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H7728 Diptych Luopan, Chinese mariner's box compass, wood / metal / glass, maker not recorded, retailed by Fang Xiushui's shop, Wan'an, Anhui Province, China, 1850-1930. Click to enlarge.

Chinese mariner’s box compass and Luopan (Feng Shui compass)

Made in China, Asia, 1850-1930.

The diptych Luopan (mariner’s box compass) is constructed from two wooden leaves joined by central hinge. The outer surface of the first leaf is a plate of month calendar. There are Chinese characters of the twelve Earthly Branches on the swivelling circular wooden dial, which stands for the twelve Shichens (Shichen is an old Chinese timing unit which equals to today’s two hours) of a day. The outer concentric circle is written with the 30 days of a month from the first to the thirtieth day (eac...

Summary

Object No.

H7728

Object Statement

Diptych Luopan, Chinese mariner's box compass, wood / metal / glass, maker not recorded, retailed by Fang Xiushui's shop, Wan'an, Anhui Province, China, 1850-1930

Physical Description

The diptych Luopan (mariner's box compass) is constructed from two wooden leaves joined by central hinge. The outer surface of the first leaf is a plate of month calendar. There are Chinese characters of the twelve Earthly Branches on the swivelling circular wooden dial, which stands for the twelve Shichens (Shichen is an old Chinese timing unit which equals to today's two hours) of a day. The outer concentric circle is written with the 30 days of a month from the first to the thirtieth day (each of the 12 lunar months has 30 days). When the timing dial revolves, it matches the time (Shichens) with the date circle, which not only shows the current date like a calendar, but also shows the instant time as a clock. The pink characters are namely "Yue Pan" (plate of the month) and "Ri Sheng Yue Heng" (the sun rises (again and again) while the moon stays lasting). The inner surface of the first leaf is illustrated with a painted wheel of seven Shichens during the daytime, namely: "Mao" (5-7am), "Chen" (7-9am), "Si" (9-11am), "Wu" (11-1pm), "Wei" (1-3pm), "Shen" (3-5pm), "You" (5-7pm). The four characters in the centre of the wheel are "Cun Yin Shi Xi" (seize the time). The four characters above the time wheel explain how to place this sundial - keep the second leaf level, while the first leaf vertical. The second leaf is inset on the inner side with a compass rose under glass. The compass well sitting in the inner surface is surrounded by three marking circles, namely shows the four directions, the Feng Shui marks (24 elements selected from the ten Heavenly Stems, the twelve Earthly Branches, and the Eight Trigrams), and the daytime Shichens. The outer side of the second leaf is marked with a handwritten grid of 25 (5*5) squares, each filled with a Chinese character. It is an introduction that explains how this multi-founctional compass works - keep the red end of the pointer in the second leaf pointting the character "South", then use the pointer and sunbeams to find out the time, date, directions and seasons. At the end of the indroduction, there follows the maker's / shop's name - Fang Xiushui (a famous compass maker in Ming dynasty (1368-1644), whose compass shop is named after his since Ming dynasty. The shop was especially well known during the early 20th century) from the Xiu County (today's Wan'an town in Anhui Province, China).

Dimensions

Height

23 mm

Width

65 mm

Depth

85 mm

Production

Notes

Luopan is a Chinese magnetic compass, also known as mariner's compass or Feng Shui compass. It is used by mariners during navigations and also used by Feng Shui consultant to determine the precise direction of a structure or other item.

Like a conventional compass, a luopan is a direction finder. However, a luopan differs from a compass in several important ways. The most obvious difference is the Feng Shui formulas embedded in from 1 up to 40 concentric rings on the surface. This is a metal or wooden plate known as the heaven dial. The circular metal or wooden plate typically sits on a wooden base known as the earth plate. The heaven dial rotates freely on the earth plate.

A red wire or thread that crosses the earth plate and heaven dial at 90-degree angles is the Heaven Center Cross Line, or Red Cross Grid Line. This line is used to find the direction and note position on the rings. The schematic of earth plate, heaven plate, and grid lines is part of the two cords and four hooks geometrical diagram in use since at least the Warring States period.

A conventional compass has markings for four or eight directions, while a luopan typically contains markings for 24 directions. This translates to 15 degrees per direction. Interestingly, the Sun takes approximately 15.2 days to traverse a point. If you mark a series of 24 points on the ecliptic it creates a cycle of 365.25 days, which means that each degree on a luopan approximates a terrestrial day.

A luopan does not point to the north pole of Earth. The needle of a luopan points to the south magnetic pole (it does not point to the geographic pole). The Chinese word compass translates to "pointing-south needle".

Reference:
http://www.computersmiths.com/chineseinvention/compass.htm
http://www.luopan.org/archives/category/%E7%BD%97%E7%9B%98%E9%89%B4%E8%B5%8F
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luopan
http://www.kjfengshui.com/systems-i-use
http://baike.baidu.com/view/93916.htm
http://www.luopan.org/archives/category/%E7%BD%97%E7%9B%98%E9%89%B4%E8%B5%8F
http://blog.sina.cn/dpool/blog/ArtRead.php?nid=4a0b4ec00102du15&a_pos=1&vt=3

Made

China, Asia 1850-1930

Source

Credit Line

Transferred from the Australian Musum, 1965

Acquisition Date

21 April 1965

Cite this Object

Harvard

Chinese mariner's box compass and Luopan (Feng Shui compass) 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 22 September 2019, <https://ma.as/249082>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/249082 |title=Chinese mariner's box compass and Luopan (Feng Shui compass) |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=22 September 2019 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

Incomplete

This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.

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