Ancient seismograph debunked

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Global Times, December 3, 2010
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A renowned scientist with a reputation for exposing academic misconduct and fraud has embarked on a battle with a third century Chinese scientist who invented a device that he claimed could detect earthquakes.

Seismograph invented by Chinese ancient Zhang Heng from Eastern Han Dyansty.[File photo]

Seismograph invented by Chinese ancient Zhang Heng from Eastern Han Dyansty.[File photo]

Fang Zhouzi has questioned if the primitive seismograph invented by Zhang Heng from the Eastern Han Dynasty (25- 220) did successfully detect earthquakes in the past, as some historical documents attest to.

"I have every reason to believe that it was a story fabricated to make the device sound magical," Fang said to the Global Times.

The device, which was cylindrical in shape and adorned with eight dragon heads facing eight directions, was believed to be the world's first seismograph and considered a great achievement of Chinese civilization.

According to historical records, a metal ball would drop from a dragon's mouth if a region in the direction it was pointing to was about to be struck by an earthquake. Its ability to detect seismic activity has been included in Chinese history textbooks. The original device was lost over 1,000 years ago.

Fang argued that historical data on the success of Zhang's device contradicts other historical records.

Fang cited one historical document that said people in Luoyang at first did not believe the device had correctly reported a distant earthquake as no one felt any tremors, while it later turned out that the quake did indeed occur. However, Fang said this contradicts another document, which recorded the same earthquake but said it was so strong that people in Luoyang were able to feel the tremors.

Fang also pointed out that a team from the China Earthquake Administration had produced an exact replica of the device in 2005 by combining theories put forward by Zhang with the latest scientific research, but had still failed to detect any earthquakes.

Fang lashed out at the team's claim that the device was capable of detecting seismic activity, arguing that several earthquakes had occurred since 2005 but had gone undetected.

Feng Rui, the person who led the project, explained that the replica responds to earthquakes but more supporting facilities are needed before it can better detect them.

It is reported that Fang's accusations have disappointed many people, the Beijing Times reported Friday. "I did not know that I had been deceived all these years," an Internet user wrote on

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