Chinese Compass, Wisdom of the Orient

Chinese Compass, Wisdom of the Orient
 
The earliest known compass dates back to China during the Warring States Period (475 BC-221 BC). At the time, people used an instrument called "Sinan" for fortune telling and other spiritual applications. A Sinan consisted of two components. The first, top part, was a metal spoon made of loadstone. The second, bottom part, was a square bronze plate with markings pointing into twenty-four different directions. Because loadstone aligned with the Earth's natural magnetic field, the spoon's handle would always point south when placed on the plate. The ancient Chinese quickly realized the potential application of this direction-finding devise and they began to work on improving its stability.
 
The compass of later days had a magnetized needle on a round plate. Chinese scholars had devised a way to magnetize iron needles by rubbing them with magnetite and suspending them in water. They also observed that needles cooled from red heat and when held in the north-south orientation (the earth's axis) would become magnetic. These more refined needle compasses could then be floated in water (wet compass), placed upon a pointed shaft (dry compass), or suspended from a silk thread. Consequently, they were much more useful for navigation purposes since they were much more portable. Its first recorded use as a navigation tool on ships was during the Northern Song dynasty (960 AD-1127 AD)
 
During the Song Dynasty (960 AD-1279 AD), many trading ships were then able to sail as far as Saudi Arabia without getting lost. The compass was introduced to the Arab world and Europe during the Northern Song Dynasty. The spread of the compass to Europe opened the oceans of the world to travel and led to the discovery of the New World.
 
Today, the Chinese compass is still one of the most important instruments used in practicing Feng Shui. This type of Chinese compass is known as “Lo-Pan,” which means “container of the mysteries of the universe.” The Chinese compass or Lo Pan has bands of forty concentric rings that are located around the magnetic needle. The compass has a red square base. The color symbolizes a strong protective color in China.
 
In the past, the Chinese compass for Feng Shui was made of tiger bones and was hand-painted. Nowadays, however, the Chinese compass is made up of a brass base plate and a magnetic spoon showing designs such as Ten Heavenly Stems, Twelve Earthly Branches, and the Four Divinatory Symbols. These designs indicate the twenty-four directions and positions and are attached to a beautiful rosewood platform. The use of the Chinese compass for Feng Shui is basically to give information on the favorable and unfavorable parts of a location or building.
 
Source: www.chinaculture.org, http://chinesecompass.org