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<v Host>This is a program about solving mysteries and making discoveries. <v Host>It is about how simple inventions can change our lives forever. <v Host>It is the story of how one culture can have a dramatic effect on another. <v Host>This is a story about China and how her culture and <v Host>ours are surprisingly interwoven. <v Host>Like the intricate threads of silk brocade. <v Host>[music plays] <v Host>This is China, land of mystery. <v Host>A land of strange customs and alien ways.
<v Host>A land isolated from the rest of the world by mountain and river <v Host>and desert. <v Host>For many in the Western world, China remains a mystery. <v Host>Little more is known about China's impact on the world than ?that? <v Host>Marco Polo visited there a few hundred years ago and brought back silk, <v Host>spices, and spaghetti. <v Host>All that is changing now, the China trade is increasing between east and west <v Host>and with the flow of commercial products is a flow of information and <v Host>insight. [train passes by] <v Host>Here in Seattle, at The Pacific Science Center, there is a touring exhibition of some of <v Host>China's early achievements in science and technology. <v Host>Through ancient artifacts and traditional artisans, there is a glimpse of
<v Host>China's past glory. <v Host>Because at one time, China had the most advanced technology in the world. <v Host>[music plays] <v Host>This exhibition is a way to understand a little of what East and West have shared <v Host>and what we may yet share. <v Host>It is a bridge of communication. <v Host>And for the Chinese, communication is important, especially written <v Host>communication. <v Host>For centuries, the Chinese kept records to guide imperial decisions <v Host>and predict celestial events. <v Host>These are astronomical inscriptions written on bone about 3000 <v Host>years ago. Bone was durable, but not a very practical medium <v Host>for record keeping. <v Host>As writing advanced, records were kept on strips of bamboo tied together in
<v Host>scrolls. <v Host>But still, it was too heavy and cumbersome. <v Host>In fact, one Chinese emperor is said to have read more than 55 <v Host>pounds of bamboo a day. <v Host>The Chinese searched for a better solution. <v Host>By the 2nd century B.C., at the same time the Egyptians were writing <v Host>on matters of papyrus and the people of the European continent were scratching <v Host>letters on the dried skins of animals, the Chinese made a technological <v Host>breakthrough. <v Host>They produced a material very light and portable and easy to write on. <v Host>Paper. [water splashing] <v Host>This 1,900 year old process is essentially the same as that used <v Host>in today's highly advanced paper making industry.
<v Host>The Chinese invented paper and gave it to the world. <v Host>A Buddhist monk carried the gift to Japan. <v Host>Then it traveled west through Baghdad and Damascus and Cairo. <v Host>In the 12th century, the Spanish made paper and then all <v Host>of Europe learned the secret. <v Host>And in 1575, the new world would have its first paper <v Host>mill. [water dripping] [music plays] <v Host>Sheet by sheet, paper changed the course of history. <v Host>It became the medium for scholars and merchants, for emperors <v Host>and artists.
<v Host>This is calligraphy, the art of writing. <v Host>In the Chinese language, each word holds both meaning and beauty. <v Host>It's a language of pictures. <v Host>Tens of thousands of them, each one a complex and unique design. <v Host>This is a symbol for happiness. <v Host>The Chinese character for dragon. <v Host>The language is beautiful, but its complex nature presented real problems <v Host>for the scholar and merchant and government official who needed to transmit <v Host>a lot of information as the Chinese empire grew and flourished. <v Host>Writing by hand was just too slow. <v Host>The Chinese found a solution in a block of stone.
<v Host>For centuries, signature seals had been used to indicate ownership. <v Host>The owner's name was carved into the hard stone. <v Host>The ancient signature seal led to the Chinese invention of block printing <v Host>and the first printed books. [music plays] <v Host>While Europe was in The Dark Ages, China was producing books and <v Host>pamphlets and images by block printing. <v Jack Dull>What paper and printing did uh not only for China, but for the rest of the world as well, <v Jack Dull>uh is a profound historical significance. <v Jack Dull>Uh, the combination of the 2 in China allowed the de-uh the development <v Jack Dull>of a social class, a non aristocratic <v Jack Dull>elite that is able to establish its position in society because <v Jack Dull>of its education, and that education is possible because the printed word is cheap.
