Chemistry in China


The I Ching (book of changes), which is a famous historical book of China, introduced yin and yang. These terms mean dark and light, or famale and male, respectively, which later typified all kinds of dualities and entered scientific and medical theories in China.
The symbol of Yin and Yang

The Chinese alchemy blended in with their Taoist beliefs and the idea of balance and harmony, one of the many reasons why it took a different course from the western alchemy. Chinese alchemy was also related closely to the holistic Chinese traditional medicine, with many minerals believed to have healing qualities, a strong difference from the Greek influenced idea that only organic substances could be used for medicines.
According to some references, bronze appeared in China about 1300 B.C. and iron about 500 B.C. The Chinese had made many object from cast iron (including cannon) more earlier than West.
Figure 9 shows the production of zink. Firstly, the ore was heated with coal in the crucibles, which the metal was condensed on the lids. Historians was also said that the distillation of alcohol was first practised in the Mongol Dynasty (1260 – 1368). Paper was probably first made about A.D. 100, porcelain about A.D. 600. Gunpowder was made before it was known in West, about A.D. 1044.
The Chinese, quite understandably, felt that minerals matured and grew while embedded in the rock, gradually transmuting into ever more precious metals. For example, they believed that lead transmuted into silver, which then developed into gold, a very rare metal in China. Therefore, they believed that they could replicate this aging process in the laboratory.


Writer : Erfan Priyambodo, M. Si. (Lecturer of Yogyakarta State University)

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