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Chinese Literature
Qiqi tushuo 奇器圖說 "Annotated Illustrations of Marvellous Machines"


The Qiqi tushuo 奇器圖說 "Illustrated description of marvellous machines", also called Zhuqi tushuo 諸器圖說 "Illustrated description of various machines", is a description of Western tools and machines written by the German Jesuit missionary Johannes Schreck (1576-1630, Chinese name Deng Yuhan 鄧玉函) and translated by Wang Zheng 王徵. Schreck came to China during the late Ming period 明 (1368-1644), in 1621, and dwelled a while in Jiaxing 嘉興 and Hangzhou 杭州 before proceeding to Beijing. He took part in the compilation of the calendar Chongzhen lishu 崇禎歷書 but died before this handbook was completed. Schreck has also written the Renshen shuogai 人身說概, a medical compendium on the human body, Cetian yueshuo 測天約說, an astronomical treatise reporting Galileo's discoverings, Dace 大測 and Geyuan baxian biao 割圓八線表, two books on trigonometry, and Huangchi juli biao 黃赤距離表 and Zhengqiu shengdu biao 正球升度表, tables about the distance between the ecliptic and the celestial equator, and the volume of balls, respectively.
Wang Zheng once served in the local government of Yangzhou 揚州 and rose up to the post of assistant army supervisor (jianjun qianshi 監軍僉事) of Denglai 登萊. When Beijing fell to the rebel Li Zicheng 李自成 in 1644, he committed suicide. Wang had written a lot of philosophical books, like Liaoxindan 了心丹, Baizijie 百子解, Xueyongjie 學庸解, Tianwenci 天問辭, or Yuan Zhenren zhuan 元真人傳.
The 3 juan "scrolls" long Qiqi tushuo is a richly illustrated overview of a lot of common, but also extraordinary machines used in early modern Europe. The framework of the book is embedded in Chinese cosmology, in which man plays a part only as part of the ten thousand beings produced by Heaven and Earth. Yet the cosm also produced numbers for mathematics, lengths for measuring, and weight for to be used to move objects. Weight and force is the physical principle mainly dealt with in the book, and therefore, at the beginning, 61 statements are made about the theoretical methods to use force and mass. This part is followed by 92 paragraphs describing how the laws of physics act in particular tools. These tools are illustrated in 11 pictures showing machines lifting weight, 4 illustrations of drawing weight, 2 figures of turning weight, 9 figures of pulling water, 15 figures of millstones or grindstones, and many other illustrations of woodwork, stonework, hammering, and so on. Each illustration (tu 圖) is explained (shuo 說) in a few words. A great part of the illustrations is a copy of figures in Agostino Ramelli's Diverse et Artificiose Machine from 1588 and Fausto Veranzio's Machinae Novae from 1616. The Qiqi tushuo was first printed during the Tianqi reign 天啟 (1621-1627), in 2 juan, and then again during the Chongzhen reign 崇禎 (1628-1644). It is included in the collectanea Siku quanshu 四庫全書 and Shoushange congshu 守山閣叢書. There is another print from the Jiaqing reign 嘉慶 (1796-1820), and one, in moveable letters, from the Daoguang reign 道光 (1821-1850).


Source: Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 1858. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.

I would like to express my sincerest thanks to Prof. Erich Zettel, Konstanz, for much information about Johannes Schreck.

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June 17, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail