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Friday 2 December 2011

China's water history

BWTAS recently received enquiries about images of Shanghai's metal water tower that we have covered in this journal and so were informed that a second steel water tower was built in Shanghai around 1905 by John Taylor and Sons. A drawing of it can be found in Chelsea to Cairo: Taylor-made water through eleven reigns and in six continents - Thomas Telford, London, a history of the engineering firm by Gwilym Roberts.

Dr Albert Koenig of Hong Kong University and co-author Du Pengfei of Tsinghua University would like to enlist the help of BWTAS members and water tower enthusiasts around the world as they are preparing a chapter on the water history of pre-modern China for a book: The Evolution of Water Supply Throughout the Millennia to be published by International Water Association Publishing. This tome is undoubtedly going to be on a lot of this journal's readers' wish lists. 

The authors know another tower, an Eiffel-type hexagonal plan metal construction, was built for the Capital Water Ltd. in Beijing. Unfortunately, they cannot discover anything about its designer or builder. 

Source: Gong shui zhi in: Beijing zhi. Shi zheng juan. Gong shui zhi. Gong re zhi. Ran qi zhi, (2003) Beijing Shi di fang zhi bian zuan wei yuan hui, ed. Beijing chu ban she, Beijing, p. 168ff.

Beijing water tower under construction, Photo taken by Ernst Boerschmann c.1907.
Source: Robert K.G. Temple (1990) Im Land des fliegenden Drachen: Chinesische Erfindungen aus vier Jahrtausenden. Vorwort von Joseph Needham. Gustav Luebbe Verlag, Bergisch Gladbach, Germany. 

This type of tower, with its six legs, seems to sit somewhere somewhere on the road to development of the circular hyperboloid structure. 

It was photographed under construction by the noted sinologist Ernst Boerschmann in 1907, who is well worth looking into as a subject. Between 1902 and 1949 he produced thousands of stunning photographs of China's old and modern architecture and its people.

If you know of any tower of a similar construction, please contact the authors at the email address below* and, if possible, provide the name of the designer.

kalbert (at) 

(*if you're not a spam bot, you'll know what to do)

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