The Abacus and the Numeral FrameThe Chinese Abacus
The counters used by European merchants moved along lines drawn on a surface. In the Chinese, Japanese, or Russian abacus, counters move along rods or wires held in a rectangular frame. Scholars disagree about how long such instruments have been made and about whether the Asian abacus was influenced by the counters of the Greeks. Both Chinese and Japanese abaci have a crossbar.Counters above the crossbar have a value of five, while those below represent one. In the Chinese abacus (suan-pan), there are two beads above the crossbar and five below.
"The Abacus and the Numeral Frame - The Chinese Abacus" showing 1 items.
- This instrument has an open wooden frame held together with brass nails passing through metal bands. A wooden cross bar holds 13 columns of beads. Each column has two beads above the crossbar and five beads below. The beads are rounded, as on other Chinese abaci. There are no marks by a maker.
- This form of abacus was sold in combination with a book entitled Abacus Arithmetic by the Australian-born metallurgist, Stanford University graduate, and later Stanford professor of metallurgy Welton J. Crook (1886-1976). Crook became fascinated with the abacus on a visit to Hong Kong, and resolved to publish a clear exposition on the instrument in English. His short book was published in 1958 by Pacific Books in Palo Alto, California, and sold tens of thousands of copies. For a copy of this paperback, see 1989.0709.03. The abacus and the related book were given to the Smithsonian by Washington, D. C., clockmaker Elton L. Howe in 1989.
- On Crook, see: Stanford University Faculty Memorials, “Memorial Resolution Welton J. Crook (1886-1976)," digitized by the Stanford Historical Society .
- Currently not on view
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- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center