It is easy to underestimate how many things that we take for granted today were invented in Ancient China.
One of the most important of these inventions is paper. For thousands of years, great civilisations from Egypt to Babylon to Rome used different materials to write on.
The Egyptians wrote on papyrus, some cultures used wax tablets and others used animal skin, but paper as we know it was invented in Ancient China, during the Han Dynasty. This new technique spread west to Europe in the centuries that followed, and today we wouldn’t think of writing on anything else.
Another invention that emerged from Ancient China was the crossbow, believed to date back to the 6th century BC.
But it wasn’t all writing and fighting. It was in Ancient China that it was first discovered that silk could be produced by silkworms if they were cultivated.
For centuries thereafter, European traders undertook the vast journey to eastern Asia, in order to return with sought-after silk garments to trade.