Measuring Earthquakes During the Han Dynasty

July 6, 2010

When critics accuse the Chinese of stealing technology from the West, consider that China was the most technologically advanced nation in the world at one time. In fact, the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) put the Roman Empire (27 BC – 476 AD) to shame.

One example of China’s technological abilities was when the first seismograph was invented in 132 AD.  When Zhang Heng‘s device measured an earthquake in 134 AD, Zhang predicted the location. Han Ministers didn’t believe the scientist. Then a courier arrived and reported that an earthquake had taken place where Zhang said it did. For more information about Zhang Heng, see China Culture.

Zhang Heng's seismograph

In 1951, Chinese scientists from China’s National Museum worked on recreating Zhang Heng’s seismograph. Since there was a limited amount of information, it took until 2007 to complete the reconstruction.

In comparison, it wasn’t until the 18th century (AD) that there is any record that Western scientists worked on developing a seismograph.

Discover more about Earthquakes


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.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.