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Chinese Inventions Packet - Wyoming City Schools

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CompassThe Chinese believed that the Yellow Emperor, God of the Universe ruled the center of the world andthe four other gods ruled over the north, south, east, and west. The four cardinal directions played animportant role in ancient China. In the time of the Shang Dynasty almost all doors and graves werebuilt to face to the south. Direction was so important that the Chinese had to find a reliable way todetermine direction. The invented the world's first compass.A compass is an instrument used to find the four cardinal directions - north, south, east, andwest. Today, our compass has a needle that points to the north. To the Chinese, south was the mostimportant direction and sothey had compasses thatpointed to the south. Thecompass didn't have aneedle. Instead it had amagnetic stone in theshape of a fish or aspoon. The compasscould be used to helpto navigate a ship oreven simply to findthe most luckyplace onwhich tobuild a building.How Did It Work?The spoon or fish shaped “needle” ona Chinese compass was made out oflodestone. The lodestone was madeso it was delicately balanced with verylittle friction. This would allow it to turnfairly easily. Lodestone is naturallymagnetic so it will be drawn to thenatural magnetic field around the earth.No matter which way you turn thecompass the needle will always turntowards the north/south line.


SeismographZhang Heng designed the world's first seismograph.A seismograph is used to detect earthquakes. Zhang Heng'sseismography couldn't tell you the size of the earthquake but itwas able to detect even small earthquakes which could nototherwise be felt.The seismograph was made out of bronze and shaped likea large pot or vase. Around the outside of thecontainer were eight dragon heads that weremade of bronze. In each dragon's mouthwas a small bronze ball. When anearthquake occurred the smallball would fall from the dragon'smouth and land in a smallcontainer below. Thiswould alert scientists thatan earthquake had taken.place. Often the scientistscould even tell where the quake hadhappened! The dragon which haddropped the ball was often facing in thedirection in which the earthquake hadoccurred!How Did It Work?Unfortunately, Zhang Heng'soriginal seismograph hasnever been found sohistorians have to rely ondescriptions of it in order tofigure out how it worked.Scientists believe thatthere was probably a thinmetal pole with a heavyweight at the top which wasbalanced in the middle ofthe vessel. At the top of thecontainer was a sheet ofbronze with eight slots cutin it leading to each of theeight dragon heads on theoutside. When an earthquakeoccurred, the metalpole would tip over andslide down one of the slotscausing the dragon to dropits ball. Because it hadslid down one of the slots,it would get stuck and noteffect any of the otherdragons. Only one dragondropped its ball!


PaperWe use paper every day of ourlives and in many differentways. Paper is not just forbooks or for writing. We usepaper as money, we use paperto wrap presents, we use it fordecoration, we even usepaper in the bathroom. Sodid the Chinese. The oldestpaper ever discovered is over2000 years old and was foundinside a tomb built during theHan Dynasty.Paper is made bytaking wet plant fibers fromtree bark or bamboo plantsand pounding them with awooden tool. You then pourthis mixture onto a flat pieceof woven cloth and allow allof the water the drain through.Think about the way that hairand soap collect on a showerdrain. When the mixture dries,you can separate it from thecloth and you have a lightweightwriting surface!I Thought the Egyptianshad Invented Paper!The Egyptians wrote onpapyrus. Papyrus wasinvented by the Egyptiansand was made from the stalkof the Papyrus plant.At first, the Chinese didn't use the paper for writing. At the time,writing was done on bamboo scrolls, wood, stone, or even silk.Instead the paper was used like cloth. People made paper jacketsand hats. Some people even made paper armor by folding togetherthick pieces of paper. It was lightweight and it doesn't rust but justmake sure it doesn't rain! Eventually the Chinese started usingpaper as a writing surface and made scrolls, books and ultimatelyinvented printing.


PrintingIn early Chinese history, all writing hadto be copied by hand but that was bothtime-consuming and expensive. TheChinese needed a way to quickly andeasily spread information. At the time,the Chinese were already pressingletters and images into coins and officialseals and were carving letters into stone.They found that by putting ink onto acarving on a stone and then pressingpaper against it, the ink would betransferred onto the paper in the shapeof the carving. It worked just like like astamp. A printer could use this stampto copy the image hundreds of times.It didn't take long before theChinese were using this technology toreproduce whole pages of information.A thin piece of paper with writing wouldbe glued face down onto a block ofwood. The characters could be seenthrough the paper like a faint tracingexcept the image was backwards. Theprinter would cut away the wood aroundthe characters. What would be left is a“stamp” of that page which could beused to reprint the information as manytimes as necessary. While one bookmight need hundreds of these woodenstamps but the blocks could be storedand used again.ChineseInvention ofPrintingChineseInvention ofPaper


GunpowderMany ancient scientists in China and other parts of the world were experimenting withchemicals and trying to find a mixture that could turn lead into gold or could give a personeternal life. Two of the chemicals that were frequently used were sulfur and saltpeter. Thiscombination lead to quite a few explosions! Eventually these scientists discovered thatwhen these two ingredients were combined with charcoal, they would create an explosivemixture called huoyan or gunpowder.Imagine an enemy army's surprise when theChinese first demonstrated this new invention!New weapons were quickly developedincluding rudimentary rockets, whichwere launched from a bamboo tube.The Chinese created one suchweapon that they called “fire arrows”.These were made by filling bambootubes with gunpowder and iron bits.These weapons would be attachedto an arrow, lit, and then shot froma bow. The Chinese also usedgunpowder to makefireworks andsignal flares.


AcupunctureIf you are injured, your parents will call a doctor or take youto the emergency room. There were no 991 calls or modernemergency rooms in ancient China but they did have doctorsto treat you. Chinese doctors studied the human body andthe diseases that can affect people. The Canon of Medicinewritten in 300 B.C.E. lists over three hundred differentdiseases including diabetes, asthma, tumors and mumps.Doctors in ancient China used medicine, surgery, andacupuncture to treat these diseases.An important tool that Chinese doctors had to treatpatients was acupuncture. Acupuncture is done by insertingneedles into specific spots on the body. These points arelocated along invisible lines called meridians. Chinesedoctors believed that inserting these needles could correctthe flow of qi or the bodies natural energy which would healthe patient.Acupuncture was used to treat all sorts of ailmentsfrom heart disease to headaches. It was even use to putpeople to sleep before surgery. The points when the needlesare inserted aren't necessarily near the parts of the bodythat need treatment. For example, a point on the foot mightbe used to help heal the liver.

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