Dream Pool Essays

Dream Pool Essays

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The Dream Pool Essays was an extensive book written by the polymath
A polymath is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable...

 Chinese scientist and statesman Shen Kuo
Shen Kuo
Shen Kuo or Shen Gua , style name Cunzhong and pseudonym Mengqi Weng , was a polymathic Chinese scientist and statesman of the Song Dynasty...

 (1031-1095) by 1088 AD, during the Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 (960-1279) of China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

. Although Shen was previously a highly renowned government official and military general, he compiled this enormous written work while virtually isolated on his lavish garden
A garden is a planned space, usually outdoors, set aside for the display, cultivation, and enjoyment of plants and other forms of nature. The garden can incorporate both natural and man-made materials. The most common form today is known as a residential garden, but the term garden has...

Estate (house)
An estate comprises the houses and outbuildings and supporting farmland and woods that surround the gardens and grounds of a very large property, such as a country house or mansion. It is the modern term for a manor, but lacks the latter's now abolished jurisdictional authority...

 near modern-day Zhenjiang
Zhenjiang is a prefecture-level city in the southwest of Jiangsu province in the eastern People's Republic of China . Sitting on the southern bank of the Yangtze River, it borders the provincial capital of Nanjing to the west, Changzhou to the east, and Yangzhou across the river to the north.Once...

, Jiangsu
' is a province of the People's Republic of China, located along the east coast of the country. The name comes from jiang, short for the city of Jiangning , and su, for the city of Suzhou. The abbreviation for this province is "苏" , the second character of its name...

 province. He named the book after the name he gave to his estate, the "Dream Brook". The literal translated meaning is Brush Talks from a Dream Brook, and in his biography in the Dictionary of Scientific Biography (New York 1970-1990), Shen Kuo is quoted as saying:

Because I had only my writing brush and ink slab to converse with, I call it Brush Talks.


As the historian Chen Dengyuan points out, much of Shen Kuo's written work was probably purged under the leadership of minister Cai Jing
Cai Jing
Cai Jing , style name Yuanchang , was a government official and calligrapher who lived during the Northern Song Dynasty. Cai Jing is also featured as one of the antagonists and nemesis of the 108 Liangshan heroes in the Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese...

 (1046-1126). For example, only six of Shen's books remain, and four of these have been significantly altered since the time they were penned by the author. The Dream Pool Essays was first quoted in a Chinese written work of 1095 AD, showing that even towards the end of Shen's life his final book was becoming widely printed. The book was originally 30 chapters long, yet an unknown Chinese author's edition of 1166 AD edited and reorganized the work into 26 chapters. There is one surviving copy of this 1166 edition housed now in Japan, while a Chinese reprint was produced in 1305 as well. In 1631 another edition was printed, but it was heavily reorganized into three broad chapters.

Recent translations

  • Modern Vernacular Chinese
    Vernacular Chinese
    Written Vernacular Chinese refers to forms of written Chinese based on the vernacular language, in contrast to Classical Chinese, the written standard used from the Spring and Autumn Period to the early twentieth century...

    : Zhang Jia Ju's biographical work Shen Kuo (1962) contains selected translations of the Dream Pool Essays from Middle Chinese
    Middle Chinese
    Middle Chinese , also called Ancient Chinese by the linguist Bernhard Karlgren, refers to the Chinese language spoken during Southern and Northern Dynasties and the Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties...

  • English
    English language
    English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

    : Various volumes of Joseph Needham
    Joseph Needham
    Noel Joseph Terence Montgomery Needham, CH, FRS, FBA , also known as Li Yuese , was a British scientist, historian and sinologist known for his scientific research and writing on the history of Chinese science. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1941, and as a fellow of the British...

    's Science and Civilization in China series, from 1954 onwards, contain the largest amount of selected English translations for the Dream Pool Essays.
  • French
    French language
    French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

    : Quoted excerpts from the Dream Pool Essays were printed in the written work of J. Brenier in 1989 as well as J. F. Billeter in 1993.
  • Japanese
    Japanese language
    is a language spoken by over 130 million people in Japan and in Japanese emigrant communities. It is a member of the Japonic language family, which has a number of proposed relationships with other languages, none of which has gained wide acceptance among historical linguists .Japanese is an...

