5 Ancient Chinese Innovations That Look Like They Came From Today’s World
Chinese imperial maids playing golf? No kidding. Though there is some doubt as to who created the game that we know as golf, paintings by ancient Chinese painters seem to silently solve the mystery. The painting above is a detail of a long scroll from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and was illustrated by the famous artist Du Jin. Here it is below:
Another Ming Dynasty scroll “The Autumn Banquet” also speaks for itself. Exhibited at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, it shows Chinese men in the Ming Dynasty wearing imperial sportswear and playing “Chuiwan” in the imperial court. “Chuiwan” is the ancient name for Chinese golf, and it is played similarly to the modern sport.
While on the subject of sports, the Chinese also had a team sport called “Cuju” that forbade the use of arms and of which the object was to score goals. This game had a history of over two thousand years and naturally there evolved the footwear to go with it.
The pictured pair of cuju shoes is from the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). The instep is made of leather and the bottom has rounded iron cleats for traction. Oil was applied to the sole to make the shoe waterproof.
In the Warring States Period about 2,500 years ago, the Chinese already knew the importance of keeping certain foods cool and sought ways to do this. The result was a device called the “ice reflector,” but more appropriately rendered “icebox.”
The first iceboxes were in fact insulated wine containers, and tubes of ice would be procured from specialists who would find large boulders of ice to be hawked or stored in deep cellars or wells. While ice properly stored could last well into the summer months, the trade nevertheless was labor-intensive and refrigeration was a luxury typically enjoyed only by wealthy upper-class people.
The vernier caliper is a measuring instrument that measures the internal and the external diameters of an object.
In May 1992, a copper ancient vernier caliper was unearthed from an Eastern Han Dynasty tomb. It is strikingly similar in form and function to the modern instrument. It features fixed and sliding jaws to measure diameter, depth, and dimensions.
While it might well be mistaken for the mobile phone logo, this contraption is actually an incense burner from the Han Dynasty. The above example is stored in a museum in Shanxi Province.