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H8739 Abacuses (2), wood/bamboo/metal, [China], c. 1900. Click to enlarge.

Abacuses (2), wood/bamboo/metal, [China], c. 1900

Made in China, Asia, 1895-1905.

These two Chinese abacus or suan-pan have been an important tool for merchants for at least 700 years. They are a quick means of counting goods being bought and sold, and of calculating the cost. Abacuses often had the owner’s trading name on the back. One of these abacuses was used in Sydney in about 1900. The owner’s name is partially obscured. The legible character ‘Wing’ means ‘forever’. Several Sydney businesses used this word in their name, such as Wing On and Company, Wing Wah and Company...


Object No.


Object Statement

Abacuses (2), wood/bamboo/metal, [China], c. 1900

Physical Description

Abacuses (2), wood/bamboo/metal, [China], c. 1900.

Rectangular wooden bead-frame abacuses with parallel rods vertical to the base on which beads slide up and down. Frames are divided with a wooden length separating the beads into groups of two and five.
Each has thirteen rods of wooden beads. -1 Two of the rods are metal and are held in place by a nail and washer at either exterior end. -2 Has bamboo rods. Chinese characters on the base.



[China] stated as place of origin on collection documentation form

Date on collection documentation form


China, Asia 1895-1905



Stock Book states that abacus found in Sydney
Stock Book states that objects transferred from Australian Museum


Credit Line

Gift of Australian Museum, 1969

Acquisition Date

1 September 1969

Cite this Object


Abacuses (2), wood/bamboo/metal, [China], c. 1900 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 18 October 2019, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Abacuses (2), wood/bamboo/metal, [China], c. 1900 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=18 October 2019 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display at the Powerhouse Museum.

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