Asian Horology


Asian Timepieces

asian horology resize


Sundials, water clocks, and incense timekeepers (in addition to other combustion clocks) were utilized throughout the Far East long before and well after the advent of the weight-driven mechanical clock. The most prevalent claim is that Western missionaries introduced European Mechanical Clocks into China and Japan in the late 16th century. Although European clocks were imported into the Far East during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, there was native clock making activity in Asia.


In 1680, Emperor K'ang H'si sponsored China's first horological workshop. In grew in scale and was formally established in 1694. During the late 1700s and throughout the 1800s the Chinese market was supplied by both Chinese and European clockmakers. In some instances European movements were imported into China uncased and put into domestically produced cases decorated with classical Chinese motifs. Chinese clockmaking began to modernize in the early years of the 20th century, and China's first clock factory, Teh Shun Hsing, was started in Shantung province in 1915.


Many of the first mechanical clocks in Japan were used in religious temples where their bells, much like those of Western monasteries, served the broader function of announcing the time to the surrounding community. Japanese clockmakers took cues from European clockwork, adapted it to Japan's temporal system of unequal hours. This system was based on a twelve-hour day: six hours of daylight and six hours of darkness. As the proportion of daylight to darkness varies with the seasons, so does the duration of these hours, meaning that Japanese clocks had to accommodate the necessary adjustments. Japanese clockmakers accomplished this in several ways, accounting for the mechanical diversity of Japanese clocks.

On January 1, 1873, Japan adopted the Western calendar and system of time measurement sparking a renewed interest in time keeping. Japan's first clock factory, Kingensha, was established in 1875. In 1892, Kintaro Hattori founded Seikosha (later know as Seiko), which remains a cornerstone of Japanese timepiece production to this day.



Here are some examples of the museum's Asian timepieces:


yagura     bracket     incense dragon     shaku     yag2