Sometimes history doesn’t give you clean lines to work within for instance, here’s the grab-bag of technology I’ve got to work with:
- Invention of lacquer: ~5000 B.C.E.
- Invention of silk: ~2500 B.C.E.
- First use of meteoric iron in China: ~2000 B.C.E..
- First production of liquor: ~800 B.C.E.
- Invention of glass: ~500 B.C.E.
- Introduction of iron armour in China: 500-200 B.C.E
- Standardization of the alphabet: 220 B.C.E.
- Height of bronze use for household tools and weapons: ~200 B.C.E.
- Replacement of bronze weapons and tools with iron: Sometime between 200 B.C.E. and 200 C.E.
- Use of lodestone compasses for divination and geomancy: Sometime between 200 B.C.E. and 200 C.E.
- Invention of Tofu: ~150 B.C.E. or possibly any time between then and 1000 C.E., first mention of Tofu.
- First use of glass vessels: ~150 B.C.E.
- Invention of paper: 105 C.E.
- Use of paper for writing: ~300 C.E.
- Discovery of the chemical properties of saltpeter: ~490 C.E.
- Use of compasses for navigation: 1050 C.E.
My intention was to set my Daar Empire at the technological equivalent of about 200 B.C.E. Iron is beginning to phase in but bronze is still superior from a metallurgical standpoint. The exception to this is meteoric iron which has… special… properties. Bronze is also preferred for aesthetic reasons. People don’t write on paper. Instead they use scrolls of slats bound together with silk strips. They drink liquor but probably not out of glass bottles – except when those bottles are precious commodities shared between noble clans. No gunpowder means no fireworks just yet, nor paper lanterns (note to self – go back and remove references to paper lanterns and papered windows).
Tofu is probably a new and exciting food.
I had a big debate with myself over the inclusion of glazed windows – since early Chinese glass wasn’t used for that. I decided to bend reality a bit here, but it was a conscious choice and one designed to highlight the wealth and extravagance of the character in question.
I refer to my story as “bronze age” but, here’s where the messiness comes in, when do you define the end of the bronze age in China? Bronze and Iron ran side-by-side for 2200 years before eventually iron won out. It took a full 800 years more to begin exploiting the magnetic properties of iron but lodestone was in use during the transition.
This is a story about a culture in change. New technologies and new ideas threaten what characters know about their world. Happily the messiness of history shows the interplay between conservativism and innovation and lets me muddle a few technologies to create a world of bronze swords and iron shirts.