Technology, science, and engineering
Advancements in weapons technology enhanced by gunpowder, including the
evolution of the early flamethrower, explosive grenade, firearm, cannon, and
land mine, enabled the Song Chinese to ward off their militant enemies until the
Song's ultimate collapse in the late 13th century. The Wujing Zongyao (武经总要) manuscript of 1044 was the first book in history to provide
formulas for gunpowder and their specified use in different types of bombs.
While engaged in a war with the Mongols, in the year 1259 the official Li Zengbo
wrote in his Kezhai Zagao, Xugaohou that the city of Qingzhou was manufacturing
one to two thousand strong iron-cased bomb shells a month, dispatching to
Xiangyang and Yingzhou about ten to twenty thousand such bombs at a time. In
turn, the invading Mongols employed northern Chinese soldiers and used these
same type of gunpowder weapons against the Song. By the 14th century the
firearm and cannon could also be found in Europe, India, and the Islamic Middle
East, during the early age of gunpowder warfare.
Measuring distance and mechanical navigation
As early as the Han Dynasty, when the state needed to effectively measure
distances traveled throughout the empire, the Chinese relied on the mechanical
odometer device. The Chinese
odometer came in the form of a wheeled-carriage, its inner gears functioning off
the rotated motion of the wheels, and specific units of distance—the Chinese li—marked
by the mechanical striking of a drum or bell for auditory alarm.
The specifications for the 11th century odometer were written by Chief
Chamberlain Lu Daolong, who is quoted extensively in the historical text of the
Song Shi (compiled by 1345). In the Song period, the odometer vehicle was also
combined with another old complex mechanical device known as the South Pointing
Chariot. This device, originally crafted by Ma Jun in the 3rd century,
incorporated a differential gear that allowed a figure mounted on the vehicle to
always point in the southern direction, no matter how the vehicle's wheels'
turned about. The device concept of the differential gear for this
navigational vehicle is now found in all modern automobiles in order to apply
the equal amount of torque to wheels rotating at different speeds.
Polymaths, inventions, and astronomy
Polymath figures such as the statesmen Shen Kuo and Su Song (1020–1101) embodied
advancements in all fields of study, including biology, botany, zoology,
geology, mineralogy, mechanics, horology, astronomy, pharmaceutical medicine,
archeology, mathematics, cartography, optics, art criticism, and more.
Shen Kuo was the first to discern magnetic declination of true north while experimenting with a compass. Shen theorized that geographical climates gradually shifted over time. He created a theory of land formation involving concepts accepted in modern geomorphology. He performed optical experiments with camera obscura just decades after Ibn al-Haytham was the first to do so. He also improved the designs of astronomical instruments such as the widened astronomical sighting tube, which allowed Shen Kuo to fix the position of the pole star (which had shifted over centuries of time). Shen Kuo was also known for hydraulic clockworks, as he invented a new overflow-tank clepsydra which had more efficient higher-order interpolation instead of linear interpolation in calibrating the measure of time.
Su Song was best known for his horology treatise written in 1092, which described and illustrated in great detail his hydraulic-powered, 12 metres (39 ft) tall astronomical clock tower built in Kaifeng. The clock tower featured large astronomical instruments of the armillary sphere and celestial globe, both driven by an early intermittently working escapement mechanism (roughly two centuries before the discrete verge escapement of true mechanical clocks appeared in medieval clockworks). In addition, Su Song's clock tower featured the world's first endless power-transmitting chain drive, an essential mechanical device found in many practical uses throughout the ages, such as the bicycle. Su's tower featured a rotating gear wheel with 133 clock jack manikins who were timed to rotate past shuttered windows while ringing gongs and bells, banging drums, and presenting announcement plaques. In his printed book, Su published a celestial atlas of five star charts. These star charts feature a cylindrical projection similar to Mercator projection, the latter being a cartographic innovation of Gerardus Mercator in 1569.
Mathematics and cartography
The Yu Ji Tu, or Map of the Tracks of Yu Gong, carved into stone in 1137,
located in the Stele Forest of Xi'an. This 3 ft (0.91 m) squared map features a
graduated scale of 100 li for each rectangular grid. China's coastline and river
systems are clearly defined and precisely pinpointed on the map. Yu Gong is in
reference to the Chinese deity described in the geographical chapter of the
Classic of History, dated 5th century BCE.There were many notable improvements
to Chinese mathematics during the Song era. The book published in 1261 by the
mathematician Yang Hui (c. 1238–1298) provided the earliest Chinese illustration
of Pascal's triangle, although it was described earlier around 1100 by Jia
Xian. Yang Hui also provided rules for constructing combinatorial
arrangements in magic squares, provided theoretical proof for Euclid's
forty-third proposition about parallelograms, and was the first to use negative
coefficients of 'x' in quadratic equations. Yang's contemporary Qin Jiushao
(c. 1202–1261) was the first to introduce the zero symbol into Chinese
mathematics; before this blank spaces were used instead of zeros in the
system of counting rods. He is also known for working with the Chinese
remainder theorem, Heron's formula, and astronomical data used in determining
the winter solstice. Qin's major work was the Mathematical Treatise in Nine
Sections published in 1247.
