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              Home History and Culture Sundial and Copper Kettle Clepsydra
              Sundial and Copper Kettle Clepsydra
              Learn Chinese - History and Culture

              ????? The Sundial
              In ancient China, people calculated time according to the position of the sun, the moon and stars in the sky. However, such method was not very accurate. Afterwards, by watching the sun, someone designed a kind of time-counter to identify the time—the sundial (rì guǐ 日晷).

              Copper Kettle ClepsydraThe sundial is a round plate, whose surface is carved with 12 degrees indicating 12 hours. And there is a copper needle erected in the center of the sundial’s surface. Under the sun, the shadow of the copper needle moves slowly on the surface with the movement of the sun, that is, when the shadow of the copper needle moves to a certain degree, it is the time that the degree indicates. In this way, the calculation of time is more accurate.

              Besides the sundial, people in ancient China also used the copper kettle clepsydra (tong hú dī lòu 銅壺滴漏) to calculate time, because when it is cloudy or at night, the sundial doesn’t function. The earliest clepsydra was copper pot holding water with a small hole at the bottom and a pole with scales inserting in the center. When the water dropped through the small hole, people would determine the time by the scale on the pole with the decline of the water level. And gradually, the clepsydra evolved into a set of four pots, which were placed in order on a four-level wooden stand. The one on the highest level is called “the Sun Pot”(rì hú 日壺), and the other three pots below it are named “the Moon Pot”(yuè hú 月壺), "the Star Pot”(xīng hú 星壺) and “the Water-receiving Pot”(shòu shuǐ hú 授水壺). The Sun Pot, the Moon Pot and the Star Pot all have a hole at the bottom so that water can drop through it and Water-receiving Pot has a gauge inside. The water drops from the Sun Pot into the Moon Pot and then into the Star Pot and finally into the Water-receiving Pot. As more and more water drops into the Water-receiving Pot, the gauge gradually rises due to the buoyancy of water. Thus people could identify the time by observing the very scale of the gauge emerging above the water. The more levels a clepsydra has, the more accurate it is to calculate the time.

              The sundial and cooper kettle clepsydra are the important timing devices in ancient China. Their accuracy is amazing and they also provide precious materials for research on the development of science and technology in ancient China.

              日晷和銅壺滴漏
              The Sundial????? 在中國古代,由于沒有鐘表,人們便根據日月星辰在空中的位置來判斷時間。但是這種判斷并不準確。后來人們便發明了一種利用太陽測定石刻的定時器——日晷。日晷通常由銅制的指針和石制的圓盤組成。銅制的指針叫做“晷針”,垂直地穿過圓盤中心,起著圭表中立竿的作用,因此,晷針又叫“表”,石制的圓盤叫做“晷面”,安放在石臺上,呈南高北低,使晷面平行于天赤道面,這樣,晷針的上端正好指向北天極,下端正好指向南天極。在晷面的正反兩面刻劃出12個大格,每個大格代表兩個小時。當太陽光照在日晷上時,晷針的影子就會投向晷面,太陽由東向西移動,投向晷面的晷針影子也慢慢地由西向東移動。于是,移動著的晷針影子好像是現代鐘表的指針,晷面則是鐘表的表面,以此來顯示時刻。

              Copper Kettle Clepsydra????? 那時候人們除使用日晷計時以外,銅壺滴漏也是一種重要的計時儀器。開始時使用單只漏壺,后來出現由多只漏壺組成的復式漏壺。壺身上還刻有制作年份和人員的名字。在銅壺滴漏木制底座上自上而下依次安放著日壺、月壺、星壺、受水壺四個銅制大壺,通高264.4厘米。日壺中的水以恒定的流量滴入下層的月壺,月壺中的水也以同樣的流量滴入到下層的星壺之中,之后星壺中的水再滴入下層的受水壺。受水壺的壺蓋正中立有一個銅表尺,上邊刻有12個時辰的刻度。銅尺前放有一個木制的浮箭,木制浮箭的下端是一塊木板,叫作浮舟。受水壺中的水隨時間的推移而增加,浮舟便托起木箭緩緩上升。將木箭的頂端與銅表尺上的刻度對照,就可以知道當時的時間了。

              ????? 銅壺滴漏與日晷一樣是我國古代重要的計時工具,它的精確度之高令人驚訝。同時也為研究古代天文、歷法提供了準確的參考尺度。
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