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Scientific, mathematical or natural discoveries, changes in minor concepts of design or style and artistic innovations do not appear on the list.The following is a list of the Four Great Inventions—as designated by Joseph Needham (1900–1995), a British scientist, author and sinologist known for his research on the history of Chinese science and technology.During the 13th and 14th centuries, gunpowder formulas became more potent (with nitrate levels of up to 91%) and gunpowder weaponry more advanced and deadly, as evidenced in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) military manuscript Huolongjing compiled by Jiao Yu (fl.14th to early 15th century) and Liu Bowen (1311–1375).He attributed the innovation of reusable fired clay characters to a little-known artisan named Bi Sheng (990–1051).Bi had experimented with wooden type characters, but their use was not perfected until 1297 to 1298 with the model of the official Wang Zhen (fl.A bronze Chinese crossbow trigger mechanism with a butt plate (the wooden components have since eroded and disappeared), inlaid with silver, from either the late Warring States period (403–256 BC) or the early Han Dynasty (202 BC – AD 220) This includes the Four Great Inventions: papermaking, the compass, gunpowder, and printing (both woodblock and movable type).
The invention of gunpowder during the mid 9th century led to an array of inventions such as the fire lance, land mine, naval mine, hand cannon, exploding cannonballs, multistage rocket and rocket bombs with aerodynamic wings and explosive payloads.
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The British sinologist Francesca Bray argues that the domestication of the ox and buffalo during the Longshan culture (c. 2000 BC) period, the absence of Longshan-era irrigation or high-yield crops, full evidence of Longshan cultivation of dry-land cereal crops which gave high yields "only when the soil was carefully cultivated," suggest that the plough was known at least by the Longshan culture period and explains the high agricultural production yields which allowed the rise of Chinese civilization during the Shang Dynasty (c. For the purposes of this list, inventions are regarded as technological firsts developed in China, and as such does not include foreign technologies which the Chinese acquired through contact, such as the windmill from the Middle East or the telescope from early modern Europe.
It also does not include technologies developed elsewhere and later invented separately by the Chinese, such as the odometer and chain pump.
Joseph Needham and Tsien Tsuen-hsuin write that the cutting and printing techniques used for the delicate calligraphy of the Diamond Sutra book are much more advanced and refined than the miniature dharani sutra printed earlier.