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Chinese History - Science, Technology, and Inventions of the Tang and Five Dynasties Periods

Periods of Chinese History
As head of a newly centralized state, the Tang Dynasty 唐 (618-907) government exerted politics that were able to support the development of several branches of technology. Many technologies were important to enable a good functioning of the administration, namely astronomy (for the state calendar), agronomy, hydraulic engineering and traffic (for taxes, food and commodities).
In the field of astronomy, we find a handful of people that worked on calculating the paths of (sun and) moon, the ecliptic and the movement of different constellations. We find the calendric calculations by Liu Zhuo 劉焯 (Huangjili 皇極曆), Xu Ang 徐昂 (Xuanmingli 宣明曆) and the monk Yixing 一行 (Taiyanli 太衍曆).
The mathematician Wang Xitong 王希通 wrote his book Qigu suanjing 緝古算經 where he explains the solution of third degree equations (sanci fangchengshi 三次方程式). The corpus of the Ten Mathematical Classics (Shibu suanjing 十部算經) was compiled (see also Chinese books on mathematics).
After almost three centuries of warfare, the whole national economy had to be restored. An integral part of economy in China still today is agriculture. The Sui Dynasty 隋 (581-618) administration followed the equal-field system (juntianfa 均田法) and the taxation system that was invented by the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534 - zuyongdiao zhi 租庸調制). New agricultural technologies like the curved shaft ploughing (quyuanli 曲轅犁), cultivating by first setting fire on the land (shetianfa 畲田法), separate cultivation of seedlings (yangtianfa 秧田法), and a sophisticated irrigation system (weitian 圩田) enhanced productivity. The Great Canal (dayunhe 大運河) served to ship food and commodities from the rich lower Yangtze area to the north. Mulberry trees (sang 桑) and tea bushes (cha 茶) were for the first time cultivated in large plantations. Hybrid horses (jueti 駃騠) and mules (luo 騾) were breeded because of their better workforce. Agricultural literature shows us the many fields people were interested in: Zhuge Ying's 諸葛颖 book about Sewing and Cultivation (Zhongzhifa 種植法), Lu Guimeng's 陸龜蒙 book about fieldwork (Leisijing 耒耜經), Lu Yu's 陸羽 book about Tea (Chajing 茶經), Han E's 翰鄂 book about agriculture throughout the year (Sishi zuanyao 四時纂要), and Li Shi's 李石 book about animal diseases (Simu anji ji 司牧安骥集 - see also Chinese books on agriculture).
Human medicine made further improvements in the fields of dentistry and inner medicine like the discovery of the blood circuit and the digestion system, as well as pharmakology (Xinxiu bencao 新修本草) with Sun Simiao 孫思邈 as representative ((Beiji) Qianjin yaofang (備急)千金要方). A general medical compendium is Chao Yuanfang's 巢元方 Zhubing yuanhou zonglun 諸病源候總論 (see also Chinese books on medicine).
While older geographical reports did rarely contain pictures or maps, the development of bookprinting improved the quality of geographical reports and mapping, like the general geographical book Quyu tuzhi 區宇圖志, Xiao Deyan's 肖德言 Kuodizhi 括地志, Kong Shurui's 孔述睿 Dilizhi 地理志, Pei Qu's 裴矩 Xiyu tuji 西域圖記, and of course, the report of the famous monk Xuanzang 玄奘 about his journey to the west, Da-Tang xiyu ji 大唐西域記. Local reports are the books Fan Chuo's 樊綽 Manshu 蠻書 about the area of modern Yunnan, Mo Xiufu's 莫休符 Guilin fengtu ji 桂林風土記 about Guizhou, Duan Gonglu's 段公路 Beihulu 北戶錄 about Guangdong (see also Chinese books on geography).
In the field of architecture, the old styles were preserved in the wooden halls, palaces and temples (whose style still can be seen in Korean and Japanese temples), but new architectural styles arrived at China by the Buddhist monks that erected monasteries (si 寺) and pagodas (ta 塔) covered with glazed tiles.
Ceramics also made a great improvement especially in the field of glazing (you 釉), and the special appearance of Tang Dynasty porcelain and earthenware is the three colored glazing (sancai 三彩).
Gold and silverwork was very widespread during the Tang Dynasty. Chinese artists might have found their masters in Arabian or Persian craftsmen.
Physical phenomena like rainbow, waves, echo, and crystals found their first scientific description.
Of great importance for the further development of the whole Chinese culture is the invention of bookprinting that was first used by Buddhist monks to spread their sermons, sutras and illustrations in a cheap and easy way. After the Tang period, the technique of book printing further developed and was also employed by the courts of the Five Dynasties 五代 and Ten States 十國 (907-960). During the Later Tang period, the nine Confucian Classics were printed in 953 after twenty years of carving characters. This undertaking contributed to the revival of Confucianism. In the empire of Shu 蜀 (modern Sichuan) character dictionaries and mantic books were printed.

2000 ff. © Ulrich Theobald · Mail

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