Kao Gong Ji

The World’s Oldest Encyclopaedia of Technologies


In Kao Gong Ji: The World’s Oldest Encyclopaedia of Technologies, Guan Zengjian and Konrad Herrmann offer an English translation and commentary of the first technological encyclopaedia in China. This work came into being around the 5th century C.E. and contains descriptions of thirty technologies used at the time. Most prominent are bronze casting, the manufacture of carriages and weapons, a metrological standard, the making of musical instruments, and the planning of cities. The technologies, including the manufacturing process and quality assurance, are based on standardization and modularization. In several commentaries, the editors show to which degree the descriptions of Kao Gong Ji correspond to archaeological findings.

Revised and updated translation from the Chinese edition:《考工记: 翻译与评注》(ISBN: 978-7-313-12133-2) by Guan Zengjian, © Shanghai Jiao Tong University Press 2014. Published by Shanghai Jiao Tong University Press.

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Guan Zengjian is a Professor of History of Science at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. He has published monographs, translations, and many articles on History of Science, especially on the history of Chinese science and metrology.

Konrad Herrmann worked as a metrologist and sinologist at the national metrology institute of Germany (PTB). He translated several works of classical and contemporary Chinese literature. Since his retirement, he has translated extensively in the field of history of Chinese science.
Abbreviations and Conventions
List of Illustrations
List of Tables

 1 On Historical Editions and Commenting of “Kao Gong Ji”
 2 Historical Background of “Kao Gong Ji”
 3 Location and Period of Origin of “Kao Gong Ji”

Part 1: The Text

卷上 (Part One)
 Part 1: Introduction
 Manufacture of Chariots
 1 The Wheelmaker
 2 The Carriage Carpenter
 3 The Pole Carpenter
 4 The Bronze Caster
 5 Bronze Weapons
 6 Bronze Bells
 7 Measuring Standards
 8 Agricultural Tools (Missing)
 9 Leather
 10 The Tanner
 11 The Drum Maker
 12 Tailor of Mourning Garments (Missing)
 13 Furrier (Missing)
 14 Paints
 15 Dyer of Feathers
 16 Dyer of Clothes and Silks (Missing)
 17 Dyer of Silk

卷下 (Part Two)
 18 Part 2: The Jade Polisher
 19 Comb Maker (Missing)
 20 Bone Carver (Missing)
 21 The Manufacturer of Chimes
 22 The Arrow Tip Manufacturer
 23 The Potter
 24 The Carpenter Ziren
 25 The Weapon Carpenter
 26 Construction Workers
 27 The Carriage Manufacturer
 28 The Bow Manufacturer

Part 2: Analysis – Commentaries

Commentary to 卷上
 1 Manufacture of Carriages
 2 Astronomy
 3 Bronze Technology
 4 Bronze Objects – Vessels, Weapons, Mirrors
 5 Metrology
 6 Musical Instruments

Commentary to 卷下
 7 Jade
 8 Ceramics and Porcelain
 9 Civil Engineering
 10 Manufacture of Bows
Index of Personal and Geographical Names
Index of Subjects
All historians, sinologists, graduate students, technologists, metrologists, and anyone who is interested in Chinese history, science history, and culture.