OLYMPICS / Cultural Olympics

Beijing Olympics opening features four inventions of ancient China

Updated: 2008-08-12 11:09


The opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics held here on Friday night features the four great inventions by ancient Chinese: papermaking, movable type printing, compass and gunpowder.

Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games at the National Stadium, also known as the "Bird's Nest", on August 8, 2008. The three-hour show at Beijing's iconic "Bird's Nest" National Stadium was set to see more than 15,000 performers showcase the nation's ancient history. [Agencies]


The invention of papermaking is one of China's special contributions to the spread and the development of human civilizations.

Papermaking was represented in Friday's opening ceremony with a Chinese painting scroll that opened to begin the performances and a sheet of white paper that was laid in the center of the scroll.

Movable Type Printing

In the "writing" part of the opening ceremony was a performance of movable type printing, which takes an image of both ancient character case and modern computer keyboard.

Movable type printing began with engraving printing of Sui Dynasty (581 AD-618 AD). Bi Sheng of Song Dynasty (960 AD-1276 AD) improved the movable type printing by making the baked clay into movable characters for type-setting printing; thus he accomplished a significant revolution in printing history.

Bi Sheng is known as the first ancestor of printing. The movable type printing pioneered the modern civilization of mankind.


The compass was introduced to Europe approximately in the 12th century. Its application to the navigation resulted in the voyage of Columbus' discovery of the New World and Magellan's global navigation.

In the "Silk Road" part of the performances, an important passage for economic and cultural exchanges between China and Western countries, a performer held an ancient compass in his hand.


Gunpowder was represented in the display of fireworks.

Gunpowder was invented in the Song Dynasty (960 AD-1276 AD) in China. It is the mixture of potassium nitrate, sulfur and charcoal -- elements that people took as medicine in ancient times, hence the name "gunpowder" in Chinese means "burning medicines".



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