Shen Kuo


Statue of Shen Kuo in Song city (Song Dynasty theme park) of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province [Photo/IC]

Shen Kuo (1031–1095), was a Chinese polymathic scientist and statesman of the Song Dynasty (960–1279). He was born in Wukang town in Huzhou, Zhejiang province.

He was the head official for the Bureau of Astronomy in the Song court, as well as an Assistant Minister of Imperial Hospitality. He finished his masterpiece – Meng Xi Bi Tan (Dream Pool Essays or Dream Torrent Essays) in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province.

Shen was an outstanding scientist in ancient China. He was knowledgeable and versatile. He could understand everything in astronomy, local records, the legal calendar, music, medicine and divination. His 3D model map made from wood was the first of its kind in Chinese history, appearing 600 years earlier than similar devices in Western Europe. He also studied the compass and discovered the existence of the magnetic deviation angle, the first to do so in the world. The Chinese name of petroleum (Shi You) was coined in Meng Xi Bi Tan, and is still in use today. His attitude towards writing was extremely rigorous and he wrote many books, of which Meng Xi Bi Tan is his most representative.