The History of Incense Clocks

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incense clocks date back to 6th Century China even though they likely originated somewhere in India. This post on Kontextmaschine introduced us to the concept, and we’re totally into it. Most of these clocks were based on the burning rates of incense sticks. Such a cool way to construct a clock!

I was listening to the In Our Time episode on the measurement of time and the guests were talking about incense clocks, which were an East Asian thing.

Basically you take a stick of incense that burns at a known rate, put some marks on, burn it, and use the marks to measure the passage of time. Or in more elaborate ones like in the image above, you put bells on strings and hang them on the stick of incense, so that when the incense burns to a certain point, the bells drop down and chime. Or things along those lines.

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