    : A translation of the 1166 Chinese edition was prepared by the History of Science Seminar, Institute for Research in Humanities (Jimbun Kagaku Kenkyusho) for Kyoto University
    Kyoto University
    , or is a national university located in Kyoto, Japan. It is the second oldest Japanese university, and formerly one of Japan's Imperial Universities.- History :...

    , printed by the author Umehara Kaoru in his 3 volume edition of Bokei hitsudan (1978–1981).

Geological theory

With Shen's writings on fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

s, geomorphology
Geomorphology is the scientific study of landforms and the processes that shape them...

, and shifting geographical climate
Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a given region over long periods...

s, he states in the following passages:

In the Zhi-Ping reign period (+1064 to +1067) a man of Zezhou was digging a well in his garden, and unearthed something shaped like a squirming serpent, or dragon. He was so frightened by it that he dared not touch it, but after some time, seeing that it did not move, he examined it and found it to be stone. The ignorant country people smashed it, but Zheng Boshun, who was magistrate of Jincheng
Jincheng is a prefecture-level city in the southeast of Shanxi province of north China. It is an industrial city in an area where coal mining is an important industry. It has a population of 2.2 million....

 at the time, got hold of a large piece of it on which scale-like markings were to be seen exactly like those on a living creature. Thus a serpent or some kind of marine
Marine (ocean)
Marine is an umbrella term. As an adjective it is usually applicable to things relating to the sea or ocean, such as marine biology, marine ecology and marine geology...

 snake (chhen) had certainly been turned to stone, as happens with the 'stone-crabs'.

In recent years [circa +1080] there was a landslide on the bank of a large river in Yong-Ning Guan near Yanzhou. The bank collapsed, opening a space of several dozens of feet, and under the ground a forest of bamboo shoots was thus revealed. It contained several hundred bamboo
Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family....

 with their roots and trunks all complete, and all turned to stone...Now bamboos do not grow in Yanzhou. These were several dozens of feet below the present surface of the ground, and we do not know in what dynasty they could possibly have grown. Perhaps in very ancient times the climate was different so that the place was low, damp, gloomy, and suitable for bamboos. On the Jin-Hua Shan in Wuzhou
Wuzhou , historically known as Wuchow, is a prefecture-level city in China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.-Geography and climate:Wuzhou is located in eastern Guangxi bordering Guangdong province. It is at the confluence of the Gui River and the Xun River where they form the Xi River; 85% of all...

 there are stone pine-cones, and stones formed from peach kernels, stone bulrush roots, stone fishes, crabs, and so on, but as these are all (modern) native products of that place, people are not very surprised at them. But these petrified bamboos appeared under the ground so deep, though they are not produced in that place today. This is a very strange thing.


When the Director of the Astronomical Observatory
An observatory is a location used for observing terrestrial or celestial events. Astronomy, climatology/meteorology, geology, oceanography and volcanology are examples of disciplines for which observatories have been constructed...

 asked Shen Kuo if the shapes of the sun and moon were round like balls or flat like fans, Shen Kuo explained his reasoning for the former:

If they were like balls they would surely obstruct each other when they met. I replied that these celestial bodies were certainly like balls. How do we know this? By the waxing and waning of the moon. The moon itself gives forth no light, but is like a ball of silver; the light is the light of the sun (reflected). When the brightness is first seen, the sun(-light passes almost) alongside, so the side only is illuminated and looks like a crescent. When the sun gradually gets further away, the light shines slanting, and the moon is full, round like a bullet. If half of a sphere is covered with (white) powder and looked at from the side, the covered part will look like a crescent; if looked at from the front, it will appear round. Thus we know that the celestial bodies are spherical.

When the director of the astronomical observatory asked Shen Kuo why eclipses occurred only on an occasional basis while in conjunction and opposition once a day, Shen Kuo wrote:

I answered that the ecliptic and the moon's path are like two rings, lying one over the other, but distant by a small amount. (If this obliquity did not exist), the sun would be eclipsed whenever the two bodies were in conjunction, and the moon would be eclipsed whenever they were exactly in position. But (in fact) though they may occupy the same degree, the two paths are not (always) near (each other), and so naturally the bodies do not (intrude) upon one another.

On the use of the sighting tube to fix the position of the pole star
Pole star
The term "Pole Star" usually refers to Polaris, which is the current northern pole star, also known as the North Star.In general, however, a pole star is a visible star, especially a prominent one, that is approximately aligned with the Earth's axis of rotation; that is, a star whose apparent...

