The Yuan Dynasty was not a time of innovation. The Emperor had no desire in learning new things or trying to make life easier through inventions in some way. The Yuan Dynasty, in fact, is known more for expansionism than anything else. For that reason, the inventions that came forth from this period of time are often related to either the technology of war or to creating peace at home. Europe was introduced to Chinese inventions at this time, such as playing cards and porcelain production, but these were already well developed in China.
Let’s take a look at the inventions of the Yuan Dynasty:
The Phags-pa Script
Invented just outside the beginning of the Yuan Dynasty, this script was used to create unification in the systems of writing for both the Chinese and the Mongolian languages. It was used in the imperial court until the end of the Yuan Dynasty. A number of books were ordered by the Emperor using the script and there were several cultural events sponsored by the Emperor that emphasized poetry and painting during this period of time.
The Perfection of Movable Type
The first mentions of movable type in Chinese literature are documented in a book of essays that is dated to the year 1088. There were experiments conducted to improve the process for the next two centuries, but it wasn’t considered to be perfected until the Yuan Dynasty when rhyming schemes were included with the type positioned on a round table. Although it was further perfected later on, it is the invention of Wang Zhen during the Yuan Dynasty that was considered the best example of this process and the one that all others were based upon.
China tried to invade Japan during the Yuan Dynasty and although they failed in the attempted, they did come up with the devastating gunpowder bomb and the larger barrel that was required to fire it. The bomb would be lit and then shot at the enemy. When performed correctly, the bomb would explode near the enemy armies, shatter, and create shrapnel injuries that would eliminate large numbers of forces. This was also translated into the inventions of the landmine, the large cannon, and the “fire arrow,” which was essentially a multi-stage gunpowder rocket.
Although the game could have been invented earlier than the Yuan Dynasty, the first mentions of the game of dominoes comes from an author of this period. Some believe that what was really being written about were dice, but it has generally been accepted that the game was at the very least becoming quite popular during this time.
Before the Yuan Dynasty, bowls were used to serve tea and brushes were used to steep the tea. The tea pot was invented near the end of this period so that the tea leaves could be steeped in the boiling water on their own.