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Fifteenth-century Chinese engineers didn’t so much reinvent the wheel as dispense with it altogether – opting to drag heavy stones for building the Forbidden City along a slippery artificial ice road instead of wheeling them.

That, at least, is the upshot of the latest analysis of a 17th-century Chinese text. Such a method would be 10 times as efficient as dragging the rocks along non-icy ground – suggesting that Chinese engineers had a more sophisticated understanding of friction than their Western counterparts at that time. (1)

We tend to believe primitive people were… primitive. We tend to think that old people had… old ideas and did not know of “new” things. Nothing more dangerous than a definition tautology which propagates through the centruries…