, Shen Kuo wrote:

Before Han times
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

 it was believed that the pole star was in the center of the sky, so it was called Jixing (Summit star). Zi Geng(-zhi) found out with the help of the sighting tube that the point in the sky which really does not move was a little more than 1 degree away from the summit star. In the Xining reign-period (1068-1077) I accepted the order of the emperor to take charge of the Bureau of the Calendar
Chinese calendar
The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, incorporating elements of a lunar calendar with those of a solar calendar. It is not exclusive to China, but followed by many other Asian cultures as well...

. I then tried to find the true pole by means of the tube. On the very first night I noticed that the star which could be seen through the tube moved after a while outside the field of view. I realized, therefore, that the tube was too small, so I increased the size of the tube by stages. After three months' trials I adjusted it so that the star would go round and round within the field of view without disappearing. In this way I found that the pole star was distant from the true pole somewhat more than 3 degrees. We used to make the diagrams of the field, plotting the positions of the star from the time when it entered the field of view, observing after nightfall, at midnight, and early in the morning before dawn. Two hundred of such diagrams showed that the 'pole star' was really a circumpolar star
Circumpolar star
A circumpolar star is a star that, as viewed from a given latitude on Earth, never sets , due to its proximity to one of the celestial poles...

. And this I stated in my detailed report to the emperor.

Movable type printing

On the methods of Bi Sheng
Bi Sheng
Bì Shēng was the inventor of the first known movable type technology. Bi Sheng's system was made of Chinese porcelain and was invented between 1041 and 1048 in China.-Movable type printing:...

's invention of movable type
Movable type
Movable type is the system of printing and typography that uses movable components to reproduce the elements of a document ....

Printing is a process for reproducing text and image, typically with ink on paper using a printing press. It is often carried out as a large-scale industrial process, and is an essential part of publishing and transaction printing....

 between the years 1041 to 1048 AD, Shen Kuo wrote:

[Bi Sheng] took sticky clay and cut in it characters as thin as the edge of a coin. Each character formed, as it were, a single type. He baked them in the fire to make them hard. He had previously prepared an iron plate and he had covered his plate with a mixture of pine resin, wax, and paper ashes. When he wished to print, he took an iron frame and set it on the iron plate. In this he placed the types, set close together. When the frame was full, the whole made one solid block of type. He then placed it near the fire to warm it. When the paste [at the back] was slightly melted, he took a smooth board and pressed it over the surface, so that the block of type became as even as a whetstone. If one were to print only two or three copies, this method would be neither simple nor easy. But for printing hundreds or thousands of copies, it was marvelously quick. As a rule he kept two forms going. While the impression was being made from the one form, the type was being put in place on the other. When the printing of the one form was finished, the other was then ready. In this way the two forms alternated and the printing was done with great rapidity.

Personal beliefs and philosophy

Of Daoism and the inability of empirical science to explain everything in the world, Shen Kuo wrote:

Those in the world who speak of the regularities underlying the phenomena, it seems, manage to apprehend their crude traces. But these regularities have their very subtle aspect, which those who rely on mathematical astronomy cannot know of. Still even these are nothing more than traces. As for the spiritual processes described in the [Book of Changes] that "when they are stimulated, penetrate every situation in the realm," mere traces have nothing to do with them. This spiritual state by which foreknowledge is attained can hardly be sought through changes, of which in any case only the cruder sort are attainable. What I have called the subtlest aspect of these traces, those who discuss the celestial bodies attempt to know by depending on mathematical astronomy; but astronomy is nothing more than the outcome of conjecture.

Dissertation on the Timberwork Manual

Below are two passages from Shen's book outlining the basics contained in Yu Hao
Yu Hao
Yu Hao was an eminent Chinese structural engineer and architect during the Song Dynasty period .-Legacy:Yu Hao was given the title of Master-Carpenter , for his architectural skill...

