Object StatementDiptych 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 DescriptionThe 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).