Reconstruction and analysis of Zhan’s sand clock in the 14th century

Y. H. Chen, Marco Ceccarelli, Hong Sen Yan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Zhan’s five wheels sand clock was a significant design of time-keeping device in China during the 14th century. With a sand wheel as the power source and four pairs of gears as the transmission system, it was able to indicate time by its hand on the clock dial. Although this invention is not preserved, an ancient literature provides a clear record of its mechanical structure of gear transmission with engineering data. This paper introduces the background of Zhan’s sand clock and presents a translation version of those descriptions of this device. Moreover, a mechanical analysis is made based on the engineering data provided in the original literature, and all relevant factors and mechanical design parameters about its power source are listed and discussed. Finally, the feasibility of Zhan’s sand clock is verified through a reconstruction design and prototype testing.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHistory of Mechanism and Machine Science
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameHistory of Mechanism and Machine Science
ISSN (Print)1875-3442
ISSN (Electronic)1875-3426

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Mechanical Engineering


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