's Timberwork Manual. Yu Hao was a Chinese architect of the earlier 10th, and Kuo was one to praise his work. In the first quote, Shen Kuo describes a scene were Yu Hao gives advice to another artisan architect about slanting strut
A strut is a structural component designed to resist longitudinal compression. Struts provide outwards-facing support in their lengthwise direction, which can be used to keep two other components separate, performing the opposite function of a tie...

s for diagonal wind bracing:

When Mr. Qian (Wei-Yan) was Governor of the two Zhejiang
Zhejiang is an eastern coastal province of the People's Republic of China. The word Zhejiang was the old name of the Qiantang River, which passes through Hangzhou, the provincial capital...

 provinces, he authorized the building of a wooden pagoda at the Fan-Tian Si (Brahma
Brahma is the Hindu god of creation and one of the Trimurti, the others being Vishnu and Shiva. According to the Brahma Purana, he is the father of Mānu, and from Mānu all human beings are descended. In the Ramayana and the...

-Heaven Temple) in Hangzhou
Hangzhou , formerly transliterated as Hangchow, is the capital and largest city of Zhejiang Province in Eastern China. Governed as a sub-provincial city, and as of 2010, its entire administrative division or prefecture had a registered population of 8.7 million people...

 with a design of twice three stories. While it was under construction General Chhien went up to the top and was worried because it swayed a little. But the Master-Builder explained that as the tiles had not yet been put on, the upper part was still rather light, hence the effect. So then they put on all the tiles, but the sway continued as before. Being at a loss what to do, he privately sent his wife to see the wife of Yu Hao with a present of gold
Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

en hair pins, and enquire about the cause of the motion. (Yu) Hao laughed and said: 'That's easy, just fit in struts (pan) to settle the work, fixed with (iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

) nails, and it will not move any more.' The Master-Builder followed his advice, and the tower stood quite firm. This is because the nailed struts filled in and bound together (all the members) up and down so that the six planes (above and below, front and back, left and right) were mutually linked like the cage of the thorax
The thorax is a division of an animal's body that lies between the head and the abdomen.-In tetrapods:...

. Although people might walk on the struts, the six planes grasped and supported each other, so naturally there could be no more motion. Everybody acknowledged the expertise thus shown.

In this next quote, Shen Kuo describes the dimensions and types of architecture outlined in Yu Hao's book:

Methods of building construction are described in the Timberwork Manual, which, some say, was written by Yu Hao
Yu Hao
Yu Hao was an eminent Chinese structural engineer and architect during the Song Dynasty period .-Legacy:Yu Hao was given the title of Master-Carpenter , for his architectural skill...

. (According to that book), buildings have three basic units of proportion, what is above the cross-beams follows the Upperwork Unit, what is above the ground floor follows the Middlework Unit, and everything below that (platforms, foundations, paving, etc.) follows the Lowerwork Unit. The length of the cross-beams will naturally govern the lengths of the uppermost cross-beams as well as the rafters, etc. Thus for a (main) cross-beam of (8 ft) length, an uppermost cross-beam of (3.5 ft) length will be needed. (The proportions are maintained) in larger and smaller halls. This (2/28) is the Upperwork Unit. Similarly, the dimensions of the foundations must match the dimensions of the columns to be used, as also those of the (side-) rafter
A rafter is one of a series of sloped structural members , that extend from the ridge or hip to the downslope perimeter or eave, designed to support the roof deck and its associated loads.-Design:...

s, etc. For example, a column (11 ft) high will need a platform (4.5 ft) high. So also for all the other components, corbel
In architecture a corbel is a piece of stone jutting out of a wall to carry any superincumbent weight. A piece of timber projecting in the same way was called a "tassel" or a "bragger". The technique of corbelling, where rows of corbels deeply keyed inside a wall support a projecting wall or...

led brackets, projecting rafters, other rafters, all have their fixed proportions. All these follow the Middlework Unit (2/24). Now below of ramps (and steps) there are three kinds, steep, easy-going, and intermediate. In places these gradients are based upon a unit derived from the imperial litters. Steep ramps are ramps for ascending which the leading and trailing bearers have to extend their arms fully down and up respectively (ratio 3/35). Easy-going ramps are those for which the leaders use elbow length and the trailers shoulder height (ratio 1/38); intermediate ones are negotiated by the leaders with downstretched arms and trailers at shoulder height (ratio 2/18). These are the Lowerwork Units. The book (of Yu Hao) had three chapters. But builders in recent years have become much more precise and skillful (yen shan) than formerly. Thus for some time past the old Timberwork Manual has fallen out of use. But (unfortunately) there is hardly anybody capable of writing a new one. To do that would be a masterpiece in itself!

