Ruts in Written History

Several South Pointing Chariots seem to have been made over the centuries, some of which only survived in legends, others were described in detail, but none was preserved. The fact, that all south-pointing chariots were routinely destroyed whenever a new dynasty took over in China, who had to re-invent them from scratch, didn't help in clarifying the matter.
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2634 BC Emperor Huang Di (or Ti) invents chariot to guide his troops out of enemy's smoke screen
legendary Fang Bo builds the first south-pointing chariot for emperor Huang Di
1115 BC During the reign of the Duke of Chou the Chinese Minister of State, Chou Kung, gives five such devices (called Chih-Nan) to ambassadors of Yüeh-Shang to get them back home
ca. 300 BC When the people of Chêng collect jade, they must take a southpointing carriage so as to not miss the way.
120 .. 139 Chang Hêng reinvents the vehicle
220 .. 265 Two scholars prove before the court that such a vehicle is impossible
233 .. 237 Ma Chün constructs a working vehicle for emperor Ming Ti
    .. 400 Kou Yuan-Shêng reports, that the south-pointing chariot (probably Ma Chün's machine) is normally garaged in the north gateway of the Government Workshops outside the south gate of the capital
300 Tshui Pao reports, that the construction is described in a book (not preserved) named Shang Fang Ku Shih
334 .. 349 Hsieh Fei makes one for emperor Shih Hu
394 .. 416 Linghu Shêng makes one for emperor Yao Hsing
417 Linghu Shêng's vehicle is captured by emperor An Ti. It is reported that (at this time) there is no (longer any) machinery, but only a man inside who turns the figure.
423 .. 452 Kuo Shan-Ming fails to make one for emperor Thopa Tao
423 .. 452 Ma Yo succeeds, but is killed by Kuo Shan-Ming
478 Tsu Chhung-Chih  makes a new improved (bronze gears) vehicle for emperor Shun Ti
658 Buddhist monk Chih-Yü (or Chiyu) constructs vehicle for Japanese emperor Wu
666 Monk Chih-Yu constructs another vehicle for Japanese emperor Wu
806 .. 821 Chin Kung-Li presents a south-pointing carriage  to emperor Thang
1027 Engineer Yen Su (member of the "Board of Works") describes his construction (5 cogged, 4 non-cogged gear wheels, 18 soldier-drivers)
1088 Su Sung constructs a water wheel clock, using an escapement
1107 Chamberlain Wu Tê-Jen (Wu Tê-Lung or Wu De Ren  according to other sources) presents a specification (24 cogged, 4 non-cogged gear wheels), which is successfully built twice
1341 Chu Tê-Jun describes a jade figure as (part of?) a miniature south-pointing carriage
1720 Joseph Williamson uses differential gear in clock
1827 Watchmaker Onesiphore Pecqueur takes out a French patent for the differential.
1832 Engineer Richard Roberts takes out an English patent for a differential (GB6258).
1834 J. Klaproth writes to Alexander von Humboldt, noting the south-pointing chariot chih-nan-ch´ê, but assumes that a magnetic compass is hidden in the little doll.
1879 Mr. Starley first uses differential gear in a vehicle (tricycle).
1906 Professor Giles points out, that the directional property of the south pointing chariot was effected by a mechanical system, and not by magnetism
1909 Professor Bertram Hopkinson (Cambridge) remarks, that some mechanism would have been required to ensure that the gears connected to the chariot wheels at right and left were engaged or disengaged when the chariot turned right or left. After some years of study, he declares that Yen Su's specification is insufficient to build a working model.
1910 The first mechanical navigation aide "Jones Live Map" is invented. Like in the south-pointing chariot the movement of the road wheels is geared down, but this time to show the relative position of the vehicle on a map
1924 Rev. A. C. Moule (Cambridge) proposes a realization of Wu Tê-Jen's specification, where the chariot is allowed to drive only straight lines. For each turn it is stopped, a gear connected and the turn done on the spot, the pointer now being corrected automatically
1924 K. T. Dykes is the first to propose a differential gearing, arguing that the clutch mechanism proposed by Moule is "slow and complicated to drive"
1932 Dr. J. B. Kramer discovers references to the mechanical nature of the south-pointing chariot and declares, that the Chinese therefore did not invent the magnetic compass
1932 George Lanchester proposes that the ancient machines (Ma Chün notably) embodied some kind of differential gear. He builds a working model to prove his concept.
