- Ma Jun
Ma Jun (fl. 220–265), [Day & McNeil, 461.] styled Deheng (徳衡), was a Chinese
mechanical engineerand government official during the Three Kingdomsera of China. His most notable invention was that of the South Pointing Chariot, a directional compassvehicle which actually had no magneticfunction, but was operated by use of differential gears (which applies equal amount of torqueto driving wheels rotating at different speeds).Needham, Volume 4, Part 2, 40.] It is because of this revolutionary device (and other achievements) that Ma Jun is known as one of the most brilliant mechanical engineers and inventors of his day (alongside Zhang Hengof the earlier Eastern Han Dynasty). The device was re-invented by many after Ma Jun, including the astronomer and mathematician Zu Chongzhi(429-500 AD). In the later medieval dynastic periods, Ma Jun's South Pointing Chariot was combined in a single device with the distance-measuring odometer.
According to his friend and contemporary
poetand philosopher Fu Xuan(217-278 AD), Ma Jun was born in Fufeng, located in the Wei Rivervalley between Wugongand Baoji.Needham, Volume 4, Part 2, 39.] In his youth Ma Jun traveled throughout modern day Henanprovince, and obtained a minor literary degree, or "bo shi". Despite this degree, Ma Jun was relatively poor in his youth, yet found means to gain recognition by employing his natural genius in creating mechanical contraptions and inventions.
Ma Jun was a somewhat distinguished official serving under the northern state of Wei, becoming a Policy Review Advisor (Ji Shi Zhong). Ma Jun once oversaw the construction of
Chong Hua's palace, under the orders of Emperor Ming of Wei, Cao Rui. Ma Jun was very well known in Wei as a very gifted designer of weapons and certain types of contraptions, and was praised especially by Fu Xuanin an essay of his. Fu Xuan noted that Ma Jun was not the best oratoror master of rhetorics, and had trouble conveying his ideas to others with his somewhat introvertedpersonality. Nonetheless, he gained fame for his mechanical genius, and is universally considered one of the greatest mechanical engineers of ancient China.
Engineering and technological achievements
One of Ma Jun's early inventions was an improved
silk loom, which, according to Fu Xuan, earned Ma Jun considerable recognition for his innovative skill. In his time, silk looms generally had fifty heddles and fifty treadles, some even up to sixty of each. Ma Jun crafted a loom that had only twelve treadles, which not only made the process faster and more efficient, but also allowed the weaving of new intricate patterns.
While serving the Wei court, Ma Jun got into a dispute with the Permanent Counsellor
Caotang Longand the Cavalry General Qin Langat court over the concept of the south-pointing carriage, or the South Pointing Chariot. The minister and the general mocked Ma Jun for his belief in historical texts that the South Pointing Chariot had actually been invented in the past (as the legend goes, by the Yellow Emperor), something they viewed as nonsensical, non-historical myth. Ma Jun retorted against them, saying "Empty arguments with words cannot (in any way) compare with a test which will show practical results". After being instructed to craft such a device, Ma Jun completed his fully-functional design of the South Pointing Chariot in the year 255 AD.Needham, Volume 4, Part 2, 288.] With this mechanical-driven compass-vehicle device, Ma Jun created one of the first mechanical devices in the world to employ differential gear designs. Referring to history of differential gears, Ma Jun's differential gear is the earliest historically verifiable design. In China the directional South Pointing Chariotwas re-invented a second time by Zu Chongzhi(429-500 AD) due to the original detailed instructions being lost.
Emperor Ming of Wei, he once invented an intricate hydraulic-powered, mechanical-operated puppet theatre(much more complex than the mechanical puppet set discovered by Liu Bang, first Emperor of the Han Dynasty, when he observed the state-absorbed items taken from the old treasury of the deceased Qin Shi Huang). His puppet theatre is similar to that of a Greek model invented by Heron of Alexandria, the difference being that the latter used instead a rotating cylindrical cogwheel with ropes and pulleys to operate his mechanical theatre. Joseph Needhamdescribes Ma Jun's mechanical theatre in a passage taken from the " Sanguo Zhi, Records of the Three Kingdoms":
Possibly inspired by this incredible mechanical theatre of puppets, Qu Zhi of the subsequent Jin Dynasty made similar mechanical sets with wooden dolls. Joseph Needham states that he was famous for his "wooden dolls' house, with images which opened doors and bowed, and for his 'rats' market', which had figures which automatically closed the doors when the rats wanted to leave".Needham, Volume 4, Part 2, 159.]
Ma Jun was also responsible for the construction of square-pallet
chain pumpsmeant for irrigation. However, Ma Jun was not the first in China to invent such a device. An earlier account was made in the year 80 by philosopher Wang Chong, in his "Discourses Weighed in the Balance". The Eastern Han Dynastycourt eunuch Zhang Rangonce ordered the engineer Bi Lan to construct a series of chain pumps outside the capital city of Luoyang, used for irrigationand means of fresh water source. Ma Jun constructed his square-pallet chain pumps to water newly designated gardenspace established within Luoyang by Emperor Ming of Wei (Cao Rui).
List of Chinese people
List of engineers
List of mechanical engineers
History of science and technology in China
*Day, Lance and Ian McNeil. (1996). "Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology". New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415060427.
*Needham, Joseph (1986). "Science and Civilization in China: Volume 4, Part 2". Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd.
Personages of the Three Kingdoms
Records of Three Kingdoms"
Romance of the Three Kingdoms"
* [http://www.drgears.com/gearterms/terms/southpointingchariot.htm South Pointing Chariot at DR Gears]
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