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::: Water-powered Armillary & Celestial Tower

The impressive towerThe impressive tower, erected at the entrance to the Chinese Science Hall, is a full-scale working model of Su Sung astronomical clock tower. It serves two purposes: astronomical observation and telling of time. Come and witness the elaborate masterpiece of the great Chinese polymath reconstructed at the Museum.

In ancient China, it was believed that what was happening in the heavens was a direct reflection of what was to happen on Earth. Thus, it was the job of the court astronomer to observe the patterns of the stars and planets and report his interpretations to the emperor, who based his decisions on this information. In 1086 when it was the Northern Sung Dynasty, a court astronomer named Su Sung was ordered to reconstruct an armillary sphere for a new clock tower in the capital city, Kaifeng. Seven years later in 1093, Su Sung completed his greatest project -- this approximately 40-foot-high water-powered astronomical clock tower.

This clock tower had many impressive features, such as the water-powered, rotating armillary sphere crowning the top-level (weighing some 10 to 20 tons), a bronze celestial globe located in the middle that was 4.5 feet in diameter, mechanically-timed and rotating manikins dressed in miniature Chinese clothes that would exit miniature opening doors to announce the time of day (on designated reading plaques, ringing bells and gongs, or beating drums), a sophisticated use of oblique gears and an escapement mechanism, as well as an exterior facade of a fanciful Chinese pagoda. The curators and staff members of the Museum started the construction work of this full-scale model of Su Sung astronomical clock tower in 1987. They buried their noses into Su Sung "Xin Yin Xiang Fa Yao" (Essentials of a New Method for Mechanizing the Rotation of an Armillary Sphere and a Celestial Globe), drew the draft, constructed the tower, tested over and over again, asked for assistance from scholars and specialist, and completed the whole work in 1993.

This great tower is not only the first life-size working model of Su Sung masterpiece in the world, but a visually stunning and vitally important addition to the Chinese Science Hall at the Museum - a welcome mat and bridge to the Chinese Science & Technology Gallery on the 1st floor and the Chinese Spiritual Life Gallery on the 2nd floor. After enjoying the manikins announce the time, don't forget to go upstairs to take a view at the amazing armillary sphere and celestial globe.

Back Top 2012/07/12 updated *