Education About Asia: Online Archives

Made in China: Ideas and Inventions from Ancient China

Back to search results
Download PDF

By Suzanne Williams
Selected illustrations by Andrea Fong

This book, according to the publisher’s information sheet, is aimed at young people ages 9–13. Although it follows a timeline from the Xia Dynasty through the Ming, it does not rely on a narrative that would require the user to begin on the first page.

book cover for made in chinaInstead, Made in China functions more like an encyclopedia, allowing the young reader to delve into the Chinese counting system before reading about paper even though paper precedes the counting system in the book. The index shows how the author has repeated and linked inventions throughout. Bronze is one of her first entries, and references to it appear six more times, enabling the young researcher to connect bronze with, among other things, bells and printing.

Another useful link Suzanne Williams makes is between the old and the new. The section on bells begins by mentioning CDs and radios, and elsewhere Williams makes centuries-old connections where appropriate. The readers of this journal don’t have to be told how much Chinese technology is overlooked in western curricula and how valuable the ties between the ancient and the modern are. We honor Gutenberg but ignore Bi Sheng, who is credited with inventing movable type 450 years before the German inventor. A field trip to the Customs House where the east gate to old Beijing once stood would quickly demonstrate how the ancient Chinese understood the heavens and tracked natural disasters such as earthquakes. Some of the ancient devices on display at the Customs House are nicely illustrated by Andrea Fong and further explained in boxes along the margins of the page.

Among other topics Williams writes about are agriculture, the crossbow, the terra cotta warriors of Xi’an, salt, iron, astronomy, silk, clocks and compasses, Chinese medicine, and shipbuilding. Missing from the book is a pronunciation guide for Chinese names, thus leaving it up to the classroom teacher to explain that the founding emperor’s surname, Qin, is pronounced Chin, and it is from his name that China is derived.

Anyone doing a segment on China or integrating China into a larger curriculum will find Made in China a handy reference tool for students.