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Chinese inventions

An umbrella attached to a horse-drawn carriageAn umbrella attached to a horse-drawn carriage If you go out and and buy a book with paper money, if you put up an umbrella, strike a match, fly a kite or push a wheelbarrow, you have the Chinese to thank. These things are so familiar to us today we scarcely wonder where they came from. But it was the Chinese who first invented them. The iron plough, steel manufacturing, printing, the rocket and many other important inventions were all thought up by the Chinese many centuries before they appeared in the West. The mechanical clockmagnetic compass, suspension bridge, playing cards, parachute, paddlewheel boats, even the decimal system—all first appeared in China.

Lever and cup inside a mechanical clockLever and cup inside a mechanical clock

Mechanical clock

The world’s first mechanical clock was built by a Buddhist monk named Yi Xing in AD 725. A vertical waterwheel that had cups instead of paddles fixed to its blades turned when one of them filled up with water. The weight became too heavy for a pin holding it steady, the wheel moved forwards one notch, then was held by a pin until the next cup was filled, and so on. Rods and gears attached to the wheel moved the "hands" which told the time.

The mechanism inside Su Song’s great clockThe mechanism inside Su Song’s great clockYi Xing’s clock went out of use soon after it was built. Su Song’s clock of 1092, which had a similar mechanism, ran for nearly 50 years. Called a "Cosmic Engine", detailed descriptions were written about it. About 12 metres (40 feet) high, the wheel drove two globes for observing the positions of the stars, as well as a five-storey pagoda in which different figures appeared at the window to point out the hours of the day.

The world’s earliest evidence for the consumption of alcohol is from China. A drink made from fruit, rice and honey appeared around 7000 BC

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