"Hey, what time is it?" This phrase is common among all people, and the reason we can utter these annoying words is because of the clock. Without the clock we wouldn't know what time it is, and because of the busy schedule held by pretty much everyone, our lives would be in shambles. So I say thank you to the Chinese for inventing such a magnificent thing, even if one of the earliest models was 30 feet high.
The first mechanical clock was made in 723 A.D. by a monk and mathematician I-Hsing. It was an astronomical clock and he called it the "Water Driven Spherical Birds-Eye-View Map of The Heavens". In a few years after it was built the bronze and iron mechanism started to corrode, and in cold weather the water would freeze. In 976 A.D. Chang Ssu Hsiin built the same clock except he used mercury instead of water, but few details of this clock survive. This was the first successful clock that didn't have serious defects.
A clock made by Su Sung, an astronomer, on the order of emperor Ting Zong in 1090 was 30 feet tall and was used to clock the planets and stars, and to keep track of the time. On the top was a spherical astronomical instrument used to measure the stars and driven by the clock's giant water-powered mechanism. Inside the tower was a smaller celestial globe whose movements were the same as the one on the roof and which could be viewed in bad weather or if the one on the roof was crowded. On the front of the tower was a pagoda-like structure of five floors, each housing numerous wooden puppets. The puppets would appear about every quarter of an hour day and night, and would play drums, bells, gongs, and string instruments. All the puppets' movements were controlled by the clock's machinery.
The clock was powered by a huge water wheel with scoops on the ends of each blade. Water dripped into a scoop until it was full,, and then the wheel would turn, causing the water in the scoop to be poured out into a basin and the next scoop to progress and start the process all over again. When the wheel turned the puppets would change and so would the astronomical clocks.
Su Sung's clock ran from 1090-1126, when it was moved to Peking, were it stood for several more years.
The design for these Chinese clocks was later copied by the Europeans, and they were even originally credited for first inventing them. The clocks made by the Chinese are to me one of the best things that the Chinese invented. They look astounding in pictures, but must have been breath taking in real life. (Pies are on the next page).
B I B L I 0 G R P H Y
Cotterel, Arthur. Eyewitness Books. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1994
Williams, Suzanne. Made in China. Berkley: Pacific View Press, 1996
Temple, Robert. The Genius of China. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986
James, Peter and Thorpe, Nick. Lost Discoveries. New York: Ballan The Books, 1994
Ronan, Colin. Lost Discoveries. New York: McGraw-Hill book Company, 1973