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Nautical compass navigation

- Sep 03, 2018 -

As a kind of pointing instrument, the nautical compass plays an important role in ancient Chinese military, production, daily life, topographic measurement, especially in the navigation industry.


China's ancient maritime industry is quite developed. During the Qin and Han Dynasties, there had been maritime exchanges with North Korea and Japan. By the Sui, Tang and Five Dynasties, this kind of exchange had been quite frequent. Moreover, trade relations with Arab countries are already very close. In the Song Dynasty, this kind of maritime traffic was further developed. China's huge merchant fleet often travels to and from the South Pacific and Indian Ocean routes. The rapid development and expansion of maritime traffic is inseparable from the application of nautical compasses in navigation. Before the nautical compass is used for navigation, the maritime navigation can only be located according to the sun, the moon and the stars, and when there is a haze, there is nothing to do. In the third year of Tang Wenzong's opening (AD 838), the Japanese monk Yuan Ren came to China to seek law. Later, he wrote a book entitled "Inscriptions on the Law of the Tang Dynasty", describing the chaotic and difficult situation when encountering rainy weather at sea: At that time, The course of the sea boat is unrecognizable. Everyone is talking about it. Some say it is going north. Some say it is going northwest. Fortunately, I met a shallow place with green sea, but I don’t know how far it is from the land. Shen Shi stopped the boat and waited for the weather.


After the nautical compass is used for navigation, the heading is identifiable regardless of the weather. The earliest recorded in the history books was the nautical compass used for navigation in the Northern Song Dynasty. Zhu Xi (yù) commented on the prosperity of the maritime industry in Guangzhou at the time of his book Ping Ping, and also described the situation of Chinese sea-going vessels sailing on the sea. He said: "The boat master knows geography, and the night Stargazing, Years of experience, and the use of nautical compass is not very skilled. With the continuous application of nautical compasses on the sea, people's dependence on it is increasing day by day, and there are special people to look after. Wu Zimu of the Southern Song Dynasty said in his "Dream of the Nightmare": "When the wind and rain are in the air, only the needles are used, but the fire is long, and it is not a mistake to make a boat." It can also be seen that the position and role of the nautical compass in navigation. In the Yuan Dynasty, the nautical compass jumped into the most important instrument for navigation on the sea. No matter whether it was cloudy or not, it used the nautical compass to guide navigation.


At this time, the maritime navigation also specially prepared a compass needle. Where the boat went, what needle position was used, and all the routes were clearly identified. In the Yuan Dynasty, "Hai Dao Jing" and "Da Yuan Hai Ji Ji" have records about the compass needle. In the "Zhen La Feng Tu Ji" written by Zhou Daguan in the Yuan Dynasty, in addition to describing the sea, he also wrote that the sea boat sailed from Wenzhou, "the line is not needled." This is because the Nanyang countries are in the south of China, so the sea boat from Wenzhou should use the Ding Wei position in the south to the west. At the beginning of the Ming Dynasty, the navigator Zheng He "seven Xi Xiyang" expanded China's foreign trade, promoted economic and cultural exchanges between the East and the West, strengthened China's international political influence, and enhanced China's friendship with the nations of the world. Excellent contribution. The reason why his large-scale sea navigation is safe and secure depends on the loyal navigation of the nautical compass. Zheng He’s giant ship departed from Liujiagang, Jiangsu, to the northern end of Sumatra. The route along the route was marked with a compass needle. In the voyage after Sumatra, the compass needle and the star-strike were complemented. The nautical compass provides a reliable guarantee for Zheng He to open up the route from China to East Africa.


Worldwide, the application of nautical compasses in navigation led to the discovery of Columbus (about 1451-1506) to the American continent and the global voyage of Magellan (about 1480-1521. This has greatly accelerated the process of world economic development and provided an indispensable prerequisite for the development of capitalism.

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