Ancient history of machinery in China

China is one of the earliest countries in the world in terms of mechanical development. There are many inventions and creations in machinery in ancient China, which have their own characteristics in the utilization of power and the design of mechanical structures. Many special machines were designed and applied, such as the guiding car, the geodetic instrument and the incense burner in the middle (see color picture [Silver incense burner in the middle of the Tang Dynasty, excavated in 1963 in Shapo Village, Xi’an. Hemisphere incense burner because of gravity as] [with, no matter how the sphere shell rolls, the mouth of the furnace always remains horizontal]), are unique, ancient metal smelting and casting technology was invented earlier, and technically exquisite. For example, the Shang and Zhou bronzes are simple and majestic, while the Spring and Autumn bronzes are slender and delicate, forming a unique style of ancient Chinese bronzes. The earliest bronzes in China have been found, such as the bronze knife excavated in Majiayao, Dongxiang, Gansu, which is about 4800 years old.

Before Spring and Autumn Period (before 770 B.C.)

About 400,000 to 500,000 years ago, roughly processed scrapers, slashers and trigonous pointed tools appeared in China. 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, grinding technology appeared, many stone tools were smooth and sharp, and there were single-edged, double-edged, convex-edged, concave-edged and rounded-edged. 28,000 years ago, the bow and arrow appeared, which was one of the earliest inventions in machinery. The potter’s wheel (a pottery turning table) appeared between 8000 and 2800 B.C. Agricultural tools appeared about 6000 to 5000 BC, in addition to stone axes and knives, there are stone hoes, stone shovels, stone scythes, clam scythes, bone scythes and bone plows. The stone axe and stone knife have been ground with hard sand.

Before Xia Dynasty and Xia Dynasty

The spokes without spokes and various wheels with spokes appeared successively. During the Yin and Shang Dynasties and the Western Zhou Dynasty, there were two-wheeled vehicles of considerable sophistication (see Ancient Chinese Vehicles). Canoes and rafts were used for water transportation. In the late Neolithic period, people were able to use stone and clay models to cast rudimentary tools and weapons.

Shang and Yin Periods

With the development of handicraft production and the improvement of technology, a splendid bronze culture was formed. The bronze smelting and casting technology was highly developed (see Ancient Chinese Bronze Smelting and Casting Technology), and the bronze casting of Simuwu Tripod weighed 875 kg, and the bronze casting of Zenghoub Zunpan in the Spring and Autumn Period was very fine. 

Spring and Autumn to Han and Wei period (770 BC ~ 265 AD)

This period is a period of ancient Chinese machinery began to develop more quickly.
Spring and Autumn period iron and pig iron smelting and casting technology (see ancient Chinese cast iron technology) began to appear. The emergence of black-centered malleable cast iron, white-centered malleable cast iron and forged steel accelerated the transition from copper to iron.
After the mid Spring and Autumn period, the lost wax casting method and low melting point alloy casting and welding technology were invented.

Warring States period

During the Warring States period, there was also the process of stack casting and anchor chain casting. The earliest surviving handicraft monograph is “Kaogongji” circulated during the Warring States period, in which the manufacturing process of wheels is recorded. The elasticity of the bow, the speed of arrow shooting and the stability of flight were all explored in depth.

Han Dynasty

The middle of the Western Han Dynasty has refined gray cast iron, and the emergence of thin-walled cast iron parts with a wall thickness of 3 to 5 mm. Cast iron heat treatment technology has also been developed.
The Han crossbow had eight specifications, from 1 to 10 stones, and the formation of these specifications indicates that the standard of mechanical manufacture was initially established in the Han Dynasty. The names of the workers, forgers and grinders were left on the crossbow machine (see bows and crossbows).
During the Han Dynasty, there were various types of ships and a large number of three- and four-story cabin ships. Some ships were equipped with stern rudders and high-efficiency propulsion tools sculls. The incense burner in the Western Han Dynasty was exquisitely constructed. No matter how the spherical incense burner rolled, the hemispherical body in the center of the burner could often maintain a horizontal state.