The Chinese discovered gunpoweder by accident during the Song period. Inventors trying to find a long-life potion for the emperor combined a series of minerals, only to have the mixture explode in their faces. At first the Chinese used gunpowder only for fireworks. But during the Song period, the first military rockets were developed. By the eleventh century, the Chinese had invented a kind of hand grenade and a number of missiles. The two-stage rocket shown, invented in the thirteenth century, was used in naval warfare.
Like many other civilizations, the Chinese were fascinated by numbers and by what appeared to be mystical relationships between them. The abacus, invented by the Southern Song, can be used to add, subtract, multiply, divide, and solve other mathematics problems. It consists of several columns of beads, seperated by a crossbar. From right to left, the columns, stand for the ones place, the tens place, the hundreds place, and so on. The beads above the crossbar each represent five and those below the bar, one. Math problems are worked by moving beads toward and away from the crossbar.
Other aids used were counting rods made out of bamboo sticks about 15 centimeters long and could be used with great speed and efficency. How would you like to use an abacus instead of your hundred dollar graphing calculator? Im sure many would choose the latter.
The Chinese, who taught the world how to make paper, invented printing with movable type in 1045--four hundred years before Gutenberg in the West. Books could be made faster and more cheaply than ever before, which led to a growth in private schools.
he Chinese may be said to have had a cosmic religion; they thought of the universe as a whole, uniting man and nature with the heavens, a view which in the Song period led to the great conception of the cosmos as an organism. Astronomy was therefore very significant and important to them.
It also had another aspect for, as an agricultural people, a seasonal calendar was of prime importance to them and in fact one was compiled by the emperor and his government, which all who owed allegiance to the emperor had to accept. Astronomy was so important to Chinese society that astronomers were part of the official government service and were even housed within the walls of the imperial palace.
In the field of medicine the Chinese were ahead of their time. Yung Lo, a young scholar, dreamed of collecting all of China's wisdom, including acupuncture in one great encyclopedia. He put two thousand scholars to work on the project, which filled 11,095 volumes when it was finally finished. A medical encyclopedia produced at the same time described a way of giving shots to prevent a disease called smallpox. The Chinese knew about vaccination some seven hundred years before it was practiced in the West.
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