An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Zhuqi tushuo 諸器圖說

Jun 17, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Zhuqi tushuo 諸器圖說 "Illustrated book of various machines" is a book on Western technology compiled by Wang Zheng 王徵 (1571?-1644) during the late Ming period 明 (1368-1644). The book was finished in 1627. It is found as an appendix to the book Yuanfang qiqi tushuo 遠西奇器圖說 "Illustrated book of marvelous machines of the far west" in the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書, as well as in the series Shoushange congshu 守山閣叢書 and Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編.

Wang Zheng, courtesy name Liangfu 良甫 or Kuixin 葵心, hailed form Jingyang 涇陽 (today's Guanzhong 關中, Shaanxi) and obtained his jinshi degree in 1622. He was prefectural judge (tuiguan 推官) of Yangzhou 揚州 and assistant army supervisor (jianjun qianshi 監軍僉事) of Denglai 登萊. Wang was acquainted with the German Jesuit missionary Johann Schreck (Deng Yuhan 鄧玉函, 1576-1630), who instructed him in the latest news about machinery and tools used in Europe since antiquity, and whom Wang supported in the compilation and translation of the book Qiqi tushuo. Based on this knowledge, Wang Zheng wrote his book, but is also known for quite a few rather traditional writings on philosophy and social matters like Lianglilüe 兩理略, Liaoxindan 了心丹, Baizi jie 百子解, Xueyong jie 學庸解, Tianwen ci 天問辭, Shiyue 士約, Bingyue 兵約, Yuan zhenren zhuan 元真人傳, Lidai fameng biandao shuo 歷代發蒙辨道說 or Shanju yong 山居咏.

Wang's book is based on Schreck's illustrated text Qiqi tushuo, and focuses on the physical and mechanical aspects of various instruments and machines invented in Europe. The book includes eleven drawings, to which detailed descriptions are attached which relate the instruments' production and use. The first image is a single-cylinder force-pump (hongxi 虹吸), and the second one a "drinking heron" (heyin 鶴飲), which are flume-beamed swapes to ladle water from a canal to an adjacent field. Wang was convinced that such machines would be able to reduce the labour intensity and raise production. The book also describes a crank-operated man-power mill with right-angle gearing (lunji 輪激, once described by Vitruvius, c. 80-c. 15 BCE), a wind mill operated directly by horizontal vanes or sails of plaited bamboo (fengwei 風磑), an "automatic", weight-driven geared mill (zixing mo 自行磨), an "automatic", weight-driven vehicle (zixing che 自行車, once described by Heron of Alexandria, fl. 60 CE), a combined clock (lunhu 輪壺, a Western verge-and-foliot weight-drive system for day hours and a Chinese lead-shot scoop-wheel or striking clepsydra for night-watches), a winch-driven cable plough (daigeng 代耕, actually dating from the Tang period), and parts for an arcuballista trigger (xinzhi liannuu san xing 新製連弩散形, nuzhuang 弩牀, nuji 弩機). The figures presented in the book are of relatively good quality.

The illustration of the ploughing machine was also circulating as a book of its own, with the title Daigeng jia tushuo 代耕架圖說, and with additional text written by Ma Yan 馬彥, who attempted to spread the use of this practical tool.

The Zhuqi tushuo was finished in 1626 and published with the title Xinzhi zhuqi tushuo 新制諸器圖說. An enlarged version from 1640 is called Elajiji zhuqi tushuo 額辣濟齊諸器圖說, Elajiya youzao zhuqi tushuo 額辣濟亞牖造諸器圖說 (the first word in these two titles is the Chinese transcription of the Latin word gratia "grace [of God]") or Zhuqi tushuo xiaogao 諸器圖說小稿. The images described in the text are completely missing. The last available copy of this text was owned by the District Library of Tianshui 天水縣圖書館, Gansu, but the copy is lost.

Right: Water ladles, left: winch for dragging ploughs Shoushange congshu 守山閣叢書 edition.
以堅木作轆轤二具,各徑六寸,長尺有六寸,空其中,兩端設軹,貫於軸,以利轉為度。軸兩端為方枘,入架木內,期無搖動。 [Construct] two machines [in the following way]: A roller (lulu 轆轤) is made of solid wood, six inches (cun 寸, see weights and measures) in diameter and six inches long. The core of the rollers is removed, and axles inserted which join to a square piece (zhou 軸) as an attachment, so as to facilitate turning the rollers degree-wise. The two attachments are inserted into the wooden frame (jia 架) to prevent any undesired movement.
架木前寬後窄,前高後低,每邊兩枝則前短而後長,長則三尺有奇,短止二尺三寸,兩枝相合,如「人」字樣。 The frame is wider at the front than at the back, and higher at the front. The two arms (zhi 枝) on each side are shorter at the front than at the back, with a length of three feet (chi 尺) odd for the longer one, and only two feet and three inches for the shorter part. The two arms are tied to each other and have thus the shape of the character 人.
即於「人」字交合處作方孔安其軸,兩「人」字相合,安軸兩端。又於兩「人」字兩足各橫安一棖木,則架成矣。 In the place where the two arms meet, the axle of the roller is inserted into a square hole. In the place where the two wings of the machine are expected to join, insert the axle with both ends. At the foot of the machine, the two wings are strengthened by a prop along the whole side to form a complete frame.
架之後,長盡處安橫桄桄,置兩立柱,長八寸,上平鋪以寬板,便人坐而好用力耳。 At the rear side of the frame, close to the end, attach a traverse stick with two vertical pieces on it, eight inches long, and upon which a wide board is laid, so that a man can sit on it and apply his muscles.
先於轆轤兩端盡處,十字安木橛,各長一尺有奇。其十字兩頭反以不對為妙。 At first, attach crosswise just towards the outer parts of the roller some wooden pegs (jue 橛), each one foot long. The placement of the pegs must not be congruent.
轆轤中纏以索,索長六丈,度六丈之中安一小鐵環。鐵環者,所以安犁之曳鉤者也。兩轆轤兩人對設於三丈之地,其索之兩端各係一轆轤中,而犁安鐵環之內。一人坐架,手挽其橛,則犁自行矣。 A rope is wrapped around the roller(s) [of both machines], six-zhang 丈 long. Just in the middle of the ropes and a small iron ring is placed which serves as a drawing hook to steer the plough. The two roller machines with the handlers are placed opposite each other at a distance of three zhang. While the two ends of the rope were attached to the roller, the plow moves inside the area determined by the iron ring. One person sits on the frame [of each machine], moves the pegs of the roller, and thus the plow will move on its own.
Note: The plough is placed between the two machines and drawn from the one to the other.
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蜀漢 (221-263)