Horloge armillaire à eau
de Kaifeng, 1092
Texte de George-Marie
Av. Cécil 1, 1007 Lausanne
Jacques PIMPANEAU Chine Culture et Traditions,
Ed Philippe Picquier
Page 110: "l'horloge à Kaifeng de 1092", "globe
céleste (hunxiang) une sphère armillaire
(hunyi)", "en effet bien avant Tycho
Brahe, les Chinois localisaient la position d'une étoile
d'après sa distance à l'étoile polaire
et son degré sur l'équateur céleste
qui était divisé en xiu"
Sopie Ann TERISSE Prestigious Watches,
BW Publishing, Inc in association with Rizzoli International
in 1049 during the Northern Song Dynasty, the 13-story
octagonal Iron Tower is situated in the Iron Tower Park
in Kaifeng, 55.88 meters in height. It has been renowned
for its excellent, exquisitely-designed wooden structure.
The bricks with carved trenches fit together perfectly.
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||960 - 1127
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||1279 - 1368
Situated on the southern bank of
the Yellow River, Kaifeng is an important city in Henan
province, covering an area of 319 square miles with
a population of half a million.
With a recorded history close to 3,000 years, Kaifeng
is known as one of the six major centers of ancient
Chinese civilization. As early as the Yin-Shang period
(1334-1066 B.C.), when Chinese society turned away from
nomadic life to an agricultural existence, a city was
built there. It then became the capital of the Kingdom
of Wei in the Warring Sates Period (475-331 B.C.), the
Liang, Han and Zhou dynasties of the five Dynasties
(907-960). the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1137) and
the Jin Dynasty (1115-1334). The Northern Song, in particular,
established its capital in Kaifeng for 168 years. The
Eastern Capital, as Kaifeng was then called, was the
political, economic and cultural center of the whole
country, with well-developed handicrafts, bustling commerce
and good communication facilities. An old saying went
that "Kaifeng was unsurpassed anywhere in splendor and
Repeated Yellow River floods, caused damage to the ancient
capital of Kaifeng, and many of its historical relics
were destroyed. Among those that have survived are the
"Iron" Pagoda, Pota Pagoda, Dragon Pavilion, Xiangguo
Monastery, King Yu's Terrace and Yanqing Taoist Temple.
These are all fine works of architecture. Their majestic
beauty bears testimony to the wisdom and the high cultural
and artistic level their creators attained.
The city today has well-developed commerce, transport,
communications and educational facilities, and medical
and public health services. The Yellow River that flooded
its banks and wrought havoc for a thousand years has
been harnessed. The liuyuan Ferry at Kaifeng is now
open to tourists as a scenic spot.
Believe it or not there is a Jewish community in Kaifeng
made up of several Chinese Jews. The ancestors of these
jews were said to have arrived in China from Persia
and India during the Tang Dynasty.
For centuries, the Jews of Kaifeng uttered the prescribed
daily and Sabbath prayers, kept their religious holidays
and observed strict diets
Kaifeng was a Song Dynasty capital for many years. Ask
your guide to take you to the "Song City", a street
flanked by small shops and taverns a thousand years
The street is now under reconstruction on the old Imperial
Street between the ancient imperial palace and another
street called Sihoujie.
The palace has already been restored, and is open to
the public. And another major part of the street, Xuandemen,
will soon be completed.
Clepsydra and Water Wheels
The clepsydra, or water stealer,
was a toll created by the Greeks. To measure time, they
marked the regulated flow of water through a small opening,
such as a bucket with a tiny hole pierced in the bottom.
Farmlands from this time were given an allotted supply
of water to measure services. When the bucket ran dry,
the farmer would pay for that "bucketful"
Because recorded examples of the various clepsydras
are rare, early water clocks are often missing from
horological timelines. There are some examples. Buddhist
monk and mathematician I-Hsing developed an astronomical
clockwork instrument in 723 A.D. that he called the
"Water-Driven Spherical Bird's-Eye-View Map of
the Heavens." In addition, animal-powered mills
known as "dry-water mills" appeared in China
as early as 175 A.D. They had as their precursors hydraulic
mills. The Chinese are also credited for creating what
is believed to be the first water-based clock, though
there is speculation that examples also existed in Islam.
