Paper was first invented as a regular form of production during the Han period but very little of it remains. The earliest known paper, thought to date around 140-87 BC, from the reign of Wu Di, was found at Baqiao, near Xian and was made from hemp. Despite using bamboo, rags and flax, it was soon found that hemp provided the best, most evenly surfaced paper.
Below is a diagram from the Shaanxi Provincial Museum showing how paper was made.
Did you know?
From archaeological discoveries made in 1972 historians have worked out that the physicians of the Eastern Han dynasty had great knowledge of medicines, causes of illness and cures.
They had medicines for
- respiratory system
Internal ailments such as
- ulcers and urinary stones
11 animal products
Zhang Heng (78-139 AD) invented the first seismograph, or earthquake detector, in 132 AD. It is made of bronze and has as its main elements a bronze urn with a ring of eight dragons facing out from its rim. Between the jaws of each dragon is a bronze ball. Around the base of the urn, below each of the dragons, are eight bronze frogs with their mouths open and pointing upwards. When there was an earth tremor a pendulum inside the urn would move and jolt one of the dragons, which would then open its mouth and drop the ball into the mouth of the frog below. The sounds produced would announce that there had been an earthquake and the ball would indicate the direction.
The seismograph shown below was photographed in Te Papa Museum, Wellington, New Zealand in 2003. You can judge its size by the presence of the person standing next to it.
Zhang Heng also worked out the value of pi and is the first recorded person to use the grid system for map making.
The wheel barrow
This invention had first been developed during the Warring States period (just before the Qin dynasty) but it was not until the Han period that it became widely spread throughout China.