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China, a History


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Bee Cha
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« Reply #75 on: October 07, 2007, 06:36:31 am »

Culture, society, and technology

Intellectual, literary, and artistic endeavors revived and flourished during the Han Dynasty. The Han period produced China's most famous historian, Sima Qian (14590 BC), whose Records of the Grand Historian provides a detailed chronicle from the time of legendary Xia emperor to that of the Emperor Wu (14187 BC). Technological advances also marked this period. One of the great Chinese inventions, paper, dates from the Han Dynasty, largely attributed to the court eunuch Cai Lun (50 - 121 AD). By the 1st century BC, the Chinese had discovered how to forge the highly durable metal of steel, by melting together wrought iron with cast iron. There were great mathematicians, astronomers, statesmen, and technological inventors such as Zhang Heng (78 - 139 AD), who invented the world's first hydraulic-powered armillary sphere. He was also largely responsible for the early development of the shi poetry style in China. Zhang Heng's work in mechanical gear systems influenced countless numbers of inventors and engineers to follow, such as Ma Jun, Yi Xing, Zhang Sixun, Su Song, etc. Zhang Heng's most famous invention was a seismometer with a swinging pendulum that signified the cardinal direction of earthquakes that struck locations hundreds of kilometres away from the positioned device. There was also continuing development in Chinese philosophy, with figures such as Wang Chong (27 - 97 AD), whose written work represented in part the great intellectual atmosphere of the day. Among his various written achievements, Wang Chong accurately described the water cycle in meteorology. Zhang Heng argued that light emanating from the moon was merely the reflected light that came originally from the sun, and accurately described the reasons for solar eclipse and lunar eclipse as path obstructions of light by the celestial bodies of the earth, sun, and moon.

Military technology in the Han period was advanced by the use of cast iron and steel, which the 1st century engineer Du Shi had made easier by applying the hydraulic power of waterwheels in working the bellows of the blast furnace. The military of the Han Dynasty also engaged in chemical warfare, as written in the Hou Han Shu for the governor of Ling-ling, Yang Xuan, who fought against a peasant revolt near Guiyang in 178 AD:

The bandits were numerous, and Yang's forces very weak, so his men were filled with alarm and despondency. But he organized several dozen horse-drawn vehicles carrying bellows to blow powdered lime strongly forth, he caused incendiary rags to be tied to the tails of a number of horses, and he prepared other vehicles full of bowmen and crossbowmen. The lime chariots went forward first, and as the bellows were plied the smoke was blown forwards according to the wind, then the rags were kindled and the frightened horses rushed forwards throwing the enemy lines into confusion, after which the bowmen and crossbowmen opened fire, the drums and gongs were sounded, and the terrified enemy was utterly destroyed and dispersed.

There were other notable technological advancements during the Han period. This includes the hydraulic-powered trip hammer for agriculture and iron industry, the winnowing machine for agriculture, and the rotary fan and Cardan suspension of Ding Huan (fl. 180 AD).

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