The Machines of Ancient China — Part 4/4

October 29, 2010

Qin Shi Huangdi (259 to 210 BC), the first emperor who unified China, summoned 700,000 people to build his tomb. These people probably worked at least ten years or longer.

Modern day workshops that duplicated what it took to create the Terra Cotta warriors used ancient materials and methods. It took twenty days to complete one warrior.  Each warrior used an average of 130 kilos or 286 pounds of clay.

To complete the entire army, more than one thousand tons was needed.

Another Chinese inventor during the Song Dynasty created a machine known as the Cosmic Engine, the ancient world’s astronomical computer.

Su Song was the inventor.  The Cosmic Engine was so complicated that for centuries no one (even Westerners) understood how it worked. Today, few westerners know that it existed.

However, records show that the Cosmic Engine was created in 1092 AD.

The Cosmic Engine calculated time—not just hours and minutes but weeks, months and seasons reflecting how the earth moves around the sun. It also calculated how the earth and planets moved through space.

The Cosmic Engine was five stories tall and its working innards are complex.

Today, we know exactly how this device was created since Su Song left detailed blueprints and directions of exactly how it was built. Song’s Cosmic Engine worked from the eleventh century until enemies of the Song Dynasty destroyed it.

Using Song’s blueprints, the Science and Technology Museum in Beijing built a fully accurate reconstruction. Another reconstruction exists in London.

This ingenious device led to the invention of Western clocks centuries later.

Today, we know that many of the inventions and discoveries the modern world is built on originated in ancient Imperial China.

Return to the Machines of Ancient China – Part 3 or to discover more inventions see China Points the Way

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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