One Islamic clock was driven by the weight of a large
float, perhaps a block of wood, contained in a tank
from which water would drain at a controlled speed.
As the float descended with the falling water level,
its weight operated the clock mechanism.
The most famous water clock, however, was made in China.
In 1090, in the capital of the Northern Sung dynasty,
a government official named Su Sung constructed a 40-foot
clock which he called the "Cosmic Engine."
He built the clock using a wooden model and later cast
the working parts in bronze. The towering structure
had a complex interior mechanism described by contemporaries
as "the soul of the time keeping machine."
The mechanism and its "hooks, pins, interlocking
rods, coupling devices, and locks checking mutually."
Is believed to be the world's first escapement. This
is a mechanism used in modern clocks, consisting of
a rotating, notched wheel and an anchor, which alternately
engages and disengages to control the movement of the
Sung's clock was powered by water held in a reservoir
which was refilled periodically by a manually operated
noria. The noria resembled a ferris wheel and consisted
of a wheel with buckets attached to its rim. The water
from the reservoir was siphoned to a constant level
water tank, where it was scooped up by a large waterwheel
which turned the clock. The waterwheel turned a series
of shafts, gears, and wheels, which in turn worked the
bells and drums that announced the time.
Simultaneously, the escapement kept the movement of
an even pace by a complex arrangement of balances, counterweights,
and locks. Together these mechanisms divided the flow
of water into equal parts by repeated weighing, automatically
dividing the revolution of the wheel into equal intervals.
Another element of Sung's water clock was its celestial
globe, a spherical model showing the positions of the
stars and other celestial bodies. The clock also contain
an armillary sphere, another astrological model consisting
of several solid rings, all circles of a single sphere,
used to display relationship among the principal planets.
A chain continually and slowly turned the armillary
sphere and globe.
The clock's 40-foot tower was destroyed by the Chin
Tartars, who captured Kaifeng in1126 and brought the
clock to Peking. Sung's creation has only recently been
recognized as a precursor to modern clock making. Other
mishaps threatened the clock's place in history. In
1195 the armillary sphere was struck by lightening but
later repaired. Then, the precious celestial globe was
melted down for scrap and ruined. By the time the Mongols
took Peking as their own capital in 1264, the clock
itself wasn't working. Ultimately, even Sung's magnificent
escapement was lost, and Chinese clockmakers returned
to using the clepsydra. In the 14th century, the remains
of Su Sung's mechanism were completely destroyed when
the Ming dynasty captured Peking. A contemporary sadly
reported, "Now it is said that the design is no
longer known, even to the descendants of Su Sung himself."
So in the 17th century, when Jesuit missionaries brought
a European mechanical clock to China, the device was
hailed by the Chinese as a new European invention of
dazzling ingenuity." Sung's work had been forgotten.
While the early water clocks created by I-Hsing and
Su Sung overcame the challenge of darkness faced by
the sundial, they also had a basic flaw: they froze
in cold weather. The sand hourglass remedied that problem
but was subject to harden with moisture absorption until
the glassmaker's art evolved and glass could be made
watertight. Even candle-clocks, which seemed a promising
solution, were confined to the use by the wealthy due
to their need for constant upkeep.
Despite their faults, however, the water clocks evolved
into a system of time measurement which became widely
used throughout Europe. A 1268 slate was found by the
Abbey of Villers outside Brussels, Belgium, which commanded:
"You shall pour water from the little pot that
is there, into the reservoir until it reaches the prescribed
level, and you must do the same when you set the clock
after compline, the final evening service, so that you
may sleep soundly." Similarly, a Rule for Cistercian
monks stated that the "sacrist roused by the sound
of the clock shall ring the church bell."
Prestigious Watches, Edited by Sophie Ann Terrisse,
Au niveau de la représentation de l'horloge armillaire,
j'ai vu une seconde représentation très
différente. Elle figure en couverture d'un ouvrage
Heavenly Clockwork, The great astronomical clocks
of medieval China, Joseph Needham, Wang Ling and
Derek J. de Solla Price, Second edition with supplement
by John H Combridge. (photocopie de faible qualité)
Petite recherche bilingue sur l'horloge armillaire de
Kaifeng, via Internet et diverses documentations et