Oracle Bones, Stars and Wheelbarrows: Ancient Chinese Science and Technology

Discusses the achievements of the ancient Chinese in astronomy, medicine, science, and engineering, as well as such influential Chinese inventions as paper, printing, gunpowder, and the compass.
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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Average: 3 (1 vote)


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Exploring Ancient Chinese Scientists

Field of Interest/Specialty: Asian Studies
Posted On: 05/06/2019

I, Morgan O'Brien Roberts, teach 7th and 8th grade science at Mountain Ridge Middle School in Gerrardstown, WV. This book is appropriate for middle or high school students and covers many different scientific discoveries and inventions from ancient China.
I strive to instill in my students the idea that science is for everyone, including people of all backgrounds, races, genders, etc. When covering the scientific breakthroughs listed in my county standards, I find that I introduce students almost exclusively to white men. Therefore, I am always looking for ways to expose students to more diverse scientists. I could use this book to teach about early scientists from China. The book explains that, because the ancient Chinese placed so much importance in “reading the stars” they mapped all the visible stars in the sky. I think students will be impressed to know that these early astrologers managed this feat without telescopes!
The book includes descriptions of early Chinese medicine, but also mentions that because cutting or altering bodies of the deceased was forbidden, ancient Chinese people had very limited understanding of human anatomy and surgical procedures. I could use this portion of the book to facilitate a class discussion of science ethics.
Anyone who plans to use this book in their classroom should remind students that people in the past were working with the limited knowledge and tools of the time. I worry it would be easy for readers to dismiss the ancient Chinese as ignorant or criticize their astrological beliefs. Also, I recommend following this book with a lesson on modern Chinese scientists because many Chinese inventions in this book are described as innovations that were upgraded later by other cultures or having a counterpart in another part of the world. Students should be taught that as much (or possibly more) science comes from Asia as other places in the world.