Water-powered Puppet Theatre
For the Emperor Ming of Wei, Ma Jun once invented an intricate hydraulic-powered, mechanical-operated puppet theatre. His puppet theatre is similar to that of a Greek model invented by Hero of Alexandria, the difference being that the latter used instead a rotating cylindrical cogwheel with ropes and pulleys to operate his mechanical theatre.
Relation to Automatons:
A puppet theatre has the power to captivate, to delight and entertain, and the Chinese liked them as much as the Greeks in Hero’s Alexandria two hundred years previously. Although one artificer after another might introduce innovative engineering feats to pull off their creations, the real test was in the audience. Did they laugh and cry, applaud and cheer, or did they turn away, uninterested in this new spectacle?
Mechanical plays were long a popular diversion in China, and in a subsequent dynasty Qu Zhi would make not only dolls’ houses but a rat market complete with rat attendants. Although some of the delicate intricacy required had more practical uses, that was never the aim, and to those watching an automaton’s performance the idea of their being more than distractions for the privileged could not have been further from their minds.
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