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Chinese Inventions

Written by Jacob C. Herman

The Chinese civilization has been around for more than 4000 years, and throughout the years, the Chinese people have invented many wonderful things that are still being used today. Here's a list of Chinese inventions.


One of the major contributions of the Chinese people to world civilization is Chinese medicine. Some of the medicinal practices and items that were invented by the Chinese are:

Acupuncture: This is the oldest form of healing method used by the Chinese. It has been in existence about 10,000 years ago, and it was widely practiced during the time of the Yellow Emperor.

Chinese Herbal Medicine: Almost all cultures around the world use herbs to cure ailments, and the Chinese have their own forms of herbal medicine. During the Han Dynasty, Hua Tuo anesthetized patients with the use of wine and powdered hemp. A comprehensive herbal book by Li Shizhen was published during the Ming Dynasty.

Cupping: A traditional type of massage that uses glasses and source of heat to create a vacuum. The vacuum is created by pressing a glass on a specific part of the body.

Paper Inventions

Paper is the most widely used Chinese invention. Had the Chinese not invented it, the world will be literally working in a "paperless" environment. Can you imagine writing an essay on a stone tablet or doing a term paper without one? You may have to do oral presentations and receive your grades through local voice mail.

The first paper was made by the Egyptians with the use of extracts from a plant called papyrus. In 105 AD, Ts'ai Lun invented paper with the use of bark and hemp. During the Han Dynasty, government-produced news sheets called "tipao" were circulated. The emperors began using toilet paper as early as the 6th century. The Chinese also used paper to hold tea, print money, and compile information. This concept of storing data is used in many of today's technologies including the virtual pbx.

The first material that was used for paper-making was bamboo hemp. The bamboo would be husked and then soaked in lime to soften the fiber. After that, it would be boiled and washed. The hemp would then be grinded and mixed with birch leaves. After straining, the pulp would be ready to be placed in a mold to produce paper.

  • Computer Smiths: Detailed information about the Chinese invention of paper money
  • BBC: Article about the invention of toilet paper in China
  • China Voc: Comprehensive information about calligraphy

Other inventions

Compass: The first compasses were made during the Qin Dynasty, and they were initially used by Chinese fortune tellers.

Gunpowder: This is one of the best inventions of the Chinese. It was used to make colorful fireworks.

Kites: Kites were used as an instrument of war during the Han Dynasty. Fireworks were lifted by kites to fend off enemies.

Chopsticks: An invention that shows that the Chinese were an intelligent group of people. With just two pieces of thin wood in one hand, they can pick up just about any food on the table.

Noodles: A delicious invention that everyone loves.

Handheld Crossbows: The Chinese army has been using crossbows since the Han Dynasty.

Mahjong: A game that was invented by a lonely princess, and it was initially played in the imperial courts. A mahjong set consists of 34 tiles, which include 5 suits of sticks, balls, flowers, Chinese numbers, and characters.

Rotary Fan: This was invented during the Han Dynasty as a form of air-conditioning.

Tofu: A staple in oriental dishes that is made of soybeans.

Wheelbarrow: A tool that is used to carry heavy loads.

The Chinese have gone a long way to create items for convenience, entertainment, warfare, and sustenance. These are little things that made a great impact in the world.

More Sources:

  • Mr. Donn: A list of Chinese inventions, with simple explanations for kids
  • Suite 101: Lesson tips about Chinese inventions for teachers.

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