1. Feng Shui for the layout of a building; Fortune telling.
2. The square represents earth and the circle represents heaven.
3. Floating a needle on magnetized needle in a bowl of water or suspending it by a thread.
Comments from Our Readers
Am mid-way through a hefty tome titled '1001 Inventions That Changed The World' - dates from the prehistoric to modern days -- saw the compass (or variation thereof) in the book some time back and the picture triggered the response.
I thought it was something to do with mapping the stars. It was the spoon that seemed very odd until I realized it was the big dipper. I puzzled more over the Qimancy website: www.fengshuigate.com/qimancy.html I guess I found it first, then, thought through it and went on to find the brass compass.
Take care and keep the interesting quizzes coming,
I recognized it as a precursor to a compass. A old friend had a replica of one. I did have to look up the details as I couldn't remember what the square versus circle and characters stood for. It would have been cumbersome to carry around for directions. It is amazing what 'technology' was available that long ago. I doubt a teenager today could find their way around without GPS and Google Maps.
The lettering led me to believe that it could be a divination device, and led to finding the compass. Keep looking on ebay. Some idiot will have one and sell it for next to nothing as a brass square plate.
You are right, I did like this quiz, but then again I, in fact, like all of your quizzes.
I had never seen this before so I found it very interesting, and yes I had to search it out.
I do like the idea behind this ancient device of striving to find harmony and oneness with the earth. I think it is very important yet so lacking in this day and age. I believe there is a "thread" that somehow connects heaven and earth, but that we have lost sight of it. I also believe that it would be in all of our best interests to somehow find it and begin the process of reconnecting.
My first thought was it was a sun dial but I realized a sun dial doesn't need markings all around the base. I Googled "chinese sun dial with spoon" and was taken to an image similar to yours. The description of the image stated it was a compass. A little more Googling gave me the answers to the remaining quiz questions.
Thanks for the fun quiz.
I didn't recognize it, because I had never seen one before, but it looked like something depicting the heavens and earth.
I wouldn't have thought that relying on a bowl of water was very portable. I can see the thread being much more portable.
I am not sure about the portability aspect, but I found a picture of a Chinese box compass the has similar markings described as "further refinement in the box compass is from about 1200 CE, and is much more suitable for navigation. It retains markings of the heaven's plate around its circumference, in a simplified form. Compass markings generally had an inner circle with the eight trigrams and an outer circle with 24 directions based on azimuth points".
Again, a great quiz! Thank goodness we don't have to have a compass like this in our car.
Compasses have come a long way since then!!!!!!!!!!! Thank goodness! I can imagine what it would have been like to teach orienteering to our Girl Scouts using this early kind of compass!
I didn't recognize the item, but I could tell it was a compass and that it appeared to be Chinese. After that all I needed to do was Google Chinese compass to find the answer.
I looked for images of a bronze square and found it on Pinterest.
Just some very careful googling… I think it was “square plate with circle and spoon”
I did a Google image search for "ladle on brass plate". You image and others were in the results. a very interesting puzzle.
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How Our Readers Solved the Puzzle
My first impression on looking at the device was that it was Chinese of origin because of the characters. Second thing that I noticed was that signs from the I Ching were incorporated on the "board". This indicated to me that it might have something to do with fortune telling. Googled images for Chinese fortune telling devices. On scrolling thru images saw similar device. Went to a page which described it as a compass. Googled for Chinese compass. "Smith College Museum of Ancient Inventions: Compass" at Smith College site, My first impression on looking at the device was that it was Chinese of origin because of the characters. Second thing that I noticed was that signs from the I Ching were incorporated on the "board." This indicated to me that it might have something to do with fortune telling. Googled images for Chinese fortune telling devices. On scrolling thru images saw similar device. Went to a page which described it as a compass. Googled for Chinese compass. "Smith College Museum of Ancient Inventions: Compass" at Smith College site, smith.edu, had an excellent description of the compass from which I obtained the answers. It had an excellent description of the compass from which I obtained the answers.
Yikes, I really had to think on this one.
I got tangled for some time in the notion of "spoon" or "ladle". But eventually I saw that that made no sense with the essentially flat plate.
Given that this seemed to be a Chinese devise, I figured that it was no accident that the spoon rested with its handle elevated from the plate, so it might be balanced in order to pivot. Thus, eventually, I saw two options: spin the spoon or spin the plate. Spinning the spoon could make it some kind of a game or Ouija board sort of thing. Spinning the plate might make sense if the spoon stayed stationary, but friction would probably drag it around with the plate. Unless could the spoon be magnetic?
I Googled ancient Chinese compass, and voila!
This short description belies the days I spent on the mental process. I really thought I was sunk.
I was too smart for my own good and decided to use a Chinese drawing translator (used in a previous quiz). None of them worked, either they were too ancient or I'm a terrible drawer.
