Republic of
China
1911 Revolution. China attempts democratic government.
1912 Sun Yat-Sen briefly serves as China's first president. Kuomintang (KMT) or Nationalist party is formed.
1916 Warlord period begins.
1921 Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is founded)
1926-1927 Joint KMT-CCP expedition against warlords has limited success, but causes a hostile division of the country.
1934-1935 Long march of the Communists to the northwest.
1937-1945 Second Sino-Japanese War. KMT is led by Chiang Kai-shek, joining with the CCP, led by Mao Tse Tung. American military aids during World War II. Japan surrenders.
1946-1949 Civil war erupts between the KMT and the CCP. KMT and millions of citizens flee China for Formosa (Taiwan), USA, Canada and other sanctuaries.
1949- People's Republic
of China
Mao Tse Tung leads the PRC as it turns inwards from the world.
1966-1976 Cultural Revolution, political campaign to rekindle revolutionary spirit.
1976-present Evolution towards increase in democracy and capitalism.

As I collect information and resources on Chinese invention and discovery, I would be happy to collaborate with other authors.

e-mail me Send e-mail to randy@computersmiths.com
            or RandySmith@mpc.edu


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