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Stuff You Didn’t Know Came from China: Update

The Chinese have invented gunpowder to ketchup, see what other things come from China.


Stuff You Didn’t Know Came from China: Update

The Chinese have invented gunpowder to ketchup, see what other things come from China.


China has invented a lot of stuff, to say the least. There are a few obvious things that everyone knows that China invented like silk, porcelain (a.k.a china), tea, and chopsticks. However, there is a good chance you have not heard of some of these things, and likely attribute them to other nations.

It is rather well known that paper was invented by China, but did the Chinese also invented paper money in the ninth century AD. They also used their paper to make kites, in the sixth century AD.  As pleasant as the paper and kites are, other Chinese inventions are a bit less “nice”.

Gunpowder has long been attributed to China along with the fireworks they have created. Along with fireworks gunpowder also brought about bombs, cannons, grenades, rockets, and even (while no gunpowder involved) flamethrowers. However, not all Chinese-invented weapons involved gunpowder. The crossbow was made in China in the fifth century BC, around 800 years before they were used in Greece. Not ones to be satisfied with “good”, the Chinese soon developed the repeating crossbow, sometime around the fourth century BC.

Of course China made so many progressions in the world of weapons because they were also the first place to create steel, over four thousand years ago!

Some things are relatively unknown as Chinese inventions. Piñatas are generally regarded as a Latin American invention, but they were actually invented in China in the 16th century, and introduced to the west by Marco Polo through his travels.

Playing cards are enjoyed all over the world and sure enough they came from China. Cited as “the leaf game” in the ninth century, they were found in the possessions of a Tang dynasty royalty member.  Cards were not he only games that came from China. Dominoes were recorded in the imperial court in 1112 AD.

According to the book Chemical Composition Of Everyday Products, nail polish dates from 3000 BC and originates from China. Nail polish used during the Ming Dynasty was made from a mixture of egg whites, beeswax, dyes, gum Arabic, and gelatin.

Chinese food is known all over the world, but certain foods are Chinese and most people have no clue. Noodles from spaghetti to linguini, and all forms of noodle come from China.  Noodles in China have been found with cave dweller remains that are over 4000 years old.  A fairly well-known and possibly obvious Chinese contribution to world cuisine is that of tofu. It along with soy milk was invented in China second century BC.  While ketchup is not a common condiment in China, nor is it considered Chinese ketchup was invented in China in the 17th century, before it spread to Malaysia and was then brought to the UK.

While it may not be an invention per say the kiwi fruit originates from southern China. Also known as Chinese gooseberries’ these furry fruits are the national fruit of China, and were not brought to New Zealand until 1906.  The Lemons, oranges, peaches, apricots, rhubarb, lychees and of course Chinese dates also all have Chinese origins. Another not-quite invention was sushi. While it came from south eastern Asia first, the sushi as most know it, and attribute to Japan, came from China in the early eighth century.

Another Chinese creation that is very often attributed to the Japanese is that of Zen Buddhism, but that as well had its birth in the middle kingdom.

The Chinese started another, at the time, revolutionary practice of planting in rows in the 6th century BC; a technique that allows for crops to grow faster and stronger and allows for more efficient farming. it took another 2200 years for the Western world to figure this out

The ancient Chinese were pioneers in personal hygiene as well, inventing both the tooth brush and toilet paper. The tooth brush came about in 1498 in China. The bristles were made from the stiff, coarse hairs taken from the back of a hog’s neck and attached to handles made of bone or bamboo. Toilet paper was first mentioned in 589 AD but continued to gain popularity. By the fourteenth century, millions of packages of toilet paper were produced.

The Chinese made huge strides in the world of navigation as well. The compass was originally invented in China around the year 1100 AD, and Arab traders likely learned of it and brought it to the West.  The rudder of a ship, specifically the stern mounted vertical axial rudder, was invented in China during the Han dynasty (202 BC- 220 AD).

The seismograph was developed by the scientist, mathematician, and inventor Chang Heng.  His invention was noted in court records of the later Han Dynasty in 132 AD. Modern seismographs only began development in 1848. The same man also envisioned the earth as a sphere with nine continents and introduced the crisscrossing grid of latitude and longitude.

China has invented things that they are well known for and some less so, but it is clear, how much of the impact they have made in the world and how advanced they were. One can only wonder what is being invented today, and what will be innovated by a China in the future.

UPDATE: Links to our sources were not originally provided in the blog, so in response to the comments below we have now listed links to the sources used. This is not an academic study. Remember to be light-hearted and if you think it’s wrong, start a conversation. Colombia University, listverse.com, infoniac.com, chinawhisper.com