Ancient China's Inventions: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

Ancient China created many inventions that are still used today, ranging from paper to clocks to silk. This lesson will explore some of the more popular items that we rely on thanks to Chinese inventors over the centuries.

Bursting In Air

We think of fireworks as a purely American device, used to celebrate our independence each 4th of July. In reality, however, fireworks were invented in China several hundred years before the United States ever fought for independence. Ancient China has provided a number of different inventions that changed the world, many of which remain in use today. Fireworks represent just one of the great inventions of Chinese history.

The first fireworks came with the Chinese invention of gunpowder, the blasting powder that propels bullets and rockets, over one thousand years ago. Ancient Chinese scientists mixed together saltpeter and sulfur, the two main ingredients of gunpowder, and then stuffed the mixture in bamboo shoots. When they threw these miniature bombs onto a fire, they exploded with a bang and lots of colors. Originally, Chinese believed that fireworks kept away evil spirits. Gunpowder spread throughout Asia and then to Europe, where it became common for weapons.

The Chinese invented fireworks, and rockets too
Ancient Chinese rocket

Papers, Please

You can thank the Chinese for inventing paper so that you can do homework each night! Nearly two thousand years ago, the Chinese discovered that that they could create paper by pounding tree bark to a pulp, a soft mass of fiber. Paper, like gunpowder, became extremely popular. Previously, people had to write on bamboo or silk or animal skins. Chinese inventors changed the formula over time, adding rice and even seaweed to the paper pulp mix.

Ancient Chinese paper making
Paper making

Once you have paper, you need something to write on it. The Chinese had that covered as well. Around the year 600 AD they created the world's first printing press, allowing them to print pages without needing to write anything down. The first newspaper in world history was invented in China in 740 AD. Europeans did not discover how to create a printing press for another seven hundred years. The Chinese also invented the first paper money.

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