Ancient China
Chinese Inventions - Paper & Movable Type Printing

Chinese Inventions - Paper & Movable Type Printing
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 5 to 7
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   7.6

     challenging words:    facedown, movable, papermaking, re-assembled, time-consuming, repeated, bearing, dynasty, breakthrough, invention, literally, civilization, writing, emperor, carving, material
     content words:    Western Han, Tsai Lun, Cai Lun, Eastern Han, Bi Sheng, Pi Sheng, Northern Song, Central Asia, Johannes Gutenberg, Latin Bible

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Chinese Inventions - Paper & Movable Type Printing
By Vickie

1     Invention is an interesting thing. Sometimes, an invention was developed to fulfill a specific need. Other times, it was simply a chance discovery. Looking back in history, there are two Chinese inventions that fell into the first category. They are paper and movable type printing.
2     Long before paper was invented, the ancient Chinese carved characters to record their thoughts on tortoise shells, animal bones, and stones. Since those "writing boards" were heavy and not easy to carry around, they switched to writing on bamboo, wooden strips, and silk. The new alternatives were clearly better, but they were either still heavy or very costly. Then, during the Western Han dynasty (202 B.C. - 8 A.D.), paper made its debut. Its inventor is unknown.
3     When paper first came out, it was not easy to produce in large quantities. And its quality was poor. Several decades later, a palace official named Tsai Lun (also spelled as Cai Lun) had a breakthrough in the papermaking process. He experimented with different materials and eventually settled on using tree bark, rags, and bits of rope to produce paper. He presented his first batch of paper to the emperor of the Eastern Han dynasty in 105 A.D. Tsai Lun's technique of making paper became an instant hit! It was quickly introduced to Korea and other countries nearby. In 751 A.D., Arabs learned the technique from the Chinese soldiers they captured in a war. They passed it on to Europe and, eventually, other parts of the world.

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