China Firsts


Short Lists of Some of China’s Contributions to World Civilization

These selected lists indicate the dates and periods when certain ideas and inventions first occurred in mature form in China.

The purpose of these lists is to:

(1) provide the student with a quick set of reference points in Chinese history and

(2) help the student appreciate how much of Western and American culture shares with the peoples of China.*

*Note on dates: The dates given indicate approximately when the invention or idea occurred in China. These dates do not imply that the phenomenon did not occur elsewhere in the world. However, in many cases these “firsts” in Asia are in fact “firsts” in the world. Usually the date given indicates when a phenomenon becomes a mature social practice rather than the earliest instance of it. For example, certain Greeks had figured out that the world was round in ancient times, but this understanding was not generally accepted until early modern times.

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