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Chinese contributions to news (and the world)

Posted by: | September 17, 2009 | No Comment |

The Chinese are credited with many inventions that helped change the world. Their “four great inventions” had enormous impacts throughout history.  Two of those great inventions had direct impacts on the dissemination of news.

China’s first major contribution to news, however, was not an invention.  It was the domestication of the horse circa 3500 B.C. Prior to the horse being domesticated, news traveled by word-of-mouth, a rather slow form of news travel across a rather large country.  The taming of the horse helped add speed and distance to news travel.

"Walking the Horse" - Han Gan (chinapage.com)

"Walking the Horse" - Han Gan (chinapage.com)

The domestication of the horse and its effect on news travel wouldn’t be seen in the United Sates for more than 5,000 years.  In 1860, the Pony Express began carrying mail across the western frontier.  Although the Pony Express only stayed in business for about 18 months, due to the completion of the telegraph line, it left a lasting impression on the hearts of many Americans.

sample Pony Express poster  (National Park Service / Pony Express Stables Museum)

sample Pony Express poster (National Park Service / Pony Express Stables Museum)

The invention of paper , often attributed to Cai (T’sai) Lun in the year 105, had an enormous impact on the news industry, not to mention the world.  Many people today still get their news from the paper.  Although new technology and advertising concerns have helped to shrink the number of readers, paper still plays a large role in the news industry.  News of this new invention wouldn’t reach Europe for another 1,000 years.


What might seem like a logical next step on the invention ladder after paper would be the printing pressJohann Gutenberg, who is famous for using the letter press in 1450, was a little behind the times — more than 800 years behind the times.  The Chinese invented block-printing in 618 and used it to distribute its government newsletter, the “tipao”, across the country — by horse.

reproduction of Chinese movable type (library.thinkquest.org)

reproduction of Chinese movable type (library.thinkquest.org)

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