Geometry was essential to surveying and cartography. The earliest extant Chinese maps date to the 4th century BCE, yet it was not until the time of Pei Xiu (224–271) that topographical elevation, a formal rectangular grid system, and use of a standard graduated scale of distances was applied to terrain maps. Following a long tradition, Shen Kuo created a raised-relief map, while his other maps featured a uniform graduated scale of 1:900,000. A 3 ft (0.91 m) squared map of 1137—carved into a stone block—followed a uniform grid scale of 100 li for each gridded square, and accurately mapped the outline of the coasts and river systems of China, extending all the way to India. Furthermore, the world's oldest known terrain map in printed form comes from the edited encyclopedia of Yang Jia in 1155, which displayed western China without the formal grid system that was characteristic of more professionally made Chinese maps. Although gazetteers had existed since 52 CE during the Han Dynasty and gazetteers accompanied by illustrative maps (Chinese: tujing) since the Sui Dynasty, the illustrated gazetteer became much more common in the Song Dynasty, when the foremost concern was for illustrative gazetteers to serve political, administrative, and military purposes.
Movable type printing
One of the star charts from Su Song's Xin Yi Xiang Fa Yao published in 1092,
featuring cylindrical projection similar to Mercator projection and the
corrected position of the pole star thanks to Shen Kuo's astronomical
observations. Su Song's celestial atlas of five star maps is actually
the oldest in printed form. The innovation of movable type printing was made
by the artisan Bi Sheng (990–1051), first described by the scientist and
statesman Shen Kuo in his Dream Pool Essays of 1088. The collection of
Bi Sheng's original clay-fired typeface was passed on to one of Shen Kuo's
nephews, and was carefully preserved. Movable type enhanced the already
widespread use of woodblock methods of printing thousands of documents and
volumes of written literature, consumed eagerly by an increasingly literate
public. The advancement of printing had a deep impact on education and the
scholar-official class, since more books could be made faster while
mass-produced, printed books were cheaper in comparison to laborious handwritten
copies. The enhancement of widespread printing and print culture in the Song
period was thus a direct catalyst in the rise of social mobility and expansion
of the educated class of scholar elites, the latter which expanded dramatically
in size from the 11th to 13th centuries.
The movable type invented by Bi Sheng was ultimately trumped by the use of woodblock printing due to the limitations of the enormous Chinese character writing system, yet movable type printing continued to be used and was improved in later periods. The Yuan Dynasty scholar-official Wang Zhen (fl. 1290–1333) implemented a faster typesetting process, improved Bi's baked-clay movable type character set with a wooden one, and experimented with tin-metal movable type. The wealthy printing patron Hua Sui (1439–1513) of the Ming Dynasty established China's first metal movable type (using bronze) in 1490. In 1638 the Beijing Gazette switched their printing process from woodblock to movable type printing. Yet it was during the Qing Dynasty that massive printing projects began to employ movable type printing. This includes the printing of sixty-six copies of a 5,020 volume long encyclopedia in 1725, the Gujin Tushu Jicheng (Complete Collection of Illustrations and Writings from the Earliest to Current Times), which necessitated the crafting of 250,000 movable type characters cast in bronze. By the 19th century the European style printing press replaced the old Chinese methods of movable type, while traditional woodblock printing in modern East Asia is used sparsely and for aesthetic reasons.
Hydraulic engineering and nautics
A plan and side view of a canal pound lock, a concept pioneered in 984 by the Assistant Commissioner of Transport for Huainan, the engineer Qiao Weiyo. There were considerable advancements in hydraulic engineering and nautical technology during the Song Dynasty. The 10th century invention of the pound lock for canal systems allowed different water levels to be raised and lowered for separated segments of a canal, which significantly aided the safety of canal traffic and allowed for larger barges to pass through. There was the Song era innovation of watertight bulkhead compartments for ships that allowed possible damage to the hull without sinking. If ships were damaged, the Chinese of the 11th century discovered how to employ a drydock to repair boats while suspended out of water. There Song Chinese used crossbeams to brace the ribs of ships in order to strengthen them in a skeletal like structure. Stern-mounted rudders had been mounted on Chinese ships since the 1st century, as evidenced with a preserved Han tomb model of a ship. In the Song period the Chinese devised a way to mechanically raise and lower rudders in order for ships to travel in a wider range of water depths. The Song Chinese arranged the protruding teeth of anchors in a circular pattern instead of in one direction. David Graff and Robin Higham state that this arrangement "[made] them more reliable" for anchoring ships. Arguably the most important nautical innovation of the Song period was the introduction of the magnetic mariner's compass for navigation at sea. The magnetic compass was first written of by Shen Kuo in his Dream Pool Essays of 1088, as well as Zhu Yu in his Pingzhou Table Talks published in 1119.
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