<v Jack Dull>[music plays] <v Host>And then in 1045 A.D., this man Bi Sheng <v Host>took printing and step father. <v Host>He made separate ceramic characters and placed them on a tray of hot wax. <v Host>When the wax cooled, he would print. <v Host>Bi Sheng had invented printing with movable type. <v Host>The Gutenberg Bible, marking the first major Western success with movable type <v Host>would not be printed for another 400 years. <v Host>But printing the Chinese language with movable type had its drawbacks. <v Jack Dull>With the low cost of labor, uh that it was relatively inexpensive to <v Jack Dull>produce a woodblock version rather than a typeset version. <v Jack Dull>And particularly in view of the fact that if you're going to produce a typeset version
<v Jack Dull>of a sophisticated Confucian text, for example, uh <v Jack Dull>you're going to have to have hundreds, thousands of characters uh waiting <v Jack Dull>for you in slots and boxes and store rooms and so on. <v Jack Dull>Uh So in many respects, woodblock carving is not a bad way to produce a Chinese book, not <v Jack Dull>at all. Uh, at least unless you have modern technology. <v Host>But even with modern technology and efforts to simplify the language, <v Host>if you want a type of story in Chinese, you'll have to search through thousands of <v Host>characters. [typewriter sounds] <v Host>Printing with movable type. <v Host>A Chinese invention that we use every day.
<v Host>Not all the Chinese inventions and discoveries are as familiar to the West. <v Host>A mystery still surrounds the practice of traditional Chinese medicine and its <v Host>use of herbs. <v Host>For nearly 35 years, Mr. ?Hen San Chen? <v Host>has ministered to the needs of sick people from his herbal medicine shop in Seattle's <v Host>International District. <v Mr. Chen>Like, I still have a cold hanging on, and I feel-. <v Host>Although Mr. Chen is highly trained, he is not licensed to practice medicine <v Host>in the United States. He simply listens, observes, and <v Host>prescribes strong herbal tea. <v Host>The herbs are combined according to a Chinese medical tradition that's 2600 years old. <v Host>Each packet will be boiled down into a bitter drink.
<v Host>Is it herbal medicine or primitive superstition? <v Paul Buell>Chinese medicine is a primitive system um only in the fact <v Paul Buell>that you're still dealing with a natural substance as opposed to the extracts. <v Paul Buell>If you go to the store and you have a sinus ache and they give you a substance called <v Paul Buell>?ephedrine? in a pill, it was first discovered in China called Ma Wang. <v Paul Buell>And the Chinese doctor would just use the natural plan and he's giving you essentially <v Paul Buell>the same substance. One is a refined, sometimes artificially made substance, and the <v Paul Buell>other is not. <v Host>In herbal medicine, each natural ingredient has a unique healing property based <v Host>on centuries of observation. <v Host>But the use of herbs is only one aspect of traditional Chinese medicine in its <v Host>concern for the body as a whole. <v Host>[music plays] <v Host>The body is healthy when it's in balance and how you live determines that <v Host>balance. Daily exercise, good nutrition,
<v Host>active prevention are all a part of holistic medicine. <v Paul Buell>Chinese medicine has an enormous amount of experience and just simply practical knowledge <v Paul Buell>that needs to be understood. And so I think it's important to realize that surgery, <v Paul Buell>uh Western synthetic drugs, you know, the whole technological aspect of medicine may not <v Paul Buell>be the end all and the be all. There may be more to it than that. <v Paul Buell>And we need to study this other these other aspects. <v Host>One of those other aspects in Chinese medicine involves points on the human <v Host>body that can cure disease and reduce pain. <v Male student>Is it hurting at all? <v Female student>Uh no, I wouldn't say that it's hurting. It's just kind of got this distended, maybe <v Female student>a little sore. It feels <v Host>These Western students are studying a Chinese medical tradition that's over 2000 <v Host>years old. Acupuncture. <v Male student>Okay. You're going to feel a little prick. <v K.C. Yee>Quickly, quick. Yeah, okay. This
<v K.C. Yee>main point in the ?head? <v K.C. Yee>usually cures the pain in the face. A different kind of pain in the face. <v K.C. Yee>And very usually, very common on this point. <v Female student>Yeah, I feel my nostrils clearing now. <v Host>Current scientific evidence indicates that acupuncture actually stimulates <v Host>the release of endorphins, the brain's natural painkiller. <v Host>It is a modern understanding of a traditional Chinese practice that may <v Host>open new doors to medical treatment in the West. <v Host>[drums play] <v Host>Another door accidentally burst open 12 centuries ago. <v Host>When Chinese alchemists went in search of an elixir of eternal life. <v Host>They combined sulfur for the treatment of the skin.
