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The Asian Contribution

THE ASIAN CONTRIBUTION

Western civilization dawned from obscure sources along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Mesopotamia and along the course of the Nile River in Egypt. The origins of the extraordinary civilization that developed in the vast, ancient land of China are shrouded in similar mystery. Legend suggests that by the year 2000 BCE a culture was evolving in virtual isolation from the pockets of civilization in the West. Some of the many innovations developed by the ancient Chinese changed the course of human events. The compass made exploration and seafaring possible. Gunpowder, used by the Chinese for fireworks, fueled an aggressive aspect of the human temperament and changed the nature of war. Chinese calligraphy, an ancient writing system, is used today by more people than any other visual language system. Paper, a magnificent and economical substrate for transmitting information, and printing,the duplication of words and images, made possible the wide communication of thought and deed. Europeans adopted these Chinese inventions and used them to conquer much of the world: the compass (which may have been developed independently in Europe) directed early explorers across the seas and around the globe; firearms enabled Europeans to subjugate the native populations of Africa, Asia, and the Americas; and printing on paper became the method for spreading European language, culture, religion , and law throughout the world.

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