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Ceramic Pipelines in ancient China


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#1 TheAznValedictorian

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Posted 18 September 2009 - 04:51 PM

Quite a few times, I have heard passing comments about ceramic pipelines used in ancient China.
Can anybody give me more info about it?

Thank you
"I do not fear death, in view of the fact that I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it." - Mark Twain


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#2 General_Zhaoyun

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Posted 19 September 2009 - 09:50 PM

Quite a few times, I have heard passing comments about ceramic pipelines used in ancient China.
Can anybody give me more info about it?

Thank you


According to this site http://www.kepu.net....0312300037.html, the Chinese had been using ceramic pipelines (陶水管) as early as Shang dynasty. Towards late Shang dynasty period, a three-way ceramic pipe appeared in ancient China, which were used used for drainage system.

In the archaeological excavation of the ruins of Yin (capital of Shang), there were discovery of north-south ceramic pipelines as long as 7.9m. It was inter-connected by 17 pipes. The east-west pipelines were 4.62m long and inter-connected by 11 pipes. The north-south pipelines and east-west pipelines were in turn joined by a three-way joint-pipe. These pipelines were used for drainage. Each pipe is about 40-50 cm long, diameter is around 20cm, wall thickness around 1.3cm. The joints can either be flat connection or insert-jack connection.

Below are some pictures of the Shang ceramic pipe from the Yin museum (at Anyang) excavated from ruins of Yin.

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Below is an excavated ceramic pipeline from Fengxiang Drainage ruins of Western Zhou period (鳳翔水溝遺址出土陶水管)
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Below is a 5-sided ceramic pipeline from Qin period
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Below is a ceramic pipeline from ruins of Erlitou
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Below is a ceramic pipeline originating from Tang dynasty from Musuem of Aksu in Xinjiang province. It was used for city drainage. Excavated from ancient city of Koestler
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In ancient Chinese source Guanzi Dudi 《管子度地》, there were already records about the the scientific principles of drainage system in pipelines: Pressure inverted siphon flow 压倒虹吸水流

水之性,行至曲,必留退,满则后推前,地下则平行,地高即控。

Translation: The nature of water is such that if the water moves to a curving spot, it will retain backward movement. If the water is full, the back will push the front. At ground bottom, it will move in a parallel manner, at high ground, it should be controlled.


What this means is that if the drainage water moves from one end to a curving spot in the pipeline, it will first fill up the entire siphon. This will produce the 'backward flow retention movement'. After that, it will then use the back to drive the front and flow out from the other end. When water flows through buildings, it will encounter certain loss in energy. Thus, one needs to make sure that the entry and exit of the pipes had some differences in the height (exit height should be lower than entry height). Then, this will cause the water to flow smoothly. Otherwise, the drainage water will undergo the 'pressure inverted flow' preventing the water to flow through.

Below show some pictures of pipelines

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Sketches of direct and 3-way drainage ceramic pipes in Yang city 阳城 (Late Warring States Period), source: 《登封王城岗与阳城》

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Sketches of 4-way controlled ceramic pipelines in Yang city 阳城 (Late Warring States Period), source: 《登封王城岗与阳城》

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"夫君子之行:靜以修身,儉以養德;非淡泊無以明志,非寧靜無以致遠。" - 諸葛亮

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#3 TheAznValedictorian

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Posted 19 September 2009 - 11:44 PM

Ah, that was very helpful. Thank you for your reply, Zhaoyun.

Edited by Asian Power, 19 September 2009 - 11:45 PM.

"I do not fear death, in view of the fact that I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it." - Mark Twain


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#4 WangGeon

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Posted 27 September 2009 - 11:42 AM

How common were these pipelines used in ancient Chinese cities? Were they as common as the aqueducts were in Roman constructions?

#5 moobie

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Posted 04 October 2009 - 08:52 PM

Were these ever used for sewage systems?

#6 General_Zhaoyun

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 04:23 AM

How common were these pipelines used in ancient Chinese cities? Were they as common as the aqueducts were in Roman constructions?

Were these ever used for sewage systems?


These ancient ceramic pipelines were quite common in ancient Chinese citiies. They were primarily used for drainage, irrigation of crops. They were also used for primitive "sewage" system, i.e. to drain away waste and dirty water from washing clothings, cooking etc into rivers ..

Ancient Chinese toilets did not have any form of sewage system. That means to say, the faeces were collected in pails and then transported to farms to be used as fertilizers.
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"夫君子之行:靜以修身,儉以養德;非淡泊無以明志,非寧靜無以致遠。" - 諸葛亮

One should seek serenity to cultivate the body, thriftiness to cultivate the morals. If you are not simple and frugal, your ambition will not sparkle. If you are not calm and cool, you will not reach far. - Zhugeliang




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