Asian Timepieces

In 1680, Emperor K’ang H’si sponsored China’s first horological workshop. The workshop grew in scale and was formally established in 1694. During the late 1700s and entire 1800s, the Chinese market received clocks from both Chinese and European makers. In some instances, European movements were imported into China, placed into Chinese-produced cases, and decorated with Chinese motifs. Chinese clock-making began to modernize in the 1900s with the building of the first Chinese clock factory in the Shantung Province in 1915.

Japan, on the other hand, used the first mechanical clocks in religious temples, with the bells serving the greater function of announcing the time to the surrounding community. Japanese clock makers needed to adapt Japan’s temporal system of unequal hours. This system was based on a 12-hour day: six hours of daylight and six hours of darkness. Because the proportion of daylight to darkness varied with the seasons, so did the duration of these hours. Japanese clocks needed to be able to accommodate these changes. Japanese clock makers accomplished this in several ways, which accounts 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 timekeeping.

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