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Movable Type Printing and Papermaking in Ancient China

Published Time:2015-08-18 Original Source:printing and paper making

Movable Type Printing and Papermaking in Ancient China 

Movable Type Printing, invented by the person named Bi Sheng in the 1040s, is one of the printing technology in ancient China. The other three are Gunpowder, Compass and Papermaking .
movable type printing
Regarded as the great technological revolution in printing history, its history can date back to the period of Northern Song Dynasty (960~1127). Its early form was woodblock printing.

Though it is much more efficient than hand copying, the process of printing is quite complicated.
Firstly, workers will make rectangular blocks with clay.
Secondly, they engrave an individual Chinese character on each of the block and then burn the blocks with fire. Having been hardened by fire, these blocks will be put into iron frames and the printing workers will rearrange the blocks based on the content of the article.
movable type printings
Finally, they brush the ink on the surface of the characters and then put a piece of white paper on them. The words can be printed now in this way. As this type of printing allows individual characters to be arranged to form words, these blocks can be used hundreds of times.

Movable Type Printing has not only made a great contribution to the development of printing, but also promotes the development of human being history and culture.

Papermaking in Ancient China

Papermaking is another technology in ancient China. Its history can date back to the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-23AD) when Cai Lun invented a way to make paper from hemp, fishnet, bark, rags, etc.
Paper made in this way was light, thin and durable. In earlier times, paper was made from hemp fibers, so it was quite uneven, thick and coarse.
Due to the lower price of new raw material, paper was much cheaper than before. What’s more, it was much easy to get writing. With this kind of paper, knowledge can be passed widely and quickly to the common people.

During the 7th century, the new way of papermaking was introduced to Korea and Japan. Later, it spread to the Arab and the European countries. This invention greatly promoted the development of the Chinese civilization and the civilization of the world.
Additional information about this invention:


The movable type printing invented by Bi Sheng was not used widely because it's made of ceramic with poor durability. But this was improved by Chinese and Korean in the early 15th century with the metal movable type printing.

Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg also invented movable type printing later in Europe. However, he didn't learn it from China, he invented this independently, the most important that he invented the printing process. This make the movable type printing used widely in mass printing.

In the modern printing technology, there're 4 important elements: movable type setting, printing machine, suitable printing ink, and the last important one is the paper, which is invented by Cai Lun, and it's spread to western countries earlier than Gutenberg invented metal movable type printing.

The invention of printing technology is very complicated in the old times, it's difficult to say that who invent it individually, we just can say that they combined all the printing technology and make it in an efficient printing production system.