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over rated Chinese achievements

Printed From: History Community ~ All Empires
Category: Regional History or Period History
Forum Name: East Asia
Forum Discription: The Far East: China, Korea, Japan and other nearby civilizations
Printed Date: 18-Mar-2018 at 18:59
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 9.56a -

Topic: over rated Chinese achievements
Posted By: amature historian
Subject: over rated Chinese achievements
Date Posted: 23-Jun-2017 at 07:26
This is something that has been been bugging me for some time.   Keep coming across claims of of how great the Chinese were, and tne boasting of some Chinese achievement.  But in many cases, I find the Chinese claims way overstated, and their achievements not so great.

For example:

Song dynasty Clock - It is claimed that the Chinese invented the escapement to regulate their clock.  But that is not true.  The Chinese mechanism which served the same purpose as an escapement, worked on principle completely different than the escapement of modern clocks, an their mechanism could not be downsized to watched or other small clocks, and would not allow the development of all mechanical clocks.  The escapement was actually invented in Europe, and its principle is used in all modern clocks, even atomic ones, and allowed the Eiropeans to build the first all mechanical clocks - previous clocks may have had mechanical mechanisms, but still required the flow of liquid to regulate the clock.    Since the Chinese couldn't even rebuild the clock themselves a short time after its construction, it was not a source of European clock makers several centuries later when they invented the mechanical ewcapement.

Chinese wheelbarrow - A useful cart, but didn't really do much more than what a normal 2 wheel cart could do.  Hardly revolutionary.   In fact, the  "Chinese wheelbarrow" isn't even really a wheelbarrow, it didn't serve the same function as a "wheelbarrow", rathet it was just a one wheel cart.  The medieval European wheelbarrow, on the othet hand, allowed one man to do the work of 2 at a construction site, a great improvement in labor efficiency.   The European wheelbarrow, unlike the Chinese one, was a significant invention, because it allowed one man to carry loads that 2 would have been required without it.  Which is why most modern wheelbarrows follow the European design rather than the Chinese one.

Chinese magnetic compass - yes, the Chinese were the first to invent it, but it never revolutionized their travel, and the European magnetic compass by all the evidence seems to have been an independent invention, and the European mariners compass, with a windrose mounted on a gimbal, was better.

Printing - the Chinese were first, but it did not revolutionize their society the way the printing press did Europe.  In more than 500 years, Chinese printing had not completely replaced manual book production, something Gutenberg priniting press achieved in 50 years.  50 years after Gutenburg, printing had essentially replaced handwritten books in Europe.  Again, the evidence all supports printing to be another invention that the Europeans independently invented.

Zheng He's voyages - Despite what is claimed, his voyages were not ones of discovery, he found nor did he intend to find any new lands.   They were to show off the welath and power of China, and while remarkable feat of logisitics, they did not represent any major advancement in knowledge or significantly effect human history, being rather forgotten a relatively short while after he sailed.  The comparison between the size of his ship and Columbus is nonsense and invalid - their ships served different function.  It is like boasting Admiral Nelson's Victory is much larget than Cook's Endeavour.  Yes, but so what?  Cook would have been rather foolish and unnecessary wasteful to use a ship as large as the Victory, when the much smaller Endeavour would work better.  Had Zheng He's intent been on disvovery, he would have been a fool to use ships as large as the treasure ships, but he was intent on impressing people with the power of China, and their large size was perfect for that.

And for all their claims of scientific greatness, in a number of ways the Chinese lagged the west.  Their astronomy was inferior at making predictions, the Jesuits like Ricci to the Ming demonstrated the superiority of western astronomy.  And even unto Ming times, the Chinese clung to a belief in a flat earth, long after the Europeans, Arabs, Indians all realized it was round like a ball.

So while the Chinese made a number of contributions to humanity, they were not alone, and they weren't light years ahead of everyone else.  Yes, the Chinese were making cast iron 1500 years before everyone else, but the Romans were making concrete almost 2000 years before the Chinese.  For every Chinese invention, you can find examples where others were as early or invented something the Chinese did not.

Posted By: J.A.W.
Date Posted: 12-Jul-2017 at 00:39
Did the Chinese invent the armature?
From the example of the bobbin - wrapped by spun yarn?

Be Modest In Thyself..

Posted By: amature historian
Date Posted: 23-Jul-2017 at 08:29

I have not seen any evidence to support the idea the Chinese developed the armature.   The idea of winding wire, thread around something is pretty basic, and was independently developed in different areas. Wrapping a thread around something can be found in cultures from ancient Greece to China.

If you mean armature as in the armature of an electric motor, certainly not.  The Chinese had nothing to do with the development of electricity and electric motors.  Even the simple ecperiments of Nen Franklin were not repeated by the Chinese.

Posted By: R3V3RI3
Date Posted: 22-Jan-2018 at 21:20
They were advanced for their time and we're talking about ancient China.

The West got ahead of China around the Ming Dynasty Era.

But that would be for another topic on politics/economics.

At the end of the day, all empires are the same. (From China to Rome)

Posted By: Sander
Date Posted: 08-Mar-2018 at 21:10
How strong is the evidence that gunpowder was developed first in China/Eastern Asia as is often claimed ?

The socalled - Wujing Zongyao is often said to contain the oldest evidence of gunpowder. Its claimed that the original version was composed in 1044 . Maybe, but the only and oldest extant version/manuscript is only from the 16th century if the information on Wiki ( citing Needham and Yates ) is correct. As later copies/editions of works can ( and often did) contain changes/additions/updates this late date weakens the evidence.

A remaining copy of the Wujing Zongyao was remade into a newly published edition in 1231 AD in the - Southern Song dynasty . - [11]  During the - Ming Dynasty  (1368–1644 AD), another book was published in 1439 AD featuring fragments of the Wujing Zongyao of 1231 while omitting some material and combining it with two other books, including a preface by Li Jin. - [12]  The entire Wujing Zongyao was reprinted in 1510 AD and this version is currently the oldest extant copy available. - [13] -

Some western manuscripts with the gunpowder formula may be much older than the 16th century Wujing Zongyao version but I have to check that. 


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