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How Did The Invention Of Printing Affect Chinese Society?


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I've got an exam on Imperial Chinese History and Culture (a large topic) and I was wondering if anyone had any ideas about how the invention of printing affected Chinese society. Most of what I can think of is how it affected the spread of Buddhism. Farming manuals were affected by it too. As well as calendars. It would have definitely had an affect on the ability of the lower classes to become literate and enter into the Imperial exams, as woodblock printing made it easier for lower classes families to afford the materials.

These are the first things that come in to my head, but I can't find a lot about even them, and any other ideas to pad out what I (may) have to write would be good.

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I remember doing a course about all sorts of things to do with writing systems when I was studying linguistics, and that one of the big effects of the development of printing is standardisation. It seems to be a chicken and egg thing. The printers - and those who control the printers - have a great opportunity for imposing and promulgating a standardised form - of the script as well as the visual form for a word - but as that happens, so a social force develops which by accepting this reinforces it. This really shows in spelling standardisation in English, but my guess is that it also links in with standardisation of script forms as well as standard forms for individual characters in Chinese.

Printing has a major effect on all sorts of sociological things, partly because of the economics - compared to hand-written / hand-copied manuscripts. It means the development of a new industry in itself, with all the allied materials and skills used at all stages of the process. New types of jobs come into existance. One technological development stimulates and supports the development of another. New markets develop. As new markets develop, new ways of exploiting and controlling them develop. This is without even dipping into the social effects of the possibilities for increased literacy and the more extensive transmission of written material.

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  • 5 weeks later...

i quite doubt the magnitude of the positive effects of printing press in ancient china... according to some, up till qing dynasty, only about 1% of the population is literate. and chinese didnt really benefitted being the first to invent a preinting press, they didnt learn much about the world, the predominant confucian ideology was only interested in creating the perfect human relationship in a society. science and technologies werent important, and literature against the monarch or confucian order were severely dealt with. the printing system we are using now, is based on the gutenburg printing press, and no evidence showed that it is in anyway related to the chinese printing press. even the chinese nowadays are not using something based on their ancestors. the only thing i find useful is papermaking. yeah the egyptian had paper too, and much earlier than chinese. but that technology was discontinued quite long ago. the world used pulp paper, something the chinese invented.

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