Chinese Inventions

By Megan Moran


In the fourth century the Chinese invented the compass. The plate was bronze but the spoon was made from lodestone. The compass was south pointing and helped travelers on land and sea. The compass was used in the Song Dynasty by the military for navigation. The Chinese also changed the compass design by it becoming a square slab, marking the cardinal points and the constellations.

Coal and Iron Refining

China was the most advance of all early civilizations of the time, the were refining iron and coal as early as the fourth centenary. Also, the Chinese had perfected the production of steel as early as 400 A.C.E. with the help of coal as the high temperature fuel. The Chinese were soon able to cast iron ornaments and other functional items such as pots and pans. In later years with the help of annealing, iron was used for plows, swords, and eventually buildings.


Around 200 A.C.E. the Chinese discovered the mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter (potassium nitrate), the concoction was first used by the military in the 900's. The surprise to their enemy of their newest invention must have been priceless. With the help of gunpowder rockets were attached to bamboo arrows and shot off. Although, it was soon discovered that the gunpowder tubes would launch themselves because of the production of expanding gas. When China was at war with the Mongols was the first reporting of true rockets, in the year 1232. This invention has forever changed warfare and how destructive it can be.


Chinese kites had a unique artistic value in ancient times. Originally the flying mechanism was considered an advance technology, but later was featured in multiple art collections. Kites made their first appearance in wars around 770 B.C.E. to 476 B.C.E. These wooden kites held small children that would pass messages or try and scare the enemy. The Chinese have even adapted Kiting as a sport, but the most beautiful kites are in museums. Most kites of both ancient and modern have traditional symbols or images on them, and are used just for recreational uses.

Playing Cards

With the invention of paper, and the printing press shortly after, the Chinese used these cards to play many ancient games. The Chinese have over twenty playing card factories and are leading modern day card production. Cards were used for gambling and playing multiple games. The Chinese invented games such as Mah Jong, domino's, and have imperial culture playing cards that described how certain cultures came to be.

Folding Umbrella

The Chinese first invented the folding umbrella in 3500 B.C.E. mainly to block the sun's rays. Later, the umbrella was used to keep from getting soaking wet in the rain. They used bamboo as the rod and originally silk as the cover. As silk became in more demand, it became a sign of power the silk umbrella's became very popular. As umbrella' s became scares instead of using silk, oil paper was used instead. It may have been as early as the third century A.C.E. of the introduction of collapsible mechanisms.