Paper first appeared in China in the 2nd century BC, and it was massively diffused from the 2nd century AD onwards. Paper making techniques evolved significantly during the first centuries of our era. The new material was used for various purposes, and it progressively replaced wood tablets, bamboo tablets, and eventually silk as a support for writing. Paper was exported to neighbouring countries, such as the kingdom of Silla on the Korean peninsula, Japan, Vietnam, and later Tibet and India.
Science and Technology
Persian and Arab sailors were the first to venture into the open sea outside the view of the coast. As a result, they had to elaborate universal systems of navigation based on the positions of the stars. According to literary sources, Chinese pilots had sailed into the open sea on their way to the Malay Peninsula by the 7th century. By the 15th century, they used similar navigation systems to their Persian and Arab predecessors.
The sciences of alchemy, chemistry and medicine originated in China, Egypt, and India, but all underwent important developments in Islamic Asian countries and in Tibet and Mongolia throughout the Middle Ages. Natural deposits of metals in Central Asia encouraged alchemy and experimentation with metallurgic materials, as witnessed by the large number of Arabic treatises dealing with science. Tibet and Mongolia also made a large contribution to the study of pharmacology and pharmaceutics, with influences from India combining with those of east and west
The use of sea-charts as an aid to practical navigation was in vogue much before the advent of the European colonial traders in the North Indian Ocean is almost an accepted fact. Yet, such sea-charts do not appear to have survived on the Indian, Arab or African shores. Marco Polo, on his return voyage from China to Venice towards the end of 13th century, is reported to have seen the use of sea-charts by Indian seamen.
Until recently, Basra was not considered as a producer of some of the finest Chinese-inspired porcelain. However recent studies suggest that Basra was in fact a centre of some of the finest luxury wares of the time. Being the port where, in the 9th century, imported Tang stoneware and porcelain were first off-loaded from ships, meant that local potters were exposed to new inspiration, which led to experimentation in their own production techniques.
Underwater archaeological sites and wreck sites provide important information on the history of nations and mankind. The Gulf of Siam is one such important site, having been a territorial waterway to and from the Malay Peninsula since the 4th and 5th centuries. Despite reasonably stable weather in the Gulf, conditions could be perilous. The number of shipwrecks to be found here, many of which are still intact owing to the relatively good underwater conditions that enable material objects to be preserved, reflects the risks.
The Omani people’s initial interest in the sea in the third century BC was probably a result of the following: Oman’s location at the cross-roads between South East Asia, the Middle East and Africa; its long shorelines; and its safe natural harbours in Muscat, Sohar and Qalhat, which become successful trading posts for maritime trade from and to East and West.