The Machines of Ancient China — Part 2/4

Modern iron works used the same method that ancient China used, but today we use electrical air pumps to feed the fire.

How did the ancient Chinese develop a method to drive enough air into a furnace to heat it to the necessary high temperatures?

In fact, the Chinese used water to drive the bellows for a blast furnace. With these inventions, the groundwork was laid for other sophisticated machinery used in mass production.

One such invention in ancient China was an odometer designed to measure distance.  This device was known as the range finder chariot. A cart that was rolling along with troops measured every five hundred meters by banging a drum automatically.

This device was used to measure the distance to enemy camps and measure how far the troops had marched from the royal city.


What is amazing about this ancient odometer is that the gears match exactly those found in modern motorcycle engines.

There is also evidence of the application of gear engineering on a massive industrial scale during the Song Dynasty (960 – 1276 AD) based in eastern China.

We now know that the Chinese had huge operational factories capable of mass production.

Another ancient machine recently discovered is the hydraulic trip hammer and it is believed to have been developed two millennia ago. The texts from that time tell us that the huge machine was used to crush grain but also to pound metal as is still done today.

The ancient Chinese then invented a more efficient way to grind grain-using millstones. However, the Chinese took this machine to an advanced level known as a multiple geared gristmill, which was also powered by water.

This technology wouldn’t be seen again for nearly a thousand years when the industrial revolution started in England.

Return to the Machines of Ancient China – Part 1 or to discover more intentions see Invented in China – Printing


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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