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Contributions of Chinese Culture | List of Chinese Inventions

aportaciones de la cultura china

The contributions of Chinese culture to humanity have been many. In fact, it is very difficult to put all the inventions that China has given to the world in a single article. In this list you will find the most important contributions of ancient Chinese culture, as well as some little-known Chinese inventions that are sure to surprise you.

List of Contributions of Chinese Culture to the World

The list of Chinese inventions is almost infinite. There is no doubt that China has been one of the civilizations that has contributed the most to humanity, and in this article I want to prove it. Let us now turn to the most famous inventions of Chinese culture.

chinese inventions
The best-known Chinese inventions

Paper 📝

Paper is undoubtedly one of the most important contributions of Chinese culture. It is thought to have been invented by the imperial eunuch Cai Lun during the first century after Christ, during the Han dynasty.

Papermaking was kept secret by the Chinese for 500 years. Until in the 7th century the technique was secretly exported to Japan. Then the secret was transmitted to the Arabs, and the technique reached Europe through the Iberian Peninsula in the eleventh century.

Paper Money 💴

The invention of paper money dates back to the 7th century, although Chinese dynasties did not begin to use it until the 9th century as a means of exchange.

Marco Polo was one of the first Europeans to see and use paper currency when he traveled to China. But when he returned to Europe, nobody believed that in the Middle Kingdom a simple paper was used as a monetary exchange. Europe would not start using paper money until the 18th century.

Print 📖

Contrary to popular belief, Gutenberg did NOT invent the printing press. He simply reinvented it in Europe in the 15th century. But printing was a Chinese invention created during the Song dynasty in the 11th century.

The Chinese movable type printer worked thanks to small pieces of porcelain that had the Chinese characters of his writing inscribed on them. The problem was that there were more than 10,000 Chinese characters in the Song Dynasty. This greatly complicated the creation of a different text in a printing press of the time.

Contributions of Chinese Culture
Chinese printing was created 400 years before Gutenberg’s

Silk 👘

Silk is the most famous contribution of Chinese culture to the world. Although this was fortunately not an invention, but rather a discovery.

According to an ancient Chinese legend, silk was discovered by Empress Leizu over a cup of tea in the courtyard of the palace. At that moment, a cocoon of silkworm fell into her hot cup of tea, undoing it and turning it into fine silk.

Scientifically speaking, silk was discovered in China around 1300 B.C. Its elaboration was the best kept secret of the ancient Chinese dynasties. But little by little its secret of manufacture managed to leave the country, arriving in the year 300 a.C. to India.

The creation of silk was one of the greatest secrets kept by the Chinese

Powder 💣

Gunpowder was invented in China by Taoist shamans as they sought an elixir of immortality through alchemy in the ninth century. From that moment on, China began to use weapons with gunpowder, such as muskets, rockets, and cannons.

This military invention would not spread throughout the world until well into the 13th century, thanks in part to the Mongol Empire and the Yuan dynasty. Gunpowder was later used for recreational purposes.

Ships Compass

The compass was another great Chinese invention, created in the ninth century with the aim of improving naval navigation. At first, it was just a magnet placed in a needle floating in a vessel full of water. This needle always indicated the north, making it possible for ships to orient themselves on the high seas.

Porcelain and Ceramics 🏺

Porcelain was discovered in China during the Han dynasty in the 3rd century AD. Because of its incredible beauty, its manufacturing process was a well-kept secret by the Chinese.

In fact, the manufacturing process was not discovered until the 19th century, which allowed the Chinese to sell it at a very high price to foreign nations for most of its history.

In addition, very few know that ceramics were also invented by the Chinese. The world’s oldest pottery dates back to 17,000 B.C. in Prehistoric China.

White Chinese porcelain is of unparalleled beauty


Another of the great contributions of Chinese culture to the world. It was invented in the 5th century B.C., thus providing one of the most widely used instruments for mathematical sciences in the world.

Little Known Chinese Inventions

Most people were already aware of the inventions and contributions of Chinese culture that we have talked about. Now we are going to move on to the lesser-known inventions of Chinese culture. I’m sure more than one will end up surprising you.

Helm ⛵

Essential for turning boats and steering them in a single direction. The oldest one dates from the 1st century A.D. in southern China, in the area of Canton, during the Han dynasty.

Pasta 🍜

Noodles and the pasta we eat today were first invented in China more than 4000 years ago. They were made from millet grown on the banks of the Huang He River in northern China.

Pasta has been eaten in China for 4000 years

Ice cream 🍨

I’m sure you didn’t know that. During the Shang Dynasty, in the 7th century B.C. a method was created to mix ice with milk. This secret recipe was consumed and used only by the imperial family. It would not reach Europe until the arrival of Marco Polo, who returned with the full recipe from China.

Kites 🎏

Kites were also invented by the Chinese. Although originally Chinese kites were contributions of Chinese culture to the field of war, as they were used as military signage in 1200 B.C. Centuries later began to be used as toys and entertainment for the population.

Umbrellas 🌂

The umbrella was invented in China in the 11th century BC. Legend has it that it was created by Lu Mei, an imperial courtesan during a rainy day. During a whole night she created a cane from which 32 bamboo rods covered with cloth hung. And so the umbrella was born.

The umbrella has been used in China for thousands of years.

Crossbow 🏹

Another of the great contributions of ancient Chinese culture to the military field. The crossbow was created and perfected by the Chinese during the 6th century B.C. Later the repetition crossbow, or chu-ko-nu, was created, which allowed firing up to ten virotes without recharging.

Stirrup 🐴

Finally, we have the invention of the stirrup, a contraption that allowed riders to hold the gallop on top of a horse. These first appeared in the 1st century BC in northern China. It quickly spread through the nomadic Turkish-Mongolian tribes of Central Asia to Europe in the 5th century AD.

The stirrups were one of the most important Chinese inventions of antiquity.


Although the wheelbarrow is widely used in construction, it was invented by the Chinese in the 2nd century A.D. It is thought that its inventor was General Chuco Liang. At first it was used for military purposes, to quickly move objects and supplies to the armies without the need to use horses. Later its use was transferred to agriculture and civil construction.