So, after checking also Japanese (just in case) and having had the same total lack of progress, I went to just simply google "ancient Chinese plate" and one photo of the compass appeared.
Took it from there. The Smithsonian foundation has all the answers in order.
Earliest records show a spoon shaped compass made of lodestone or magnetite ore, referred to as a "South-pointer" dating back to sometime during the Han Dynasty (2nd century BCE to 2nd century CE). The spoon-shaped instrument was placed on a cast bronze plate called a "heaven-plate" or diviner's
board that had the eight trigrams (Pa Gua) of the I Ching, as well as the 24 directions (based on the constellations), and the 28 lunar mansions (based on the constellations dividing the Equator) . Often, the Big Dipper (Great Bear) was drawn within the center disc. The square symbolized earth and the circular disc symbolized heaven. Upon these were inscribed the azimuthal points relating to the constellations. Its primary use was that of geomancy (prognostication) to determine the best location and time for such things as burials. In a culture that placed extreme importance on reverence for ancestors, this remained an important tool well into the 19th century. Even in modern times there are those who use this divination concepts of Feng Shui (literally, of wind and water) for locating buildings or fortuitous times and locations for almost any enterprise. There is a story that the first Chin emperor used the divining board and compass in court to affirm his right to the throne. Primarily, the compass was used for geomancy for a long time before it was used for navigation
Ancient Chinese alchemists realized that the magnetite ore would point towards a magnetic north. Their understanding was not total, since they thought that there were north pointers and south pointers. "The lodestone follows a maternal principle. The needle is struck out from the iron (originally a stone) and the nature of mother and son is that each influences the other, and they communicate together. The nature of the needle is to return to its original completeness. As its body is very light and straight, it must indicate straight lines. It responds to the chhi by orientation, being central to the earth and deviating in various directions. To the south it points to the Hsuan-Yuan constellation, hence to the hsiu Hsing and therefore to the hsiu Hsu in the north, along the axis Ting-Kuei. The yearly differences follow the elliptic, and all such phenomena can be understood." (from Master Kuan's Geomantic Instructor), 8th century CE
Some speculate that in 101 BCE Chinese ships reached the east coast of India for the first time with help from the navigational compass pioneered by the Chinese. They had discovered the orientating effect of magnetite, or lodestone as early as the 4th century BCE.
The figure above shows a working model of the first instrument known to be a compass. The spoon or ladle is of magnetic lodestone, and the plate is of bronze (non conducting metal). The circular center represents Heaven, and the square plate represents Earth. The handle of the spoon representing the Great Bear, points south. The plate bears Chinese characters which denote the eight main directions of north, northeast, east, southeast, south, southwest, west, northwest, and symbols from the I Ching oracle books which were correlated with directions. Separately marked are the finer gradations of twenty-four compass points, and along the outermost edge are the twenty-eight lunar character representations. Rather than navigation, these simple direction pointers were likely used for geomancy or Fung Shui, the technique of aligning buildings according to forces of nature.
placed upon a pointed shaft (dry compass) or suspended from a silk thread. Consequently, they were much more useful for navigation purposes since they were now much more portable (and smaller).
The bowl of water with edge markings (below) shows a simple mariner's compass, with with a floating magnetized needle pointing north and south.By the time of the T'ang dynasty (7-8th century CE) , Chinese scholars had devised a way to magnetize iron needles, by rubbing them with magnetite, and then suspending them in water (early 11th century). They also had observed that needles cooled from red heat and held in the north-south orientation (the earth's axis) would become magnetic. These more refined needle compasses could then be floated in water (wet compass),
A further refinement in the box compass (to the right) is from about 1200 CE, and is much more suitable for navigation. It retains markings of the heaven's plate around its circumference, in a simplified form. Compass markings generally had an inner circle with the eight trigrams and an outer circle with 24 directions based on azimuth points.
From the Quizmaster General's Own Collection
I bought this Chinese compass in the Ocean Terminal in Hong Kong in 1987. It consists of a compass flanked by two sundials that can be propped up at various angles. The points of the sundials can be folded against their surfaces. The possible angles of the sundials are determined by slots labeled with the names of various cities in China.
On March 8, 1421, the largest fleet the world had ever seen set sail from China to "proceed all the way to the ends of the earth to collect tribute from the barbarians beyond the seas." When the fleet returned home in October 1423, the emperor had fallen, leaving China in political and economic chaos. The great ships were left to rot at their moorings and the records of their journeys were destroyed. Lost in the long, self-imposed isolation that followed was the knowledge that Chinese ships had reached America seventy years before Columbus and had circumnavigated the globe a century before Magellan. And they colonized America before the Europeans, transplanting the principal economic crops that have since fed and clothed the world.