Make time for a grand wind-up

Local | Bernard Charnwut Chan 5 Dec 2018

During the late Ming and early Qing dynasties, or around the mid-late 17th century, Western missionaries impressed China's leaders with mechanical clocks.

Official delegations from European nations also presented China's elite with luxurious timepieces as gifts, and imperial clock-making workshops were founded.

Some historians have described the process as "clock diplomacy."

And now we are counting down to the Hong Kong Museum of Science's exhibition The Hong Kong Jockey Club Series: Treasures of Time. The exhibition opens on Friday and runs until April 4 next year.

Visitors can see some 120 clocks and watches from the collection of the Palace Museum in Beijing.

These are not plain and everyday clocks but extremely elaborate and exquisite works of craftsmanship as well as technology.

The designs are influenced by European tastes of the time but also incorporate Chinese styles, featuring complex and colorful inlays as well as birds, flowers, animals and other decorations.

In many cases decorative parts of a device move or even play music. Several are in the form of pagodas. One is a pavilion set in a garden with a tree and flowing water - the real stuff.

Some of these timepieces have been repaired recently and are being seen outside Beijing for the first time.

The exhibition includes tools and equipment used by clockmakers at the time, which are on loan from the Science Museum in London.

There also some displays on the history and principles of time-keeping up to today's atomic clocks.

For more details on this great show of history, design, cultural exchange and technology, see

Bernard Charnwut Chan is chairman of The Jockey Club CPS Advisory Committee

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