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Moveable Type

 Moveable Chinese Typepiece

The Chinese developed printing over a long period of time, but the most important part of the development of printing was moveable type, where Chinese characters were put on small blocks and could be moved around on a printing press to form pages of text.   Unfortunately, because the Chinese had 3,000 to 5,000 characters at the time, they needed thousands of different blocks in order to operate a press, so the idea never really caught on in China.   Three hundred years later, it became a popular method for printing in Western Europe because the most common alphabets used around that region at that time (German, Spanish, French, Italian, and English) all had around 25 to 30 characters, so it was much easier to handle the printing.  

Date of Invention:
1046 AD  

Bi Sheng  

Importance to Chinese civilization:
Made production of books and other printed material somewhat easier, thus allowing ideas to be distributed more easily than before  

Importance to other civilizations:
The re-invention of moveable type in Western Europe was the first invention that allowed mass-production of printed materials, and it was used to publish everything from technical manuals to famous literature.  It helped lead to the Industrial Revolution.

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