History Mesh

Chinese Android (1000BC)

The king stared at the figure in astonishment. It walked with rapid strides, moving its head up and down, so that anyone would have taken it for a live human being.

A tale in the Lie Zi, from the 3rd century BC, tells of an encounter between the 10th century King Mu of the Zhou Dynasty and a life-sized human automaton made by a mechanical engineer called Yan Shi. Although the story’s claims — that it had mechanical equivalents of all the human organs that controlled its various functions — seem unbelievable, we cannot be certain whether the entire thing is a fiction or based on an early actual automaton, with lesser functions.

Relation to Automatons:

Automatons have long been a fascination of inventors and engineers — even today, we continue to strive to make realistic androids and other automata, toys are becoming increasingly realistic, and we now have two-legged robots that can climb stairs, pick up and serve drinks and play football.

The Chinese Android is one of the earliest automata that we know about, although some will claim that it is simply fiction. But the king’s astonishment illustrates the accomplishment such a feat would have represented almost three thousand years ago — would you have thought that the people of the time could even have conceived of a humanoid robot, let alone built one?

Read more about Chinese Android on Wikipedia.