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Chinese compass (Chinese travel sun-clock with compass needle from first Kunstkamera collections)

(World of an Object)

An opening of temporary exhibition of “World of an Object” series took place on October 2, 2004 MAE (Kunstkamera) RAS. Chinese travel sun-clock with compass needle from first Kunstkamera collections are demonstrated.

Chinese civilization is the only one that has uninterrupted succession from far antiquity to our days. Many inventions that hastened humanity’s development were made in China. Compass, paper, book printing, powder can be given as example.

The founder of Petersburg Kunstkamera tsar Peter I took interest in Russia’s East neighbours and Chinese ancient culture. He purchased Chinese things in Europe himself and sent men to China in order to establish diplomatic and trade relations. That’s how the exposed instrument got to Kunstkamera.

At Zhou time (XII-III centuries B.C.) Chinese have already used compass and sun-clock for astronomical observations. Upper clock dial was used, supposedly, for use in “summer” period (from spring to autumn), and lower one for “winter”. Using compass needle the instrument was orientated in North-South direction.

The Chinese learned to make artificial magnets that saved their abilities for longer time that natural magnetic iron by VI cent. This knowledge and great skills of work with instruments allowed Chinese to discover the phenomenon of magnetic deviation, which is mismatch of magnetic and geographic meridians, in XI cent. Since that time they had started to equip their sea ships with compass and sun-clock. Enormous Chinese ships with crews of hundreds men carrying year reserves of food had traveled round Asia in South and reached Eastern coast of Africa.

At the same time, these objects have become an important instrument of Chinese geomancy – a teaching about interaction of human and nature.

The exhibition was prepared for Chinese culture Festival in St.Petersburg. General Consul of PRC in St. Petersburg Mr. Li Hueylay has spoken on the opening.