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                Home History and Culture History of the Compass
                History of the Compass
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                ????????????? Si Nan
                Compass
                (zhǐ nán zhēn 指南針) is one of the four great inventions of ancient China. It is a simple instrument for navigational instrument for determining direction relative to the Earth's magnetic poles. It consists of a magnetized pointer (usually marked on the North end) free to align itself with Earth's magnetic field.

                Ancient CompassThe earliest compass originally came out during Warring State Period (zhàn guó shí qī 戰國時期). It is made of lodestone, with the shape of a soup ladle. It should be put on a glossy chases and kept balance when it is used. And the handle of the ladle will point to the south. People in ancient China called it Si Nan (sī nán 司南). However, because the lodestones are hard to find and they are easy to lost magnetism, what’s more, Si Nan is not convenient to take for its weight, it is not used extensively.

                Till the Song Dynasty (sòng cháo 宋朝), Chinese people made Zhinan Fish (zhǐ nán yú 指南魚), which is more convenient than Si Nan. It just needs a bowl of water, and put the Zhinan Fish on the surface of the water, then it will help you to determine direction. For long-term improvements, people made the steel needle with magnetism by rubbing it on the lodestone. Therefore the needle with magnetism can be regarded as the compass.

                The compass was put into use in people’s daily life, military, and manufacturing, especially in navigation. The first person recorded to have used the compass as a navigational aid was Zheng He (zhèng hé 鄭和, 1371-1435), from the Yunnan province in China, who made seven ocean voyages between 1405 and 1433.

                指南針
                ????? 指南針是中國古代四大發明之一。它是用以判別方位的一種簡單儀器,主要組成部分是一根裝在軸上可以自由轉動的磁針。磁針在地磁場作用下能保持在磁子午線的切線方向上。磁針的北極指向地理的北極,利用這一性能可以辨別方向。常用于航海、大地測量、旅行及軍事等方面。
                指南針的發明是中國勞動人民在長期的實踐中對物體磁性認識的結果。由于生產勞動,人們接觸了磁鐵礦,開始了對磁性質的了解。人們首先發現了磁石引鐵的性質。后來又發現了磁石的指向性。經過多方的實驗和研究,終于發明了可以實用的指南針。
                ?????
                Zhinan Fish????? 春秋時代,人們用整塊天然磁石經過琢磨制成勺型,勺柄指南極,并使整個勺的重心恰好落到勺底的正中,勺置于光滑的地盤之中,地盤外方內圓,四周刻有干支四維,合成二十四向,靜止時,勺尾指向南。這就是指南針的雛形——司南。這樣的設計是古人認真觀察了許多自然界有關磁的現象,積累了大量的知識和經驗,經過長期的研究才完成的。司南的出現是人們對磁體指極性認識的實際應用。 但司南也有許多缺陷,天然磁體不易找到,在加工時容易因打擊、受熱而失磁。所以司南的磁性比較弱,而且它與地盤接觸處要非常光滑,否則會因轉動摩擦阻力過大,而難于旋轉,無法達到預期的指南效果。而且司南有一定的體積和重量,攜帶很不方便,這可能是司南長期未得到廣泛應用的主要原因。

                Compass????? 到了宋代,勞動人民掌握了制造人工磁體的技術,又制造了指南魚。這種人工傳磁方法制成的指南魚比使用司南方便多了,只要有一碗水,把指南魚放在水面上就能辨別方向了。經過長期的改進,人們又把鋼針在天然磁體上摩擦,鋼針也有了磁性。這種經過人工傳磁的鋼針可以說是正式的指南針了。

                ????? 指南針一經發明很快就被應用到軍事、生產、日常生活、地形測量等方面,特別是航海上。指南針在航海上的應用有一個逐漸發展過程。成書年代略晚于《夢溪筆談》的《萍洲可談》中記有:“舟師識地理,夜則觀星,晝則觀日,陰晦則觀指南針。”這是世界航海史上最早使用指南針的記載。文中指出,當時只在日月星辰見不到的時候才使用指南針,可見指南針剛開始使用時,使用還不熟練。二十幾年后,許兢的《宣和奉使高麗圖經》也有類似的記載:“惟視星斗前邁,若晦冥則用指南浮針,以揆南北。”到了元代,指南針一躍而成海上指航的最重要的儀器了。不論晝夜晴陰都用指南針導航了。而且還編制出使用羅盤導航,在不同航行地點指南針針位的連線圖,叫做“針路”。船行到某處,采用何針位方向,一路航線都一一標識明白,作為航行的依據。

                 

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