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The Chinese also used the armillary sphere in aiding calendrical computations and calculations.
According to Needham, the earliest development of the armillary sphere in China goes back to the astronomers Shi Shen and Gan De in the 4th century BC, as they were equipped with a primitive single-ring armillary instrument.
To rectify the sphere for use, first slacken the screw r in the upright stem R, and taking hold of the arm Q, move it up or down until the given degree of latitude for any place be at the side of the stem R; and then the axis of the sphere will be properly elevated, so as to stand parallel to the axis of the world, if the machine be set north and south by a small compass: this done, count the latitude from the north pole, upon the celestial meridian L, down towards the north notch of the horizon, and set the horizon to that latitude; then, turn the nut b until the sun Y comes to the given day of the year in the ecliptic, and the sun will be at its proper place for that day: find the place of the moon's ascending node, and also the place of the moon, by an Ephemeris, and set them right accordingly: lastly, turn the winch W, until either the sun comes to the meridian L, or until the meridian comes to the sun (according as you want the sphere or earth to move) and set the hour-index to the XII, marked noon, and the whole machine will be rectified.
— Then turn the winch, and observe when the sun or moon rise and set in the horizon, and the hour-index will show the times thereof for the given day.) to assist the observation of the stars.
Within these circular rings is a small terrestrial globe J, fixed on an axis K, which extends from the north and south poles of the globe at n and s, to those of the celestial sphere at N and S.
On this axis is fixed the flat celestial meridian L L, which may be set directly over the meridian of any place on the globe, so as to keep over the same meridian upon it.
This flat meridian is graduated the same way as the brass meridian of the common globe, and its use is much the same.
It was noted that "Chinese astronomers had been building [them] since at least 1092" The name of this device comes ultimately from the Latin armilla (circle, bracelet), since it has a skeleton made of graduated metal circles linking the poles and representing the equator, the ecliptic, meridians and parallels.There was also the scientist and statesman Shen Kuo (1031–1095).Being the head official for the Bureau of Astronomy, Shen Kuo was an avid scholar of astronomy, and improved the designs of several astronomical instruments: the gnomon, armillary sphere, clepsydra clock, and sighting tube fixed to observe the pole star indefinitely.Ecliptical mountings of this sort were found on the armillary instruments of Zhou Cong and Shu Yijian in 1050, as well as Shen Kuo's armillary sphere of the later 11th century, but after that point they were no longer employed on Chinese armillary instruments until the arrival of the European Jesuits.
In 723 AD, Yi Xing (一行) and government official Liang Ling-zan (梁令瓚) combined Zhang Heng's water powered celestial globe with an escapement device.
It was invented separately in ancient Greece and ancient China, with later use in the Islamic world and Medieval Europe.