1937 Wang Chen-To (Wang Zhenduo according to other sources) proposes a realization of Yen Su's specification and builds a working model from it
1948 Pao Ssu-ho (Bao Sihe according to other sources) proposes another reconstruction.
1955 F.W. Cousins introduces the Lanchester reconstruction to a broader public, namely the Meccanco fans
1956 J. Coales points out, that by hanging a carrot from the emperors hand, the south-pointing chariot would become self-steering !
1977 Professor André Wegener Sleeswyk publishes a scientific essay on the historic chariots. He prooves their feasibility exactly to the words in the ancient texts.
1978 Mr. Alan Partridge starts a  contest in The Meccano Magazine for the design with the fewest gears. It is shown subsequently that no gears are necessary at all !
1979 Mr. Noel C. Ta'Bois publishes a concise treaty on the theoretical aspects. Working specimen are shown, which do not adhere to the "width equals wheel diameter" rule.
1979 Lu Zhiming produces three reconstructions based on differential gears
1980 Mr. Don Frantz from New York re-discovers the south pointing chariot, builds models along the Lanchester path and manages to place one of them in the Museum of the Province of Xian.
1982 Yan Zhiren builds another model, stressing that only differential gears provide the accuracy reported by the old writings
1986 Prof. Ying-Chien Tsai in Taiwan publishes two new design ideas, namely Planetary Gear and Screw&Nut (see here for the Chinese text)
1991 Mr. M. Santander from Spain proposes to use the chariot to teach students the basic concepts of parallel transport and curvature. En passant a mathematical model is given for Mr. Nuttall's design.
199? Prof. Takashi Nakata presents a new variant, this time featuring a coaxial gearing around a three-piece axle.
1997 A Japanese newspaper explains the origin of some phrases - guess what !
2001 Believe it or not, our research is still finding new gear configurations for the South Seeking Chariot's differential. Click here for a specimen Prof. Manuel Arala Chaves from Portugal devised more than fourty years ago.
2001 A sort of "Road Show" featuring the achievements of Ancient China visits Munich. A half size replica of the Peking model is shown under the label "machines for agriculture" !?
2002 Mr. Kevin Hesse from Ann Arbor, MI, USA, builds a motorized "South seeking chariot", seating two.
2002 Hitachi Ltd. sells educational models!
2002 I was contacted by the producers of Scrapheap Challenge and asked to provide some assistance to the usage of south pointing technology. I gladly shared my meager knowledge, which was used by Mr. T. C. Graham Barguss to brief one team in the Blind Navigation episode. Well, the contestants rejected the ancient wisdom of China, reverted to brute force technology and - lost.
2004 At Rice University (Houston, Texas, USA) Lanchester's version of the South Pointing Chariot is used to teach stress and failure analysis: "If a saboteur pinned...".
2005 The Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (Terre Haute, Indiana, USA) offers the construction of a working South Pointing Chariot as one project for their freshmen.
2005 The Aichi Pavilion of the Japanese Expo2005 exhibits a shinan-sha cart, which is shown working regularily.
2006 Two Taiwanese scientists, Hong-Sen Yan and Chun-Wei Chen, publish a very thorough analysis of the possible configurations for a South Pointing Chariot in the International Journal of the Japanese Society of Mechanical Engineers (JSME Vol 49, No 3, pp 920-929).
2008 The German periodical "Spektrum der Wissenschaft" uses various variants of the South Pointing Chariot to explore the geometry of non-flat surfaces.
Sources: Needham. Joseph: Science and Civilization in China, Volume 4, Part II, 1965
The Meccano Magazine Sept'55, Jan'57,Jan'77,Jan'78,Apr'78,Oct'79
Constructor Quarterly 3 (Mar'89), 5 (Sep'89)
American Journal of Physics, 1992
Chinese Science, Volume II, Jan'77
Bird, A. C.: The Yellow Emperor's South-Pointing Chariot, in: Antiquarian Horology, March 1961