Scale model of Su Sung's Water-Balance Escapement

1965 in South Kensington
Science Museum

Scale model, (scale 1:6), of Su Sung's astronomical clock-tower water-balance escapement, originally used in 1088. Model made in 1965.

There was a tradition of mechanical knowledge in China for thousands of years before the mechanical clock arrived in China from Europe in the late 1500s. In the 1960s, scholars rediscovered an ancient text about a water-powered astronomical clock tower made in China by Su Sung (1020-1101, Song dynasty) in 1088. The text revealed that the clock tower contained a waterwheel which functioned as an escapement. An escapement is a mechanism which controls the release of energy in small quantities at regular intervals. It is an essential part of mechanical clocks.

This discovery challened the long-held belief that mechanical clocks originated entirely in Europe. In fact, some elements of the invention may have emerged in multiple locations throughout history, including China.

This scale model was made by the Science Museum Workshops in 1965.


Time Measurement
Object Number:
copper (metal), electronic components, lead, mahogany block, metal (unknown), plastic (unidentified), steel (metal) and stone
  • component - object
  • visual and verbal communication
  • model - representation
  • visual and verbal communication
  • model - representation
Science Museum

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