Botany and Zoology

Shen Kuo described the natural predator insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

 similarly shaped to the gou-he (dog grubs) which preyed upon the agricultural pest infestation of zi-fang, in which zi-fang is now known to be nian chong, a member of the Noctuidae
The Noctuidae or owlet moths are a family of robustly-built moths that includes more than 35,000 known species out of possibly 100,000 total, in more than 4,200 genera. They constitute the largest family in the Lepidoptera....

 family, Hadeninae
Hadeninae is a subfamily of moth family Noctuidae. The limits between this group and the Condicinae and Noctuinae are still not precisely known, with 3 major and partially conflicting revisions since 2006. Some include the noctuid subfamilies Eriopinae and Psaphidinae here as tribes Eriopini and...

 subfamily, Leucania separata:

In the Yuan-Feng reign period (1078-1085), in the Qingzhou
Qingzhou , formerly Yidu County , is a county-level city, which is located in the west of Weifang City, Shandong Province, China. Qingzhou is a dynamic industry city, and also grows a great number of farm products...

 region, an outbreak of zi-fang insects caused serious damage to the crops in the fields in autumn. Suddenly another insect appeared in swarms of thousands and tens of thousands, covering the entire ground area. It was shaped like earth-burrowing gou-he (dog grubs), and its mouth was flanked by pincers. Whenever it met a zi-fang, it would seize it with the pincers and break the poor beast into two bits. Within ten days all the zi-fang had disappeared, so the locality had an abundant harvest. Such kinds of insects have been known since antiquity and the local people call them pang bu ken (not allowing other to be).

Natural phenomena

Around 1078, Shen Kuo wrote an accurate description of the damaging effects of lightning
Lightning is an atmospheric electrostatic discharge accompanied by thunder, which typically occurs during thunderstorms, and sometimes during volcanic eruptions or dust storms...

 to buildings and to the specific materials of objects within. Taking an objective and speculative viewpoint, he stated:

A house belonging to Li Shunju was struck by lightning. Brilliant sparkling light was seen under the eaves. Everyone thought that the hall would be burnt, and those who were inside rushed out. After the thunder had abated, the house was found to be alright, though its walls and the paper on the windows were blackened. On certain wooden shelves, certain lacquer
In a general sense, lacquer is a somewhat imprecise term for a clear or coloured varnish that dries by solvent evaporation and often a curing process as well that produces a hard, durable finish, in any sheen level from ultra matte to high gloss and that can be further polished as required...

ed vessels with silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

 mouths had been struck by the lightning, so that the silver had melted and dropped to the ground, but the lacquer was not even scorched. Also, a valuable sword
A sword is a bladed weapon used primarily for cutting or thrusting. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographical region under consideration...

 made of strong steel
Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

 had been melted to liquid, without the parts of the house nearby being affected. One would have thought that the thatch and wood would have been burnt up first, yet here were metals melted and no injury to thatch and wood. This is beyond the understanding of ordinary people. There are Buddhist books which speak of 'dragon fire' which burns more fiercely when it meets with water instead of being extinguished by water like 'human' fire. Most people can only judge of things by the experiences of ordinary life, but phenomena outside the scope of this are really quite numerous. How insecure it is to investigate natural principles using only the light of common knowledge, and subjective ideas.

Strange Happenings

A passage called "Strange Happenings" contains a peculiar account of an unidentified flying object
Unidentified flying object
A term originally coined by the military, an unidentified flying object is an unusual apparent anomaly in the sky that is not readily identifiable to the observer as any known object...

. Shen wrote that, during the reign of Emperor Renzong (1022–1063), an object as bright as a pearl occasionally hovered over the city of Yangzhou
Yangzhou is a prefecture-level city in central Jiangsu Province, People's Republic of China. Sitting on the northern bank of the Yangtze River, it borders the provincial capital of Nanjing to the southwest, Huai'an to the north, Yancheng to the northeast, Taizhou to the east, and Zhenjiang across...

 at night, but described first by local inhabitants of eastern Anhui
Anhui is a province in the People's Republic of China. Located in eastern China across the basins of the Yangtze River and the Huai River, it borders Jiangsu to the east, Zhejiang to the southeast, Jiangxi to the south, Hubei to the southwest, Henan to the northwest, and Shandong for a tiny...

 and then in Jiangsu
' is a province of the People's Republic of China, located along the east coast of the country. The name comes from jiang, short for the city of Jiangning , and su, for the city of Suzhou. The abbreviation for this province is "苏" , the second character of its name...

