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 No glass in China...?

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normanhurst
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PostSubject: No glass in China...?   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 09:37

I read, heard or dreamt that the reason China’s lead on early cultural and technology stagnated and was overtaken by the west was due in part as a result of them not embracing the art of glass making although there is evidence and relics from antiquity. It seems it didn’t spawn an interest into lens making etc which in turn lead to other advancements… is that correct.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: No glass in China...?   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 10:42

Not dreaming, Norm, but I suspect you've been watching Qi. One of its 'gems' was suggesting that China's lack of progress was due its consumption of tea from porcelain vessels rather than
glass.
It is possibly true that the lack of lenses and glass vessels such as retorts and flasks etc might hinder scientific experimentation but that seems a bit cart before horse. If the desire to produce these was there then they would undoubtedly have been developed.
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PostSubject: Re: No glass in China...?   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 11:05

@ferval wrote:
Not dreaming, Norm, but I suspect you've been watching Qi. One of its 'gems' was suggesting that China's lack of progress was due its consumption of tea from porcelain vessels rather than glass.
It is possibly true that the lack of lenses and glass vessels such as retorts and flasks etc might hinder scientific experimentation but that seems a bit cart before horse. If the desire to produce these was there then they would undoubtedly have been developed.
It seems that Chinese glass was essentially decorative rather than practical. They apparently used moulded glass, but did not get around to blowing glass into hollow spherical container shapes. As for lenses, they were a pretty late piece of D & T in Europe.
That might appear a bit lax of the Chinese, but is comparable in many ways to the Greeks inventing the steam engine and then reckoning it to be a great executive toy. As with all technology, inventing something is the first stage; finding a use for it is the quantum leap. Television, afterall, was apocryphally written off as a nine-day wonder in the 1920s....
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normanhurst
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PostSubject: Re: No glass in China...?   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 12:43

Thanks for the vote of confidence ferval… since I’ve managed to wean myself off the loopy juice it’s amazing how long the after effects last… and it’s a bugger to stop and think hard before stepping into a trap whereby your unsure if what you recall is a memory or the result of that damned stuff, the downside of course is still to endure the pain. However… you’re probably right ref QI… although it could equally have been The Antiques Roadshow… whichever is of no importance, I’m just relieved to know I hadn’t dreamt it. I guess what you say about glass vessels and retorts etc is what I had in mind along with the lenses I mentioned… much as I appreciate the ‘cart before the horse’ jibe… and I’m smiling, but I do feel a bit of an ass for raising the subject as it is.

HMJ… Whatever or wherever I picked up on this, I think this was the point being made… i.e. Chinese glass being decorative more than practical… could this have been due to a lack of raw materials, I know the basic constituents of glass, and was surprised many years ago to have a regular ‘run’ from Antwerp to Topsham on the River Exe of all places with cargoes of ‘silver sand’… an essential ingredient for the making of fine glass and optics… Not one to shy away from showing my ignorance… what is D & T…? Ahh but… without the development and improvements of glass… there would be no television, nor computers… no light bulbs, no radar nor anything requiring a cathode ray tube or valves… I’m pretty sure they reckoned there might possibly be a need for nine computers… The knock on effect of glass is immeasurable surly…
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: No glass in China...?   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 12:48

Norm there was no jibe aimed at you, rather the ubiquitous and reputedly omniscient Mr Fry and his team.
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normanhurst
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PostSubject: Re: No glass in China...?   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 13:00

Ferval ma’am… I didn’t think for one moment there was… it just raised a smile, and gave me the chance to apologise for me ignorance again… down yer in the forest we’s a bit ‘earthy’ an I don’t get the chance to get out much… not now anyway.

See I even had to look up the uby dooby and omniwotsits… an now I know.
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: No glass in China...?   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 13:44

Regarding glass, ferval, I noted your comments on the Anglo-Saxon jewellery thread that, because most metals are so readily recyclable, we don't often find copper, bronze, or iron articles, except as religious votive offerings etc. I was going to post something along the same lines about glass... but wasn't sure about my "facts". I'm still not sure, but glass is inherently a quite readily recyclable material ... at least to get a basic, smooth, translucent pot, bowl, shiny "fake" jewel etc. I was wondering if that is why we do not see many more Anglo-Saxon or Celtic glass objects. They had the technology to forge iron tools and cast bronze, and apparently produce glass enamel work so evidently they could get furnace temperatures well up into glass melting regions (which need not be that high actually) and the only other problem I think would be keeping out impurities while handling, containing and forming the semi molten glass (which is very corrosive)... but I don't think the problem was beyond iron-age celtic/saxon artisans... and so then, why not also the Chinese?

Perhaps one doesn't associate China with much glass usage, because it was nearly all recycled. Or am I talking complete rubbish?


