What The Ancients Did For Us - The Chinese

Find out more about the China programme, part of the BBC/OU's 'What the Ancients Did for Us' TV series

By: The OpenLearn team (Programme and web teams)

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Jamie Darling Copyrighted image Copyright: Production team

China is the fastest growing economy on earth. One in four of every person on the planet is Chinese, and Shanghai is six times the size of London, offering a home to twenty million people. But while China is developing rapidly now, the Chinese civilisation is one of the oldest surviving in the world.

The ancient Chinese thought they were at the centre of universe. Cut off from the rest of the world for centuries the Chinese developed a unique culture, and made many technological, scientific and artistic advances long before the West.

Programme two of What The Ancients Did For Us explores this amazing country and the inventions of these ingenious people. The people who gave us the world's first fast food including what we call pasta - the noodle.

To pay for this delicacy, they came up with paper money, printing with moveable type and a unified system of weights and measures. To move all their goods they invented canals, and the unique segmented arched bridge.

To protect their new borders they discovered gunpowder, exploding bombs, paper armour, flamethrowers and the kite. To advance their culture they made the first seismograph and highly efficient double action piston bellow. For pure beauty they gave spun silk, created the firework and lacquer - the world's first plastic. And, finally, for fun they gave us the beautiful game – football.

First broadcast: Wednesday 16 Feb 2005 on BBC TWO

What The Ancients Did For Us in more depth: