China is a large country, at least 2,000 miles north to south and 2,000 miles east to west. When the Empire was first patched together from six other countries at around 240 BC by Emperor Qin, well over 20 different languages were spoken there and innumerable dialects. In order to make sure his command reached the furthest boundaries he — being the genius he was — instructed his mandarins and scholars — on pain of death — that they all should write in the same script, however different each version of a word was in their pronunciation.
Accordingly, besides mandarins writing reports to the Emperor they would also be writing to mandarins in different parts of the country — friends they would have met during the nine days if Imperial exams they had taken in the capital when they were young ambitious men in order to become mandarins. In such a large country, innovations such as the wheelbarrow or canal locks or gunpowder or liqueurs would be invented in one part from time to time and described in letters from one mandarin to another.
Thus at least 150 to 200 significant innovations were created in China over a period of well over 1,000 years by the time the Great Silk Road between China and Europe was at maximum flow of merchants. Silver mainly, would be flowing from Europe to China, and silk, porcelain — and written descriptions of innovations — would be flowing from China to Europe. These innovations gradually disseminated into all the countries of Western Europe and were developed in the Dark Ages — often by monasteries — between the departure of the Romans at around 400 AD and the Reformation in the early 1500s.
China is the place were most of the basic European ideas came from.