The engineering marvels being put in place for 2008 are merely the latest in a long line of Chinese ingenuity Just under 1,000 years ago a Chinese man by the name of Pi Cheng came up with the concept of movable type by cutting characters into cubes of clay and wedging them into an iron frame, more than 300 years before Johan Gutenberg's 'invention' revolutionised the western world. This is just one of the many examples of ancient China's advanced technological ability - a land that also is credited with inventing papermaking, gunpowder, and the mariner's compass, not to mention modern agriculture, decimal mathematics and paper money, among a host of other contributions to modern society. One of the greatest advantages the Chinese had over the rest of the world for centuries was the superiority of its ploughs, made by advanced casting techniques developed as early as the third century BC. Cast iron was not widely available in Europe until the 14th century. After ploughing the fields the workers would enjoy a refreshing cup of tea, the world's most popular beverage believed to be first drunk by Emperor Shen-Nung in 2737 BC. Leaves would first be shredded in a small device that used a sharp wheel in the middle of a pot that would slice the leaves into thin strips. A Chinese army general called Liang Chuko (181-234 AD) is believed to be the inventor of the wheelbarrow, which his men used to transport supplies and move injured soldiers. Around this time a Chinese philosopher Chang Heng invented the earliest known seismoscope in 132 AD. His instrument resembled a large wine jar with eight dragon heads, each with a ball in its mouth, on the edge, facing the eight principal directions of the compass. Below each dragon head was a toad, with its mouth open towards the dragon. If there was an earthquake, one of the eight dragons would release a ball into the open mouth of the toad below. It is said that his device could detect earthquakes hundreds of kilometres away, which could not otherwise be detected, and based on which dragon dropped the ball he could tell in which direction it had occurred. Legend says the new invention of paper was presented to the Emperor in 105 AD, but archaeological evidence indicates the Chinese were even using it a couple of hundred of years before this. Again, another millennium was to pass before it became popular in Europe. Matches were invented by impoverished Chinese court ladies in 557 AD during a military siege - necessity being the mother of most inventions, they had run out of tinder and needed a way to light fires to cook and heat the rooms. In the seventh century, China invented woodblock printing on paper and silk, at that stage mostly used by Buddhist monks to copy their sacred scripts. And a century later, the Chinese developed the world's first mechanical clock, something the Europeans only emulated 500 years later. Turning to the sea, the oldest depiction of a ship's rudder is on a pottery model of a Chinese ship dating back to the first century AD. A few centuries later, Chinese sailors built large ships with enormous rudders to embark on lengthy voyages, while European ships continued to use steering oars until the 12th century. The earliest known compass was a naturally magnetic piece of lodestone the Chinese found could indicate direction, dating back to before 200 BC. They developed the first needle compass for sea navigation about 1,000 years ago. Gunpowder was inadvertently discovered by Chinese alchemists looking for elixir formulas, but instead found an explosive mix when they combined sulphur, charcoal and saltpetre. The first true gunpowder formula was published by Tseng Kung-Liang around 1040 AD, although it was initially used for fireworks and signals, and was only used for weapons a couple of centuries later. The earliest surviving gun was excavated in Manchuria. It is more than a foot long, has an even bore, and dates back to 1288. There is no doubt the Chinese were early starters in the sporting spectrum, too. Before 2000 BC the Chinese had developed activities that resembled gymnastics, and 2,000 year ago Chinese soldiers played a game vaguely similar to soccer called Tsu Chu, which means 'to kick a ball with the feet'.