Last edited by Meles meles on Thu 02 Feb 2012, 14:11; edited 5 times in total
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: No glass in China...?   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 13:56

Certainly the Romans recycled glass extensively, as they did with everything of value, and it was a well organised and important part of the industry. Guessing, I'd think that all glass making cultures will have done the same.
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: No glass in China...?   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 14:28

This is completely off the cuff, but... now I think on it, it seems to me, from a purely technological viewpoint, that glass-making and iron-making almost go hand-in-hand. Cast iron is melted in a suitable furnace using a sandstone/limestone block hearth, and is then cast into sand moulds.... molten glass (basically molten silver sand - ie pure silica, without too many impurities) is melted in large iron pans and stirred, sieved,and handled using iron tools, and blown using iron tubes. The manufacture and handling of the two products requires similar temperatures, similar technology, and similar controls to keep out impurities... but, at least on a basic level the two can be used to handle one another.


Last edited by Meles meles on Thu 02 Feb 2012, 16:52; edited 1 time in total
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normanhurst
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PostSubject: Re: No glass in China...?   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 16:26

I think you have a good point there meles… certainly even as a kid we must have all marvelled at the odd glass bottle inadvertently, or otherwise being cast into rubbish and dumped on a fire, even the heat from a garden bonfire is sufficient to melt glass… I recall my father trying to demonstrate to my elder sisters how to make it, and failing. But years later I worked in an iron foundry on Poole Quay… a dirty filthy place. Interesting but filthy…

I don’t know what type of sand is used in the moulding boxes, but that never melted. However years later enjoying a spot of leave from sea, I was offered a temporary job at a much larger foundry during their annual shutdown… doing all sorts of maintenance work. They had two blast furnaces and an electric furnace… over several years when I was on leave I got work there, and saw the inside of the furnaces… and the glass like slag they drew off the surface of the pour. Maybe that’s what first gave rise to glass making. Once cooled down, you didn’t want to chip it nor break it as it shattered just like glass and could cut you to ribbons…
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PostSubject: Re: No glass in China...?   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 17:53

I think the technological breakthrough came about when somebody stuck a blob of the molten goo on the end of a tube and blew air into it, (and subsequently spun it around to gain a uniform shape).
Unless they were bagpipe-players, I'm not sure what might have inspired whoever to try this. It would, afterall, have been the first 'plastic' material, ( one that hovers between being liquid and solid), so there is no technological precedent.
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ferval
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PostSubject: Re: No glass in China...?   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 17:58

If we're into imaginative scenarios, what if a blob of the glassy stuff stuck to the mouth of the bellows and the air blew it out?
I think the first glass objects were made in moulds but I may well be blethering.
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PostSubject: Re: No glass in China...?   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 18:04

If I remember correctly ferval, that was indeed the case. Glass was first made using moulds, it wasn't until much later that blowing was discovered or introduced.
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normanhurst
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PostSubject: Re: No glass in China...?   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 18:18

I suspect like me you probably saw some artisan sat in a shop window in a quaint seaside town making those hideous glass animals… with nothing more than a gas welding torch and a selection of broken bottles… guess who had to have a go at that when he had a workshop then. Many a happy hour spent making all kinds of a mess in my lunch hour from old medicine and wine bottles. Once you can do it, like riding a bike it’s so easy… well not to create a piece of art, but to melt sumfin to look like a cow with a long neck that you quickly pass off as a giraffe.



I think the earliest examples of glass is with beads for decoration… have I got that right… lord knows how they did that coz I couldn’t, but I did enjoy trying and wasted a good few bottles of gas in the process…


I suppose in antiquity those that could do these kinds of things were revered almost like early alchemist and such like. I’m trying to work out how an early iron worker could make a tube to use as a blowpipe long enough and true enough… its fascinating to take a trip around a glassworks to watch these people… but that blowpipe has to spin very true.
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PostSubject: Re: No glass in China...?   Thu 02 Feb 2012, 19:36

You can, of course, make "glass" in a number of different ways - using a flame, a blowpipe the size of a drinking straw,and a block of charcoal. In my day, an "O" level chemistry student could produce a nice blue bead of glass from borax as part of the qualitative analysis part of the practical exam.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/2GL6QSA8SMmcMCtPgHQJsw

has a bit of info on the differences between european and levantine glass.
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PostSubject: Re: No glass in China...?   Sat 04 Feb 2012, 14:18

@normanhurst wrote:

I’m trying to work out how an early iron worker could make a tube to use as a blowpipe long enough and true enough…
It would not have to be as 'true' as a gun barrel; the early Chinese glass-worker, had he thought about it, could have used a bamboo pipe with a cast-iron end to accept the bulb of molten glass. And it would not be without reason to sand-cast a bronze tube in two lateral halves.
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