Compasses, Astronomical and navigational instruments

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Geomantic compass


Object connections:

Collection Compasses, Astronomical and navigational instruments
ExhibitionsTraders: The East India Company and Asia
User collections Tea: breaking into the tea trade by NMMExhibitions
Gallery locationTraders Gallery (Floor plans)

Object details:

Object ID NAV0244
Description A Chinese compass consisting of a wide thin disk of wood painted black. At the centre of the compass is a small shallow bowl containing a dry-pivot needle. The needle is short and thin and points south. There is a line in the bowl indicating the north-south direction. Surrounding the bowl are 21 concentric rings, each divided into segments and marked with either symbols or Chinese characters painted in gold and red. The first row is divided into eight segments, each with one of the eight trigrams. The trigrams on this particular compass are arranged in the everted form of the Fu Hsi . Fu Hsi is one type of formulation of the eight trigrams. It has been argued that the everted form of the Fu Hsi trigram circle appeared on compasses used for Feng Shui, suggesting that this is a geomancer's compass. The fourth row is divided into 24 parts indicating the traditional azimuthal directions in 15 degree increments. Each segment contains one Chinese character which together consist of the 20 cyclical characters and four gua (trigrams). These characters are arranged in the Zheng Zhen ('correct needle') position (i.e. the north-south direction). Beginning with the character in the South position and moving clockwise the characters are: Wu, Ding, Wei, Kun, Shen, Geng, You, Xin, Xu, Qian, Hai, Ren, Zi, Gui, Chou, Gen, Yin, Jia, Mao, Yi, Chen, Xun, Si and Bing. Although the characters do refer to directions, the characters in the North, South, East and West directions are not the characters or the literal translations for these directions, but are traditional characters from the geomancer's compass. Wu, Kun, Shen, Xu, Qian, Ren, Zi, Gui, Yin, Jia, Yi, and Chen are red and all other characters are painted black. The red and black characters in this row represent the pure ying and pure yang. This row is found on all Chinese geomantic compasses. The Chinese characters painted on the back read, 'Lin Jun Zhou Hua Ji Zao', meaning 'Manufactured by Mr. Lin of Zhou Hau Ji'. Lin is a surname and Zhou Hau Ji is most likely a brand-name derived from a personal name.
Date made circa 1850

Artist/Maker Hua-Chi, Chou
Ji, Zhou Hua
Place made China
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Materials lacquer; wood; glass; steel
Measurements Overall: 20 x 190 mm
  • Geomantic compass (NAV0244)
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