Skip to content

What The Ancients Did For Us - The Chinese

Updated Tuesday 11th January 2005

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

Jamie Darling Copyrighted image Icon 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:

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

The Big Question: Is this China's century? Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team article icon

TV, Radio & Events 

The Big Question: Is this China's century?

So how did a communist country become so good at capitalism? Emma Joseph travels to Shagnhai and asks: why are so many people saying this is going to be China's century? (This edition of The Big Question was first broadcast on 26th February 2005)

Article
What The Ancients Did For Us - The Islamic World Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Production team article icon

TV, Radio & Events 

What The Ancients Did For Us - The Islamic World

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

Article
What should we watch out for as Trump meets Xi? Creative commons image Icon US Embassy The Hague under Creative Commons BY-ND 4.0 license article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

What should we watch out for as Trump meets Xi?

The Presidents of China and America come together this weekend for their first summit. Here's a guide to what's at stake.

Article
Year of the Rooster: Chinese New Year Creative commons image Icon By The original uploader was 用心阁 at Chinese Wikipedia [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons under Creative-Commons license article icon

Languages 

Year of the Rooster: Chinese New Year

As the Chinese celebrate the Year of the Rooster, why not learn how to write and pronounce basic Chinese words, or find out more about the people and culture?

Article
10 big news stories that happened in 2006 (when OpenLearn was born) Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Imgur article icon

History & The Arts 

10 big news stories that happened in 2006 (when OpenLearn was born)

OK, so 2006 wasn't as relentless as 2016, but the year still had some huge news stories. As part of our ten year anniverary celebrations we look at what happened in our birth year...

Article
Armistice Day Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Luckynick | Dreamstime.com article icon

History & The Arts 

Armistice Day

The armistice which marked the end of the First World War took effect at 11am on 11th November 1918. For Remembrance Day, here's a collection of resources to commemorate and remember these events.

Article
Britain's Great War: Download your free 'The First World War Experienced' booklet Creative commons image Icon The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license article icon

History & The Arts 

Britain's Great War: Download your free 'The First World War Experienced' booklet

From casualties to commemoration, explore the realities of war with this free booklet.

Article
OpenLearn Live: 28th July 2015 Creative commons image Icon atul666 under CC-BY-SA licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

TV, Radio & Events 

OpenLearn Live: 28th July 2015

Free learning from OpenLearn and beyond; updated during the day

Article
World War 1: Trauma and Memory - Bibliography Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC article icon

History & The Arts 

World War 1: Trauma and Memory - Bibliography

The course may have finished but you can keep on learning about this fascinating subject with our bibliography.

Article