Zhang Heng's odometer, a mechanical carriage.

The Famous Ancient Chinese Inventions of Zhang Heng

(Read the article on one page)

Odometer and the south-pointing chariot

Ancient Chinese texts describe the mechanical carriage’s functions. After 1  li (1,640 feet) was traversed, a mechanically driven wooden figure struck a drum, and after 10  li had been covered, another wooden figure struck a gong or a bell with its mechanically operated arm.

The south-pointing chariot, an ancient Chinese 2-wheeled vehicle with a figure that always pointed south and acted as a compass, was another mechanical device credited to Zhang Heng.

Odometer cart from a stone rubbing of an Eastern Han Dynasty tomb, c. 125 AD. ( Public Domain )

Posthumous Honors

In honor of Zhang’s achievements in science and technology, his friend Cui Ziyu (Cui Yuan) wrote a memorial inscription on his burial stele, which has been preserved. “[Zhang Heng’s] mathematical computations exhausted [the riddles of] the heavens and the Earth…”

Several things have been named after Zhang in modern times, including the lunar crater Chang Heng, the 1802 Zhang Heng asteroid, and the mineral Zhanghengite in recognition of the greatness of Zhang’s ancient Chinese inventions.

Zhang Heng (AD 78-139) was a Chinese astronomer, mathematician, inventor, geographer, cartographer, artist, poet, statesman, and literary scholar from Nanyang, Henan Province, China.

Zhang Heng (AD 78-139) was a Chinese astronomer, mathematician, inventor, geographer, cartographer, artist, poet, statesman, and literary scholar from Nanyang, Henan Province, China. (Image:  Wikimedia Commons  / CC0 1.0 )

Top image: Zhang Heng's odometer, a mechanical carriage. (Image:  wikipedia / CC0 1.0 )

The article, originally titled ‘ Zhang Heng’s Famous Ancient Chinese Inventions ’ by Christina Riverland was published on The Vision Times and has been republished under a Creative Commons license.

References:

Asiapac Editorial. (2004).  Origins of Chinese Science and Technology . Translated by Yang Liping and Y.N. Han. Singapore: Asiapac Books Pte. Ltd. ISBN 9812293760.

Balchin, Jon. (2003).  Science: 100 Scientists Who Changed the World . New York: Enchanted Lion Books. ISBN 1-59270-017-9.

Barbieri-Low, Anthony J. (2007).  Artisans in Early Imperial China . Seattle & London: University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-98713-8.

Crespigny, Rafe de. (2007).  A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23-220CE) . Leiden: Koninklijke Brill. ISBN 90-04-15605-4.

Loewe, Michael. (2005).  Faith, Myth and Reason in Han China . Indianapolis: Hacket Publishing Company, Inc. ISBN 0872207560.

Needham, Joseph (1986).  Science and Civilization in China: Volume 3, Mathematics and the Sciences of the Heavens and the Earth . Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd.

Temple, Robert. (1986).  The Genius of China: 3,000 Years of Science, Discovery, and Invention . With a forward by Joseph Needham. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc. ISBN: 0233002022.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

The fall of Icarus, circa 1635.
Daedalus, the legendary inventor of ancient Greek myth, joined the court of Minos, the ruler of Crete, as the king's star engineer. Daedalus was credited with creating myriad marvels, from carpenter's tools to animated statues. It was Daedalus who designed and built the bewildering Cretan Labyrinth as a prison for Minos' monstrous son, the Minotaur. Every year, the Athenians were compelled to send fourteen young men and women to be sacrificed to the cannibal with the bull's head.

Myths & Legends

The Smelliest Women of Ancient Greece: Jason and the Argonauts Get Fragrant
We all know Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love and beauty, made sure that she was worshipped by punishing those who ignored her altars. One brief appearance of this wrath in the tale of Jason and the Argonauts turned into a particularly fragrant episode.

Ancient Places

Inside one of the tunnels under Valetta, Malta.
Hordes of tourists visit the Mediterranean island of Malta each year to enjoy the above ground attractions the country has to offer such as breath-taking sandy beaches, historical buildings, and traditional cuisine. Yet, there is also a subterranean world hidden beneath the island’s surface. These are the rumored secret tunnels of Malta.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article