Illustrations and Explanations of Various Machines


Xin zhi zhu qi tu shuo (Illustrations and explanations of various machines) is a work compiled by Wang Zheng (1571−1644). The book depicts and explains several machines of the compiler’s own design, but which were influenced by Western technology. Volume 1 is headed by the title and proclaims Wang Zheng of Guanxi the author, and junior student Wang Yingkui of Xin’an the editor. Preceding the text is a brief preface by the author. The book juxtaposes illustrations with text; each machine has an introduction and a hand-drawn illustration with explanation. At the end of each item is an inscription of appreciation and pronunciation. Among the devices recorded in the book are two types of pumps for irrigation, named hong xi (rainbow-pump) and he yin (crane-drinking pump); a double-action pump mounted on wheeled vehicles; windmill; self-rotating mill; self-propelled quadricycle; wheeled clepsydra; a different kind of plow; and newly designed crossbows. The note at the end of the work reads: “Written in the seventh year (1627) of Tianqi reign by Liaoyi Daoren of Guanxi at Wangtianxuan.” Wang Zheng, courtesy name Liangfu, style names Kuixin and Liaoyi Daoren, was a native of Jingyang, Shaanxi. He achieved his jin shi degree in 1622, became a judge in Yangzhou, and was promoted to deputy military inspector. Later he petitioned to retire. After rebel leader Li Zicheng (1606−45) overthrew the Ming dynasty, he asked Wang Zheng to serve under him, but Wang firmly declined. Learning that the Ming capital, Beijing, had been sacked, Wang began a hunger strike and died. Wang Zheng was greatly influenced by the Jesuits, who introduced him to Western science. Another work, Yuan Xi qi qi tu shuo (Diagrams and explanations of the wonderful machines of the Far West), was dictated by German Jesuit missionary Johann Schreck (1576−1630) and recorded by Wang Zheng. It introduces Western physical and mechanical devices. Wang also helped Flemish French missionary Nicolas Trigault (1577−1628) in his compilation of Xi ru er mu zi (Aid to the ears and eyes of Western scholars), which provided transliterations and phonetics for Chinese characters for use by Westerners learning Chinese. Wang’s other works include Liang li lue (An outline of two administrations), Tian wen ci (Questions to heaven), Li dai fa meng bian dao shuo (Enlightening discourses in past dynasties on pursuing the truth), and Shan ju yong (Verses of mountain living).

Last updated: January 8, 2018