Signup Free

Chinese Inventions

For thousands of years, the Chinese were isolated in Asia and came up with their own way of doing things. Now that their work has spread, modern man will use at least one Chinese invention in their lifetime. You'll be surprised to realize that you probably use one every single day!


The planet has a magnetic field that makes magnetic north very easy to find. The Chinese harnessed this principle and invented the first compass in the 11th century. It found magnetic north and showed what direction the traveler was headed.


The superstitious Chinese wanted a way to frighten evil spirits and bring good luck. They took their invention of gunpowder and made small rockets. Since then, fireworks became much more elaborate and "pyrotechnitians" or fire-works makers, got a place in Chinese society.

Gun powder

In 156 BC, Emperor Wu Di of the Han Dynasty paid researches to look for the fountain of eternal life. Gunpowder, a substance that would end many lives, was invented instead. At first, this compound was used for bombs. Then the Chinese figured out that it was better contained inside a tube and shot out. The first bullet was born.


Paper was invented by Cai Lun in 105 AD. He created durable paper by pressing hemp, tree bark, rags and bamboo. By the time the first European paper mill was founded in 1009 AD, the Chinese had been using paper for 900 years. Bamboo paper is still a favorite for calligraphy artists today.

Row farming

For thousands of years farmers would scatter seeds on the ground randomly. The Chinese came up with the idea of planting crops in rows. An invention that goes hand in hand with row farming is another Chinese marvel, the seed drill. Both inventions make the farmer's job easier and have changed the way the world farms!


When the Chinese invented the first seismoscope, a tool to measure earthquakes, in 132 AD, it was a bowl with eight dragon heads pointing in the directions of the compass. If there was an earthquake anywhere in China, even miles away, the seismoscope was so sensitive that the dragon pointing in that direction would drop the ball from its mouth.


The Chinese were the first people to combine carbon and iron to make steel. They've been making it since the first century BC in blast furnaces powered by the Asian monsoon winds. Since steel is so durable and strong, they used their invention to craft swords and weapons.