Lu Ban

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Lu Ban
Luban sculpture weifang 2010 06 06.jpg
Sculpture of Lu Ban in Weifang
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Gongshu Yizhi
Traditional Chinese 公輸
Simplified Chinese 公输
Gongshu Ban
Traditional Chinese 公輸
Simplified Chinese 公输
Gongshu Pan
Traditional Chinese 公輸
Simplified Chinese 公输

Lu Ban[a] (c. 507–444 BC)[1][2] was a Chinese carpenter, engineer and inventor during the Zhou Dynasty. He is revered as the Chinese god (patron) of builders and contractors.


Lu Ban was born in the state of Lu, possibly at Dunhuang,[3][1] to family of carpenters[2] or artisans[1] during the Spring and Autumn period of the Zhou dynasty. His original name was Gongshu Yizhi. He was also referred to as Gongshu Ban or Pan. He was supposed to have been an indifferent pupil until his love of learning was kindled by the scholar Zi Xia.[1] He later learned woodworking from Bao Laodong.[1] The great demand for his work supposedly compelled him to invent or improve a number of carpenter's tools—the saw, the square, the planer, the drill, the shovel, and an ink marking tool—to complete his many projects more quickly.[1] His wife was also credited with inventing the umbrella in order to permit him to work in inclement weather.[1]


According to tradition, he was responsible for several inventions:[4]

  • Cloud ladder—a mobile, counterweighted siege ladder.[b]
  • Grappling hooks and ram—implements for naval warfare.[c]
  • Wooden bird—a non-powered, flying, wooden bird which could stay in the air for three days. It has been suggested to be a prototype of a kite.[d]

Other inventions were also attributed to him, such as a lifting implement to assist with burial,[8] a wooden horse carriage and coachman,[9] a pedal-powered cycle,[10] and other woodworking mentioned in various texts, which thereafter led Lu Ban to be acknowledged as a master craftsman:

  • The Book of Lineages (Shiben), written c. the 3rd century BC.
  • The Tales of the Marvellous (述异记), by Ren Fang, written c. the 5th century AD.
  • The Records of Origin on Things and Affairs (事物纪原), by Gao Cheng, written c. the 11th century.
  • The Origin on Things (物原), by Luo Qi, written c. the 15th century.
  • The Treatise of Lu Ban (鲁班经), attributed to Lu Ban, written in the 13th, 14th, or 15th century.


Lu Ban is revered as the god of carpentry and masonry in Chinese folk religion. His personality is assumed by the master carpenter involved in the construction of houses among the Dong.[11] He is sometimes counted among the Five Kings of the Water Immortals, Taoist water gods invoked by sailors for protection while carrying out journeys.[12]

He is referenced in a number of Chinese idioms. The Chinese equivalent of "teaching one's grandmother to suck eggs" is to "brandish one's axe at Lu Ban's door".[13] His cultural companion is the stone worker Wang Er, who lived around the same time.[13]

The modern artist Shi Lu has claimed that Lu Ban was an alias of his contemporary Confucius, but this seems dubious.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Known as Lo Pan in Cantonese contexts. Sometimes spelled as Lu Pan.
  2. ^ Chinese: 公输盘为楚造云梯之械,成,将以攻宋。 "Gongshu Ban had completed the construction of Cloud ladders for the State of Chu and was going to attack the State of Song with them."[5]
  3. ^ Chinese: 公输子自鲁南游楚,焉始为舟战之器,作为钩强之备,退者钩之,进者强之,量其钩强之长,而制为之兵。楚之兵节,越之兵不节,楚人因此若埶,亟败越人。 "Gongshuzi came south from the State of Lu to the State of Chu, and began making implements for naval warfare which consisted of grappling hooks and rams. When the enemy were retreating they used the hooks. And when the enemy were advancing they employed the rams. And the weapons were made according to the length of these hooks and rams. The weapons of the State of Chu thus were all standardized, and those of the State of Yue were not. And, with this advantage, the people of Chu greatly defeated the people of Yue."[6]
  4. ^ Chinese: 公输子削竹木以为鵲,成而飞之,三日不下。 "Gongshuzi constructed a bird from bamboo and wood and when it was completed he flew it. It stayed up [in the air] for three days."[7]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Yan (2007).
  2. ^ a b "Lu Ban", Cultural China, Shanghai: Shanghai Digital Century Network, archived from the original on 2014-12-10 .
  3. ^ Youyang Zazu, Vol. XXIV.
  4. ^ Mozi, Ch. 49 & 50.
  5. ^ Mozi, Ch. 50, Para. 1.
  6. ^ Mozi, Ch. 49, Para. 20.
  7. ^ Mozi, Ch. 49, Para. 21.
  8. ^ Liji, Ch. 4.
  9. ^ Lunheng, Ch. 85, by Wang Chong (b. 27).
  10. ^ "Was this the world's first-ever cycle?". 24 March 2010. 
  11. ^ Kong Derong (2015), "House Construction among the Dong", in Peter Blundell Jones; Mark Meagher, Architecture and Movement: The Dynamic Experience of Buildings and Landscapes, Abingdon: Routledge, p. 229 .
  12. ^ Huang A-yu (December 2010), "臺灣水仙尊王崇祀之溯源 [Táiwān Shuǐxiān Zūnwáng Chóngsì zhī Sùyuán, Tracing the Worship of the Honorable Water Immortal Kings]", 人文研究期刊 [Rénwén Yánjiū Qīkān, Humanities Periodical], No. 8, pp. 81–112 . (in Chinese) & (in English)
  13. ^ a b Needham (1994), p. 20
  14. ^ Hawks, Shelley Drake (2010), "Summoning Confucius: Inside Shi Lu's Imagination", Art in Turmoil: The Chinese Cultural Revolution, 1966–76, Vancouver: UBC Press, p. 83 .


External links[edit]