The first compasses were invented by the Chinese around the 4th century BC. The earliest compasses, however, were not used exclusively for navigation. They were used primarily as figurative symbols to help people find order and harmony in their surrounding environments and lives.
Despite being created for spiritual use, early compasses proved equally valuable for navigation. They were constructed primarily with lodestone, which is a unique type of mineral magnet that automatically aligns with the Earth's magnetic fields. The Chinese added ornate decorations to the centers of their compasses, and they marked the eight main directions along the sides. These compasses were flat and square-shaped, and they rested on plates made of bronze.