Chinese astronomical clock

Contributed by Oriental Museum Durham

Chinese astronomical clock

This remarkable astronomical clock is one of only two known examples worldwide. Its counterpart, in the Forbidden City at Beijing, differs from it only in minor details.
The outer brass rings can be used for telling the time in both Western and Chinese cultures. The inner brass ring marks the seasons. Each day this ring - together with the main dial - turns clockwise through one degree, thus making a full revolution in a year.
On the main face of the clock is a chart showing the brighter stars visible from Southern China. On the chart, the most prominent feature is the Milky Way (Tianhe ? the "Celestial River") but in all around 850 stars are represented by small red circles. These stars are joined into about 160 groups, representing the most significant of the traditional Chinese constellations.
The movement is Chinese, but it is based on an English design of around AD 1790. Parts of the movement, such as the short pendulum are unusual, suggesting that the maker was not copying a movement but working from sketches or notes and improvised where they were inadequate.

Comments are closed for this object

Most of the content on A History of the World is created by the contributors, who are the museums and members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC or the British Museum. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site’s House Rules please Flag This Object.

About this object

Click a button to explore other objects in the timeline


Guangzhou, China


View more objects from people in Wear.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.