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While the abacus was not actually invented by the Sung dynasty, it was popularized during it.  This is because, during this dynasty, a painter named Hang Zeduan, in a painting called "Riverside Scenes", painted an abacus beside a book.  Apparently, this painting was very popular, as it encouraged people to use abacuses for doing mathematical calculations.

Date of Invention:
Originally around 190 AD; popularized during the Sung dynasty (960-1127 AD)

The original inventor is unknown, but it was popularized by Hang Zeduan.

 Importance to Chinese civilization:
Was used as a method of calculating numbers rapidly, helping people in many scientific and mathematical fields produce many of the inventions and discoveries that they did.

 Importance to other civilizations:
They were never very popular outside of China; they didn't even spread to Japan until the Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644 AD).

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