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Ancient Chinese Inventions: from the Neolithic Age
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  10/23/11
By: Yona Williams

Thanks to the ancient Chinese, there are a lot of inventions we still use today. From the creation of early bells to the way the dead were buried, you will learn in this article about some of the technological and cultural advancements attributed to this ancient civilization – taking place during the pre-Shang era.

The inhabitants that lived in what is now called China during the Neolithic age and prehistoric Bronze Age were quite busy making advanced within their civilization. This period is referred to as pre-Shang. The following inventions emerged during this time:

Clay Drums

Using the hide of the alligator and clay, some of the earliest drums have been uncovered in a region associated with Neolithic sites connected to modern Shandong. The artifacts date back to a period of time from 5500 BC to 2350 BC. Written records show that the drums were used for a shamanistic purpose in ritual ceremonies. The drums were covered in alligator skin from animals that most likely lived along the eastern coast of China. The earliest alligator drums had a wood frame and have been found in archeological excavations at Dawenkou (which date back to between 4100 BC and 2600 BC.


The substance known as lacquer is used to add a protective coating to crafts and other objects. Lacquer was used in China since the Neolithic period – extracting it from the lac tree that grows in the country. The earliest known lacquer container is believed to be a red wooden bowl that was found at a Hemudu site that dates back to between 5000 and 4500 BC. Coffins belonging to many early Bronze Age sites have undergone the lacquered technique. Other lacquered items have come from sites belonging to the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (771 to 256 BC). Some lacquer items from the past were made with black designs, red backgrounds, and inscriptions. Some Chinese artists produced the objects in their own workshops.


Oars used for rowing date back to the early Neolithic period. A connection to the ancient Chinese was established when pottery in the shape of a canoe with six wooden oars was uncovered. Dating back to 6000 BC, the pottery once belonged to someone in the Hemudu culture. An actual oar was found in Japan that dated back to 4000 BC.

Salt Harvesting

Salt harvesting gradually became an important part of the state revenue in regions across China and one of the earliest examples of a saltern (a place used for salt harvesting) is believed to date back to 6000 BC – close to Lake Yuncheng in Shanxi. Archeologists have uncovered evidence of salt making that dates back to 2000 BC while investigating the ruins of Zhongba at Chongqing.


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