The Chinese were the first people to discover and utilize the magnetic properties of lodestone. Records exist of the use of a compass in the third century BC during the period of Zhan Ko (Warring States 480-221 BC).
The ancient name was known as "Si Nan" .

The spoon shape made by natural magnetic material placed into mercury pool, the handle side pointed to the south.

The photograph is of a working model of a south-pointing compass of the Han dynasty based on the works of Han Fay Sze (280-233 BC) . The spoon is made of a metallic magnetic material and the earth plate of a non-magnetic material, such as copper.

The depression at the top is to accommodate the spoon when not in use with astronomical signs surrounding the earth-plate. When the spoon is placed on the earth-plate the handle will point to the south.

Gun Powder

Dated from around the seventh century, the making of gun-powder was already recorded in a book called "Sun Tsan Lun Tan Jin" , the combination of saltpeter, sulphur and charcoal which was used by the Taoist alchemist to produce their medicine.

From Tang Dynasty onwards, the formula was used by the military to produce gun-powder based weapons such as fire arrows, gunpowder bombs etc.

Home PageTop


Bamboo was used as the writing material before the invention of paper.
In Eastern Han Dynasty (AD24 - 220), a eunuch in the Chinese Court, Chai Lun, used bark from the mulberry tree, fabric, rags and other fibrous materials to produce paper for use at the Court .

The technique of papermaking was introduced into Korea, Japan, Vietnam and the Middle East in the sixth century, later in the 12th century was exported to Europe.

Preparing raw materials

Drying paper


In the sixth and seventh century the first known form of printing was developed by using wood blocks, mainly printing agricultural, military, engineering and medical subjects. During the North Song Dynasty (A.D. 1041-1047) a clay font was used for printing.

This printing technique spread to Japan and Korea in the eighth century, then on to Europe in the 13th century via the Middle East.

Home pageTop