The compass, with its needle always pointing to the North, is quite a common thing, and no one thinks that it is remarkable now, though when it was first invented it must have been a wonder.

Now long ago in China, there was a still more wonderful invention called the Zhinanche (指南车). This was a kind of chariot with the figure of a man on it always pointing to the South. No matter how the chariot was placed the figure always wheeled about and pointed to the South.

This curious instrument was invented by the Yellow Emperor Huangdi, one of the three Chinese Emperors of the Mythological age. The Yellow Emperor was the son of Shaodian (少典). Before he was born his mother had a vision which foretold that her son would be a great man.

One summer evening she went out to walk in the meadows to seek the cool breezes which blow at the end of the day and to gaze with pleasure at the star-lit heavens above her. As she looked at the North Star, strange to relate, it shot forth vivid flashes of lightning in every direction. Soon after this her son the Yellow Emperor came into the world.

The Yellow Emperor in time grew to manhood and succeeded his father the Emperor. His early reign was greatly troubled by the rebel Chiyou. This rebel wanted to make himself King, and many were the battles which he fought to this end. Chiyou was a wicked magician, his head was made of iron, and there was no man that could conquer him.

At last The Yellow Emperor declared war against the rebel and led his army to battle, and the two armies met on a plain called Zhulu. The Emperor boldly attacked the enemy, but the magician brought down a dense fog upon the battlefield, and while the royal army were wandering about in confusion, trying to find their way, Chiyou retreated with his troops, laughing at having fooled the royal army.

No matter however strong and brave the Emperor’s soldiers were, the rebel with his magic could always escape in the end.

The Yellow Emperor returned to his Palace, and thought and pondered deeply as to how he should conquer the magician, for he was determined not to give up yet. After a long time he invented the Zhinanche with the figure of a man always pointing South, for there were no compasses in those days. With this instrument to show him the way he need not fear the dense fogs raised up by the magician to confound his men.

The Yellow Emperor again declared war against Chiyou. He placed the Zhinanche in front of his army and led the way to the battlefield.

The battle began in earnest. The rebel was being driven backward by the royal troops when he again resorted to magic, and upon his saying some strange words in a loud voice, immediately a dense fog came down upon the battlefield.

But this time no soldier minded the fog, not one was confused. The Yellow Emperor by pointing to the Zhinanche could find his way and directed the army without a single mistake.

(Selected and edited from Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki)

The king of Cochichina (越裳氏) sent Ambassadors to the King of Tcheou Tching Vang (周成王), to congratulate him on his Happiness of having so wise a Minister as Tcheou Kong (周公). These Ambassadors were received with the highest Marks of esteem and friendship.

After they had had their audience of leave in order to return to their own country, they seemed to forget the way back, Tcheou kong gave them five south pointing carriages, which equiped with an instrument, which on one side pointed towards the North, and on the oppsite side towards to the South, to direct them better on their way home, than they had been directed in coming to China. This  has given Occasion to think that Tcheou kong was the inventor of the Compass.

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