. Shen wrote that a man near Xingkai Lake
Khanka Lake
Khanka Lake , is a transboundary freshwater body located on the border between Primorsky Krai, Russia and Heilongjiang province, Northeast China . At its closest point, it is situated east of the city of Jixi, Heilongjiang...

 observed this curious object; allegedly it:

...opened its door and a flood of intense light like sunbeams darted out of it, then the outer shell opened up, appearing as large as a bed with a big pearl the size of a fist illuminating the interior in silvery white. The intense silver-white light, shot from the interior, was too strong for human eyes to behold; it cast shadows of every tree within a radius of ten miles. The spectacle was like the rising Sun, lighting up the distant sky and woods in red. Then all of a sudden, the object took off at a tremendous speed and descended upon the lake like the Sun setting.

Shen went on to say that Yibo, a poet of Gaoyou, wrote a poem about this "pearl" after witnessing it. Shen wrote that since the "pearl" often made an appearance around Fanliang in Yangzhou, the people there erected a "Pearl Pavilion" on a wayside, where people came by boat in hopes to see the mysterious flying object.


Around 1065 Shen Kuo wrote about the assembly methods for sword
A sword is a bladed weapon used primarily for cutting or thrusting. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographical region under consideration...

s, and the patterns
Pattern welding
Pattern welding is the practice in sword and knife making of forming a blade of several metal pieces of differing composition that are forge-welded together and twisted and manipulated to form a pattern. Often called Damascus steel, blades forged in this manner often display bands of slightly...

 produced in the steel:

Ancient people use chi kang, (combined steel), for the edge, and jou thieh (soft iron) for the back, otherwise it would often break. Too strong a weapon will cut and destroy its own edge; that is why it is advisable to use nothing but combined steel. As for the yu-chhang (fish intestines) effect, it is what is now called the 'snake-coiling' steel sword, or alternatively, the 'pine tree design'. If you cook a fish fully and remove its bones, the shape of its guts will be seen to be like the lines on a 'snake-coiling sword'.

Chinese Clothing

Shen Kuo observed that the Chinese since some centuries prior had entirely adopted barbarian fashions.


The clothing of China since the Northern Qi [550-557] onward has been entirely made barbarian. Narrow sleeves, short dark red or green robes, tall boots and metal girdle ornaments are all barbarian garb. The narrow sleeves are useful when shooting while galloping. The short robes and tall boots are convenient when passing through tall grass. The barbarians all enjoy thick grass as they always sleep in it. I saw them all do it when I was sent north. Even the king's court is in the deep grasses. On the day I had arrived at the barbarian court the new rains had passed and I waded through the grass. My robes and trousers were all soaked, but the barbarians were not at all wet. With things hanging from robe and belt they walk about. One perhaps might want to hang items like a bow and blade, handkerchief, coin purse or knife from the belt.

Book chapters of the Meng Xi Bi Tan

The Humanities:
  • Official life and the imperial court
    Noble court
    The court of a monarch, or at some periods an important nobleman, is a term for the extended household and all those who regularly attended on the ruler or central figure...

     (60 paragraphs)
  • Academic and examination matters (10 paragraphs)
  • Literary and artistic (70 paragraphs)
  • Law
    Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

     and police
    The police is a personification of the state designated to put in practice the enforced law, protect property and reduce civil disorder in civilian matters. Their powers include the legitimized use of force...

     (11 paragraphs)
  • Military
    A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

     (25 paragraphs)
  • Miscellaneous stories and anecdotes (72 paragraphs)
  • Divination
    Divination is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic standardized process or ritual...

    , magic
    Magic (paranormal)
    Magic is the claimed art of manipulating aspects of reality either by supernatural means or through knowledge of occult laws unknown to science. It is in contrast to science, in that science does not accept anything not subject to either direct or indirect observation, and subject to logical...

    , and folklore
    Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales and customs that are the traditions of a culture, subculture, or group. It is also the set of practices through which those expressive genres are shared. The study of folklore is sometimes called...

