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Du Shi

  Du Shi (traditional Chinese: 杜詩; Hanyu Pinyin: Dù Shī; Wade-Giles: Tu Shih, d. 38[1]) was a Chinese governmental Prefect of Nanyang in 31 AD and a mechanical engineer of the Eastern Han Dynasty in ancient China. Du Shi is credited with being the first to apply hydraulic power (ie. a waterwheel) to operate bellows (air-blowing device) in metallurgy. His invention was used to operate piston-bellows of the blast furnace in order to forge cast iron, which had been known in China since the 6th century BC.


The Water-Powered Blast Furnace

Account of Du Shi

The engineer and statesman Du Shi is mentioned briefly in the Book of Later Han (Hou Han Shu) as follows (in Wade-Giles spelling):

In the seventh year of the Chien-Wu reign period (31 AD) Tu Shih was posted to be Prefect of Nanyang. He was a generous man and his policies were peaceful; he destroyed evil-doers and established the dignity (of his office). Good at planning, he loved the common people and wished to save their labor. He invented a water-power reciprocator for the casting of (iron) agricultural implements. Those who smelted and cast already had the push-bellows to blow up their charcoal fires, and now they were instructed to use the rushing of the water to operate it...Thus the people got great benefit for little labor. They found the 'water(-powered) bellows' convenient and adopted it widely. [2]

Spread of Use

The historical text Sanguo Zhi (Records of the Three Kingdoms) records the use of both human labor and horse-power to operate metallurgic bellows of a blast furnace before water-power was applied.[2] It also records that around 238 AD, engineer Han Ji (Prefect of Luo-ling) reinvented a similar water-powered bellows that Du Shi had earlier pioneered. Two decades after this, it is recorded that another design for water-powered bellows was created by Du Yu.[2] In the 5th century text of the Wu Chang Ji, its author Pi Ling wrote that a planned, artificial lake had been constructed in the Yuan-Jia reign period (424–429) for the sole purpose of powering water wheels aiding the smelting and casting processes of the Chinese iron industry.[3] The 5th century text Shui Jing Zhu mentions the use of rushing river water to power waterwheels, as does the Tang Dynasty geography text of the Yuan-he Jun Xian Tu Chi, written in 814 AD.[4]

Although Du Shi is the first historical figure to apply water power to metallurgic bellows, the oldest extant Chinese illustration depicting such a device in operation can be seen in a picture of the Nong Shu, printed by 1313 AD during the Yuan Dynasty of China.[5] The text was written by Wang Zhen, who explained the methods used for a water-powered blast-furnace (Wade-Giles spelling):

According to modern study (+1313!), leather bag bellows were used in olden times, but now they always use wooden fan (bellows)(mu shan). The design is as follows. A place beside a rushing torrent is selected, and a vertical shaft is set up in a framework with two horizontal wheels so that the lower one is rotated by the force of the water. The upper one is connected by a driving belt to a (smaller) wheel in front of it, which bears an eccentric lug (lit. oscillating rod). Then all as one, following the turning (of the driving wheel), the connecting-rod attached to the eccentric lug pushes and pulls the rocking roller, the levers to left and right of which assure the transmission of the motion to the piston-rod (chih mu). Thus this is pushed back and forth, operating the furnace bellows far more quickly than would be possible with man-power.[6]

See also

  • Hydraulics
  • Mechanics
  • Watermill
  • Trip hammer
  • List of Chinese people
  • Antipater of Thessalonica


  1. ^ Book of Later Han, vol. 31
  2. ^ a b c Needham, Volume 4, Part 2, 370
  3. ^ Needham, Volume 4, Part 2, 371-371.
  4. ^ Needham, Volume 4, Part 2, 373.
  5. ^ Needham, Volume 4, Part 2, 371.
  6. ^ Needham, Volume 4, Part 2, 376.


  • Needham, Joseph (1986). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 4, Part 2. Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Du_Shi". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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