china printing historyThe history of printing, like the history of so many things, begins in ancient China. Although the modern printing press was invented by a German goldsmith, his invention would not have made it very far without Chinese inventions such as paper and ink for printing.

But China’s printing history goes back further than that, before the invention of the printing press. Printing Chinese characters was necessary even in ancient China, and the printing of these characters lent itself well to a style of printing called “block printing.” Block printing was used throughout China and was the precursor to the modern printing press. Using block printing, Chinese printers were able to undertake the daunting task of printing Chinese characters in such a way that reading material could be mass-produced and therefore was more available to a wider audience.

Block printing and movable-type printing in China involved a large set of blocks with the various Chinese characters on them. These blocks could be positioned in order depending on what needed to be printed. Printing ink was rolled over the printing blocks, and then the printing blocks were pressed to the printing paper. Multiple copies could then be produced in a much shorter period of time than copying by hand would have allowed.

The printing press also had a huge influence not only on printing in China and around the world, but also on other industries as well. Scientific research was able to spread its ideas through printing thanks to China, and scholarly books were able to be printed using the method of block printing Chinese characters as well as through other printing methods as they were developed in and around China.