<v Host>And saltpeter to dispel fevers and soothe the stomach. <v Host>And charcoal. <v Host>All 3 together in a dark blend. <v Host>Then they added fire. [fireworks]. <v Host>It was called Hou yao, fire medicine. <v Host>We know it as gunpowder. <v Jack Dull>Gunpowder is usually cited as one of the contributing factors in the downfall of <v Jack Dull>feudalism. And again, this is a case of one of those major social <v Jack Dull>changes in world history. <v Jack Dull>Uh, but gunpowder didn't undercut any privileged group in Chinese society. <v Jack Dull>It did not lead to any major social change in Chinese society. <v Jack Dull>In part, I think it's because of the nature of the Chinese state. <v Jack Dull>The bureaucratic empire was able to produce long periods of peace, <v Jack Dull>order, stability that makes society able to be exposed to jolts
<v Jack Dull>such as gunpowder without really changing. <v Jack Dull>[fireworks] <v Host>China gave the world gunpowder, flaming rockets, and the first <v Host>bronze cannon. [music plays] <v Host>But China also cast more gentle objects in bronze. <v Host>They cast bells and coins, and vessels, for worship.
<v Host>They introduced techniques for mass production <v Host>and developed a remarkable technology of mining and smelting. <v Host>The Chinese used bronze coins in commerce, but they also used <v Host>them to tell time. <v Host>This is a unique clock. <v Host>A stick of incense rests on the top of the strings, spaced at <v Host>hourly intervals. <v Host>As the incense burns over the strings, [coins drop in pan]. <v Host>But in China, there was more to worry about than the passing of time. <v Host>[music plays] <v Host>This is a vast land shaken by earthquakes and battered by typhoons. <v Host>For 1800 years, the Chinese have recorded the tremors beneath their cities <v Host>and mountains.
<v Host>The scientist, Zhang Heng, is credited with the invention of the world's first <v Host>earthquake detector in 138 A.D.. <v Host>It was a large bronze urn rimmed by 8 dragons, <v Host>each with a bronze ball and its jaws. <v Host>Below, 8 bronze toads wait for a sign of tremor. <v Host>If the urn is disturbed even by a slight quake, a pendulum <v Host>tilts inside and opens the jaw of the dragon facing the direction <v Host>of the quake. <v Host>The Chinese could detect earthquakes, but they couldn't predict or prevent <v Host>them. <v Host>They would have to live with the forces of nature. <v Host>It seems strange then that the Chinese would choose to construct such ornate
<v Host>buildings. <v Host>And it seems stranger yet that, for centuries, these buildings have withstood <v Host>both quake and typhoon. <v Host>Ancient Chinese architecture is anything but simple. <v Host>A system of complex brackets distributes the weight of the massive tile roof. <v Host>Each bracket rests on a support pillar, which would keep the building standing <v Host>even if the walls collapsed. <v Host>And because of its weight, the tile roof could withstand gale force <v Host>winds. <v Host>This complicated system of timber and tile and brackets contain thousands <v Host>of joints in a building. <v Host>Each one was constructed without a single name.
<v Host>The Chinese built to withstand the forces of nature, but <v Host>they also built to withstand other forces. <v Host>300000 laborers worked for 7 years to complete <v Host>a wall 4000 miles long. <v Host>The Great Wall would keep out nomadic raiders from the north, but not the <v Host>flow of early trade between China and the West. <v Host>China was known to Europe as ?Ceres?, The Silk Country, <v Host>for it was this mysterious thread, that first joined together East and West <v Host>in trade. <v Host>From the time of the Roman Empire, fine silk cloth from China has <v Host>been highly prized. <v Host>But the most precious fabric to travel the Silk Road from China to the royal <v Host>courts of Europe, was silk brocade. <v Host>This rich fabric with raised patterns and complex designs
<v Host>was called ?inaudible?, gold silk, because of <v Host>its great value. <v Host>The brocade was produced on a Chinese drawloom. <v Host>It was a high tech machine for the second century A.D. <v Host>The technological breakthrough was the addition of the draw boy <v Host>who manipulates 9000 cords to create the pattern. <v Host>For 1500 years, Chinese drawlooms produced elaborate <v Host>brocade far faster and better than anything the West <v Host>could develop. <v Host>Not until the 18th century would the skill of the draw boy <v Host>be replaced by a chain of punchcards in looms of the Industrial Revolution.
