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Top 10 Ancient Chinese Inventions

        Science | Inventions

8
Paper
Without paper, would we have had portable maps? Without maps, would we have explored the world?
Without paper, would we have had portable maps? Without maps, would we have explored the world?
Alehnia/iStockphoto

It's not entirely clear who first came up with the notion to convert thoughts into a written language. There was a horse race between the Sumerians in Mesopotamia, the Harappa in present day Pakistan and the Kemites in Egypt to be the first to formulate a written language. We do know that the first languages appear to have emerged around 5,000 years ago. One can even make the case that it dates back earlier -- that is, if one included artistic expressions like cave paintings as a form of written language. Once language began to develop, though, humans wrote on anything that would lay still long enough. Clay tablets, bamboo, papyrus and stone were only a few of the earliest writing surfaces.

Things changed once the Chinese -- specifically, a man named Cai Lun -- invented the prototype for modern paper. Before Cai's breakthrough, the Chinese wrote on thin strips of bamboo and lengths of silk, but in A.D. 105, he created a mixture of wood fibers and water and pressed it onto a woven cloth. The weave in the cloth allowed the moisture in the pulpy mixture to seep out, resulting in a rough paper [source: Wisconsin Paper Council]. Exactly what Cai wrote on his first piece of paper is unknown.


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