The Compass

(指南针) Zhǐ nán zhēn

Who, What, Why?

No one knows who invented the first compass, but it was invented during the Han Dynasty. (2nd century BCE to2nd century CE) The first compasses were made of two parts, a lodestone or magnetite spoon, and a bronze plate called the heaven's plate. It's original use was to aid in Feng Shui, as it would point to where an object should be placed.

How it works

The original compass worked much like modern ones do. The metal in the spoon would be influenced by the Earth's magnetic field and would point to the north pole. Chinese alchemists realized this and changed both the design and materials int he compass. The magnetite spoon was replaced with an iron needle which was then rubbed with magnetite and heated. Once cooled, the needle was placed in water, or suspended with a silk thread.

Evolution of the Compasses

Compasses now

William Stergen discovered the electro-magnet and implemented it into the compass, creating the beginning of the modern compass. Today magnetic compasses are mainly replaced with those that use satellites. Outdoors men and Hikers still use the magnetic counterpart.

Summary paragraph

1.) The compass may have gotten to Europe by either the way of trade or by someone coming back from china and sharing what they learned (Cultural diffusion). The invention then had to take off to show that it worked and then afterwards was then to navigate the oceans better. It soon spread from European country to European country.

2.) In the beginning when the Indian ocean trade route was set up people were able to share goods and ideas better then Because of the trade the Chinese had with the Arabs they showed them the ways of the compass. Then due to cultural diffusion the Arabs showed the Europeans.

3.) There are many different reasons why the west may be given credit. One of the reasons is because of the fact that later when the compass was improved it was the standard in which all Europeans used. This made the compass design more accepted and it made it seem as though the west invented it.


4.) The most important thing that we learned about this project is the power of trade. Because of trade we have many of our inventions today. Like the compass we were able to have the compass and soon its upgrades that changed the way we traveled and helped us.


5.)Chinese inventions helped set up the standard for the way we traveled. Because of the compass and its use as a navigation tool we were able to grow and then one day discover new lands like the America’s. Today the compass is still used and is still needed by campers and people still use the updated and upgraded compass or what we call the GPS.