10 Ancient Chinese Inventions That You Never Thought Were Chinese


Whether you are someone who knows a lot about China and is taking regular classes to learn Chinese in Singapore or someone with solid general knowledge, you are likely to be very surprised to know that all of these things were invented in ancient China.

Paper Money

What would be the world today had the Chinese not invented paper money! The first paper money was introduced in the Tang dynasty (618 – 907) and the reason was plain simple, necessity. Carrying coins was becoming too cumbersome, and after the printing block was invented, inventing paper money became the next logical step.

The Compass

What you thought compass was discovered by the Western travelers? Long before Western travelers decided to explore the world, the Chinese made the compass around 225 BC – 206 BC. However, the first compass didn’t have a magnetic needle, which only came later around 8th century AD.

The Mechanical Clock

So, now you know whom you should thank every time you check the time on your wristwatch. The first clock was made in the Song dynasty, a big clock tower which could tell the time, day, and the phase of the moon, as well as the correct position of some planets and stars.


And you thought the Chinese were only good at ping-pong? Unlike the popular belief that it was England where football was invented, soccer was invented in China in the Han dynasty, which ruled from 206 BC to 220 AD. The sport was called Cuju and involved kicking the football with feet to score and players couldn’t use their hands.

The Earthquake Detector

Earthquakes are common in China. It was in Han Dynasty that a scientist named Zhang Heng created the initial seismograph which was capable of detecting the earthquake’s movement.

The Restaurant Menu

During the period of Song dynasty, trade and business with other countries increased significantly. Foreign travelers and businessmen traveled to China in huge numbers, but many didn’t know Chinese. To help them, menus were introduced in restaurants.


The first alcohol drink was created around 2000 BC during Xi dynasty. The wife of the king created the drink, which was believed to have a beer-like taste.

The Fork

Are you surprised? Well, even though chopsticks are used by the Chinese for eating, they were the ones who created the Forks. It is believed that the forks were used for the very first time between 2400 BC and 1900 BC. Europe received the fork, just like many other Chinese inventions, much later via the Silk route.

The toothbrush

Did you know that the first toothbrush had pig hairs attached to a stick made of either bones or bamboo? Yup, that’s right. The first toothbrush was used during Tang dynasty, which ruled from 618 – 907 AD.

Toilet Paper

Are you saying, “no way, the Chinese invented this too?!” Well, you are not the only one. Most people are surprised to know that the toilet paper was not invented in a Western country but in China. The first toilet paper was made with a soft fabric and was meant for the use of the royal family. Later, the toilet paper came to Europe via the Silk route.

Want to know more about China and its people, culture, and language? Then join our Culture Training to expand your horizons!

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