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Friday, August 8, 2008

China's Role in Spreading Ideas

The 2008 Olympics opening ceremony was a fascinating showcase of China’s culture. The thematic unity of the program featured on China’s biggest contributions to human kind. But for this post, since we are a bookstore, we remember China’s monumental contributions to the development of books.

In 105 AD, Tsai Lun invented paper as we know it. However, there are archaeological excavations in China that prove paper was already used in the 2nd century BC. These papers were mostly used to wrap or pad items. It was only in the 3rd century that paper was accepted as a main and convenient medium to write on.

In 305 AD the first wooden printing press was invented. The symbols were carved on wooden blocks. The earliest woodblock prints that survived are of silk printed with flowers in three colours from the Han dynasty (before 220 CE).

In 1049, printing technology was further advanced when alchemist Pi Sheng invented the movable type using clay blocks. Later on, in 1313, a magistrate named Wang Chen commissioned the carving of 60,000 movable type blocks to print a treatise on Chinese technology.

Both kinds of printing technology were not followed up in China. It could be because there are thousands of Chinese characters needed to print a material. Western alphabet, on the other hand, uses about 26.

It was Johannes Gutenberg who would later revolutionize printing in the Western World. The deluge of printed materials that followed thereafter opened pathways of ideas from diverse peoples of different places.

Also, we can't deny that the ChildBook products we enjoy today can be attributed to the genius of Chinese visionaries who lived long ago.

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