chapter  16
7 Pages

Wang Zheng (1571–1644)

Born in the province of Shaanxi, Wang Zheng 王徵 obtained a Jinshi degree in 1622, after having failed nine times in the imperial examination, and was appointed Assistant Army Supervisor of Denglai (now Shandong Province). Wang was interested in mechanics and designed ingenious instruments and devices such as siphons, mills and mechanical ploughs. He learned about Western machines and other technology from Jesuit missionaries like Nicolas Trigault 金尼閣 (1577-1628). Since Wang was also renowned for his knowledge of weaponry, Xu Guangqi 徐光啟 recommended him for a post in Beijing, where he worked on vehicles and firearms. In 1626, when Trigault was working on An Aid to the Eye and Ear of Western Scholars 西儒耳目資 (Xiru ermu zi), Wang assisted in the editing and polishing, wrote the preface and helped to publicize the book, often considered the first attempt at romanization of the Chinese script to help Westerners learn Chinese. In 1627, Wang assisted another Jesuit, Johann Schreck 鄧玉函 (1576-1630),107 in translating and compiling Diagrams and Explanations of Ingenious Machines of the Far West: A Selection of the Very Best 遠西奇器圖說錄最 (Yuanxi qiqi tushuo luzui), the first work in Chinese on Western mechanics and dynamics, and had it published in Yangzhou.108 Wang supplemented the book with one of his own, Explanations and Diagrams of Various Machines 諸器圖說 (Zhuqi tushuo), describing improvements to some of the traditional Chinese agricultural instruments.