<v Host>Silk brocade was not the only product of Chinese technology to be in great demand <v Host>by the royal ports of Europe. <v Host>Over 2000 years ago, ordinary clay was first transformed <v Host>into porcelain. <v Host>So well-known was the work of Chinese ceramic makers that the porcelain became known <v Host>worldwide simply as china. <v Host>The Chinese developed kilns and invented the potter's wheel and used <v Host>a special white clay to produce finely shaped pottery with strong thin <v Host>walls.
<v Host>But the development of the beautiful glazes transforms simple shapes <v Host>into works of art. [music plays] <v Host>Chinese technological discoveries in ceramic making set a high standard <v Host>for the West. [music plays] <v Host>In the history of science and technology, this simple spoon is one of China's <v Host>greatest achievements. <v Host>It was made of lodestone, a natural magnet and balanced on a round <v Host>bronze plate representing the heavens. <v Host>1900 years ago, this was the first compass. <v Host>When knowledge of the compass finally reached the West, a thousand years later, <v Host>it launched the Age of Exploration.
<v Host>The oceans became routes of discovery and then highways <v Host>for trade and commerce. <v Host>China's early technological achievements had made a lasting impact on the world. <v Host>But as history progressed, it was the West that carried on the dramatic development of <v Host>modern science and technology. <v Host>China gave the world paper and printing, gunpowder, and the compass. <v Host>But was slow to enter the modern technological age. <v Host>And the reasons remain unclear. <v Host>Perhaps China's geography kept her isolated from Western achievements. <v Host>Perhaps her population was so great that there was no compelling need to develop new <v Host>technology for labor saving machines. <v Host>Some say the Confucian philosophy emphasized social interaction and <v Host>devalued scientific inquiry.
<v Host>Some believe that China's imperial bureaucracy provided stability for <v Host>thousands of years, but stifled technological change. <v Host>The scholarly conjecture is endless. <v Host>But the fact is that China is reentering the world community in science <v Host>and technology. <v Robert Kapp>China has engaged with the world's scientific community and the world commercial <v Robert Kapp>community community with a vengeance. The major purpose of this government in China now <v Robert Kapp>is to enrich the people and foreign trade is regarded as an instrument with <v Robert Kapp>which to achieve that end. A second end which uh foreign trade is regarded as necessary <v Robert Kapp>is the end of national uh defensive strength. <v Host>China is modernizing to increase the standard of living and ensure <v Host>national security. <v Host>Trade delegations are investigating the achievements of Western technology, <v Host>but the Chinese may be importing more than just scientific Know-How and high tech <v Host>products.
China Discovery
Producing Organization
KCTS (Television station : Seattle, Wash.)
Contributing Organization
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
KCTS 9 (Seattle, Washington)
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Program Description
"In 1984, Seattle, Washington[,] was the site of the major [exhibition] 'China: 7,000 Years of Discovery.' This documentary provides a rare opportunity to view the exhibit--which displays over 300 artifacts--and to observe the highly-skilled craftspeople as they demonstrate age-old techniques. The program explores important innovations of ancient China, many of which have helped further the advancement of world civilization. Highlighted in this exploration are printing, paper-making, medicine, scientific instruments, and Chinese artistry."--1984 Peabody Awards entry form. This program talks about the rise of Chinese inventions including paper, movable print, herbal medicine, acupuncture, gunpowder, clocks, earthquake detectors, Chinese architecture, silk, porcelain, and even the compass. Throughout the program, scholars join in on the conversation of these inventions and how they changed not only Chinese society, but Western society.
China Discovery edited master mono
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Producing Organization: KCTS (Television station : Seattle, Wash.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-a33547703d0 (Filename)
Format: U-matic
Identifier: cpb-aacip-b089498b3f6 (Filename)
Format: 1 inch videotape
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:30:00
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Chicago: “China Discovery,” 1984, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, KCTS 9, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 27, 2022,
MLA: “China Discovery.” 1984. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, KCTS 9, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 27, 2022. <>.
APA: China Discovery. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, KCTS 9, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from