Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

triennial intercalation of a thirteenth month ; or, to speak more exactly, with the addition of a thirteenth month to seven years out of nineteen. They probably at first adopted the sol-lunar cycle of nineteen years, the same with the Metonic cycle of the Greeks, the years of which were marked with the golden number ; and seven of them (as with the Chinese) consisted of thirteen lunations. But the returning period of even this cycle being attended with a small error, their cycle of sixty years was at length adopted by the Chinese, comprising twenty-two intercalary moons. This answered the double purpose of regulating the sol-lunar year, and constituting a chronological era, with which they pretend to reckon back more than 2000 years B.C. The era, however, may have been ante-dated, for the sake of an assumed antiquity.

At the same time, it is observed by Dugald Stewart,* that, a cycle being commonly deducible from observations of physical events which are obvious to the senses, the most celebrated astronomical cycles are of a very remote antiquity, and were probably discovered at a period when the study of astronomy consisted merely in accumulating and recording the most striking appearances of the heavens. We have before remarked that the Chinese have always been very attentive to the celestial phenomena, and patient observers of times and tides. They appear very early to have divined that the moon had the principal share in causing the flux and reflux of the sea; but they left the sun out of the question altogether. M. Klaproth remarked that, in an encyclopædia written before the close of the ninth century, it is said that “the moon, being the purest principle of water, influences the tides.” Another writer observes, in the twelfth century, that “the cause of the rising and falling of the sea consists in the proximity of the

* Philosophy, p: 436.

moon; for the waters go and come according to the period of the day and the position of the moon, which they follow.”

No very certain reason can be given why the Chinese fixed upon the 15th degree of Aquarius as a point for regulating the commencement of their lunar year: but they have an annual festival at the recurrence of that period, which bears some resemblance to the annual procession of the bull A pis among the Egyptians; and both ceremonies appear to have been connected with the business of husbandry, and with the opening promise of the year. It may possibly be the case that the 15th of Aquarius has a reference among the Chinese to the position of the winter solstitial colure at a remote period. The winter solstice is at present observed as a festival; but whether or not that proves its having once been the period of their civil year's commencement cannot easily be decided. In an astronomical sense, they may be said to have a solar year as well as a lunar, and the winter solstice marks its annual limit. This solar year is divided into twenty-four periods of fifteen days each on an average. The Imperial Almanac, published annually at Peking, with the seal of the Astronomical Board on the cover, is filled with much of the nonsense of judicial astrology. Mr. Barrow was informed by one of the European astronomers at the emperor's court, that “the calculation of eclipses, the times of new and full moon, the rising and setting of the sun, were intrusted to him and his colleagues ; but the astrological part was managed by a committee of the Chinese members.” This same person confessed that he was not very well qualified for his task, and expressed much gratitude on being presented with some copies of the Nautical Ephemeris, calculated for several years in advance.

The Chinese almanac, like many others of the kind in Europe, contains predictions and advice for every day in

the year, and presents the same spectacle of the abuse of a little mystical learning to impose on the ignorant majority of mankind. It even gives directions as to the most lucky days for going out, or for staying at home ; for shaving the head after the Tartar fashion, changing an abode, executing an agreement, or burying the dead. With this are mixed up, in the same page, a number of useful observations concerning natural phenomena pertaining to the season, though these remarks are interlarded with a number of vulgar errors as to the transformations of animals. In their first moon, which is about our February, the ice is said to melt, the wild-fowl to fly northward, and the foliage of trees and plants to be renewed : in the second, peach-trees blossom, swallows return, and there is much thunder and lightning : in the sixth, the weather grows hot, and the period of heavy rains comes on : in the ninth, wild-fowl return to the south, the chrysanthemum flowers, trees turn yellow and shed their foliage: in the twelfth, lakes and rivers are covered with ice, and the ground is frozen.* This of course relates to the latitude of Peking, nearly 40° north.

In the science of mechanics and machinery, the Chinese, without possessing any theoretical rules, practically apply all the mechanical powers, except the screw, with considerable effect. The graduation of their common steelyard must have acquainted them with the conditions of equilibrium in that class of lever, or the relations between the long and short arm, and the power and weight. They use it constantly for weighing, not only the commonest articles, but the most valuable, as gold and silver. The pulley is applied on board their vessels, but always with a single sheave, and apparently more for the purpose of giving a particular lead to the ropes, than with a view to the mechanical advantage to be gained by it. The application of the tooth and pinion is exemplified in the representation of a rice-mill moved by water, at page 37 of Barrow's Travels. They seem to understand, in practice at least, that power and velocity vary inversely in. machinery; as, for instance, that power is gained, or time, according as the moving force is applied either to the circumference, or the axis of a wheel.

* With these useful notices are mixed up very ignorant observations countenancing the grossest superstitions of the people.

It is remarkable that they should seem always to have possessed that particular application of the principle of the wheel and axle, by which the greatest power is attained within the least space; and, at the same time, with the

greatest simplicity, as well as r n po strength of machinery. The

cylinder a b consists of two parts of unequal diameter, with a rope coiled round both

parts in the same direction, the weight to be moved being suspended by a pulley in the middle. Every turn of the cylinder raises a portion of the rope equal to the circumference of the thicker part, but at the same time lets down a portion equal to the circumference of the thinner; and, as the weight is suspended by a pulley, it rises at each turn through a space equal to only half the difference between the span of the thicker and thinner parts of the cylinder. The action of the machine, therefore, is very slow; but the mechanical advantage is great in proportion, or, in other words, “ power is gained at the expense of velocity,” according to an invariable law of mechanics.”

The over-shot water-wheel is used commonly in cornmills, wherever the nature of the country affords streams available for the purpose. In cottages, a domestic mill was frequently seen by our embassies, composed of two

circular stones put in motion by a single man or boy, or sometimes an ass or mule, the power being applied at the end of a lever fixed in the uppermost stone.

[graphic][merged small][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed]

The juice of the sugar-cane is expressed in mills similar to those used in India, according to the description of Dr. Buchanan. It consists of two upright cylinders, which are put in motion by a buffalo yoked to a beam passing from

« ZurückWeiter »