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Music & Time: c18th Chinese clocks on show

Ornate and intricate clocks from Beijing’s Forbidden City are set to go on show at London’s Science Museum from 1 February. Collected by emperors during the Qing dynasty in the eighteenth century, a time of flourishing culture in China, they combined timekeeping with sophisticated musical mechanisms and the ability to more accurately predict celestial events such as eclipses. They were known as zimingzhong, which translates as bells that ring themselves”. There will be 23 of them, with designs including lotus flowers and cranes. The exhibition will also reflect a period of growing trade with the western world, including Britain: among the melodies visitors will hear is an extract from Handel’s 1711 opera Rinaldo, and the mechanism one of the clocks, pictured above, was made by the British make and retailer James Cox.

Zimingzhong: Clockwork Treasures from China’s Forbidden City. 1 February – 2 June. You need to book tickets in advance. Pay what you can (min. £1). It will also be possible to join “Chinese New Year Lates”, an after hours, adults only event on the opening night.


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