     (22 paragraphs)

The Natural Sciences:
  • On the I Ching
    I Ching
    The I Ching or "Yì Jīng" , also known as the Classic of Changes, Book of Changes and Zhouyi, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts...

    , Yin and Yang
    Yin and yang
    In Asian philosophy, the concept of yin yang , which is often referred to in the West as "yin and yang", is used to describe how polar opposites or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in turn. Opposites thus only...

    , and 5 elements
    Five elements (Chinese philosophy)
    The Wu Xing, also known as the Five Phases, the Five Agents, the Five Movements, and the Five Steps/Stages, are chiefly an ancient mnemonic device, in many traditional Chinese fields....

     (7 paragraphs)
  • Mathematics
    Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

     (11 paragraphs)
  • Astronomy
    Astronomy is a natural science that deals with the study of celestial objects and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth...

     and calendar (19 paragraphs)
  • Meteorology
    Meteorology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the atmosphere. Studies in the field stretch back millennia, though significant progress in meteorology did not occur until the 18th century. The 19th century saw breakthroughs occur after observing networks developed across several countries...

     (18 paragraphs)
  • Geology
    Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

     and mineralogy
    Mineralogy is the study of chemistry, crystal structure, and physical properties of minerals. Specific studies within mineralogy include the processes of mineral origin and formation, classification of minerals, their geographical distribution, as well as their utilization.-History:Early writing...

     (17 paragraphs)
  • Geography
    Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

     and cartography
    Cartography is the study and practice of making maps. Combining science, aesthetics, and technique, cartography builds on the premise that reality can be modeled in ways that communicate spatial information effectively.The fundamental problems of traditional cartography are to:*Set the map's...

     (15 paragraphs)
  • Physics
    Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

     (6 paragraphs)
  • Chemistry
    Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

     (3 paragraphs)
  • Engineering
    Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize improvements to the lives of...

    , metallurgy
    Metallurgy is a domain of materials science that studies the physical and chemical behavior of metallic elements, their intermetallic compounds, and their mixtures, which are called alloys. It is also the technology of metals: the way in which science is applied to their practical use...

    , and technology
    Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures. The word technology comes ;...

     (18 paragraphs)
  • Irrigation
    Irrigation may be defined as the science of artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall...

     and hydraulic engineering
    Hydraulic engineering
    This article is about civil engineering. For the mechanical engineering discipline see Hydraulic machineryHydraulic engineering as a sub-discipline of civil engineering is concerned with the flow and conveyance of fluids, principally water and sewage. One feature of these systems is the extensive...

     (6 paragraphs)
  • Architecture
    Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

     (6 paragraphs)
  • Biological sciences, botany
    Botany, plant science, or plant biology is a branch of biology that involves the scientific study of plant life. Traditionally, botany also included the study of fungi, algae and viruses...

    , and zoology
    Zoology |zoölogy]]), is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct...

     (52 paragraphs)
  • Agricultural arts (6 paragraphs)
  • Medicine
    Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

     and pharmaceutics
    Pharmaceutics is the discipline of pharmacy that deals with all facets of the process of turning a new chemical entity into a medication able to be safely and effectively used by patients in the community. Pharmaceutics is the science of dosage form design...

     (23 paragraphs)

The Humanistic Sciences:
  • Anthropology
    Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

     (6 paragraphs)
  • Archeology (21 paragraphs)
  • Philology
    Philology is the study of language in written historical sources; it is a combination of literary studies, history and linguistics.Classical philology is the philology of Greek and Classical Latin...

     (36 paragraphs)
  • Music
    Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

     (44 paragraphs)

(Total number of paragraphs = 584)

See also

  • Chinese literature
    Chinese literature
    Chinese literature extends thousands of years, from the earliest recorded dynastic court archives to the mature fictional novels that arose during the Ming Dynasty to entertain the masses of literate Chinese...

  • Chinese classics
  • List of Chinese writers
  • History of science and technology in China
    History of science and technology in China
    The history of science and technology in China is both long and rich with many contributions to science and technology. In antiquity, independently of other civilizations, ancient Chinese philosophers made significant advances in science, technology, mathematics, and astronomy...

  • Technology of the Song Dynasty
    Technology of the Song Dynasty
    The Song Dynasty provided some of the most significant technological advances in Chinese history, many of which came from talented statesmen drafted by the government through imperial examinations....

External links