Machines of Ancient China
Vehicles included both manual, and animal-drawn carts. They were some of the oldest means of transportation, hauling and also military vehicles. To use an animal to pull a cart, to operate a mill, or to plow the field, an effective harness first had to be custom made to address the unique shape and form of the animal. The invention of the harness was an outstanding achievement which opened the door to many other developments. The compass-equipped “south-pointing chariot” (zhinan che) and an odometer-equipped chariot called the “li-recording drum chariot” (jili guche) or hodometer were two brilliant inventions that incorporated machines in vehicles. As for animal powered machines, the eight-wheeled ox-powered mill (niuzhuan bamo) and the field mill (chemo) were first invented by the Chinese in ancient times.
To merely go throughout life breaking one’s back for daily meals did not appeal to them. They created tools such as the wheelbarrow and trip hammer that would help alleviate the workload of everyday life. They created games such as Cu Ju and Chui Wan that would allow one to enjoy life. They created practices and medicine to sustain life. They created things such as the early seismograph and star maps to understand life and the world around them (Hochman, Karen). They also created weapons, but not with the primary purpose of destroying life, but with the purpose of protecting life and protecting order.
Major mechanical elements and mechanisms of ancient Chinese machines, such as linkage mechanisms, cam mechanisms, gear mechanisms, and flexible connecting mechanisms (ropes and chains), were invented.
Kleeman, Terry F., and Tracy Barrett. The Ancient Chinese World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Hochman, Karen. “Salt History.” Gourmet Food Magazine Website: The Nibble Gourmet
Murphey, Rhoads. A History of Asia. 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ [etc: Pearson Education, 2009.