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Silk and Stamp, Printing, and Engraving

Printing, alongside compass, gunpowder, and papermaking, are ancient China's four great inventions, which have greatly promoted the development of human civilization worldwide. Nonetheless, traditional printing is largely adopted from silk printing.

A common misunderstanding is that printing originated from stamps, while in fact the stamp did abound early in the Qin Dynasty (221-207BC), it was generally used to stamp the lute (seal) of bamboo slips (used for writing on in ancient times). Thus the stamp at the time was very different from the later printing technique.

Meanwhile, the silk printing that appeared almost at the same time was very close to printing. Two bronze engraving boards were excavated in Guangzhou of South China's Guangdong Province. The pattern on the boards was the same as part of the painted silk in an ancient tomb in Changsha, capital of Hunan Province, also demonstrating that silk printing adopted the complicated overprint skill (the printing of already printed material) even at the very beginning. The process of making printed silk very much resembled that of paper printing skills. Later, paper appeared, and the engraving board was larger. The original skill for silk printing was also used in printing books. 

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