Luban Comic Strips – (P67 – 70)

(1) Lu Ban, also known as Gongshu Ban, was born on 507 BC. He was the most outstanding carpenter during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-426 BC). Lu Ban's family had been practicing carpentry for generations. Lu Ban worked in a lot of building projects with the family and received rich practical experiences since he was young. He invented many remarkable tools which are still being used by carpenters today.

(2) There was a time, Lu Ban and his carpenters were to build a huge mansion. The building project required ton of logs and woods. They went up the mountain to chop wood and after a few days, Lu Ban realised axe was not the right tool for getting logs as the axe turned blunt very quickly despite they had grinded it over and over again. Lu Ban had a headache as they were not able to obtain enough logs for the building project.

(3) One fine morning, Lu Ban went up the mountain to chop wood as usual. He wasn't careful going up the mountain and slipped, grabbing at some grass to stop his fall. The grass cut the gnarled hands of the carpenter. He looked carefully at the grass and noticed that it had teeth along its edge. He thought, if I made a tool with an edge like this grass it certainly would be very sharp and could cut wood.

(4) Inspired by this idea, Lu Ban got a piece of bamboo and cut out teeth on it, mimicked the edge of the grass. He brandished it on a tree and found that it worked, it tore off the tree bark, however, it didn't last. The bamboo broke into pieces easily.

(5) Lu Ban compared the edge of an axe with the toothed bamboo. Instantly he had an ingenious idea. He plucked a piece of the grass with teeth along its edge and went to the metalsmith, requested him to make a toothed-steel-plate – the first ever toothed-steel-plate was born.

(6) Logging process became easy with the toothed-steel-plate. After numerous tests, Lu Ban created a wooden frame on the toothed-steel-plate to make it much sturdier and easy to use, and named it as a saw. With a saw, a carpenter can cut wood very easily. This greatly improved the efficiency of building works, and soon, the huge mansion was built.

(7) Lu Ban was not complacent with his invention and continued seeking for improvement. He was skilful in using an axe and he was able to plane a wood with an axe. However, the wood planing job was tricky whenever he had to plane a gnarled wood.

(8) Lu Ban realised it would require a great effort to plane wood with an axe. The planing process would spoil the wood. He created a small version of axe and capped it with a piece of steel. He could plane the wood fine and smooth in a short time with this tiny sharp axe.

(9) Later on, Lu Ban created a wooden frame on this tiny sharp axe and invented the first wooden plane. Whenever he needed to plane a wood, he would ask his wife, Yun, to hold the other end of the wood so it wouldn't slide off the bench. Yun found it as troublesome because it involved two person for a task. She came up with a clever solution to the problem – she nailed a small piece of wood on the bench to prevent the wood from moving forward. This action makes wood planing job so much easier. Thus, successors named this device as ban qi (qi is a Chinese word for "wife").

(10) Legend has it that Lu Ban had seen his mum used powder to tailor clothes and this inspired him to invent carpenter's ink marker (a tool used by carpenters to draw straight lines). Whenever he used the ink marker, he would ask his mother to hold the other end of the string, then they finished the work together. Lu Ban's mother had to stop all other household chores when Lu Ban needed her help.

(11) One day, Lu Ban's mum suggested him to make a hook at the end of the string so that she didn't need to hold it any more. It was a sensible and rational advice. Heeded the advice, Lu Ban made a hook at the end of the string and since then, Lu Ban was able to complete the job by himself. In order to commemorate Lu Ban's filial piety, successors named the hook as ban mu (mu means "mother" in Chinese).

(12) Carpenters often encounter situation of making a right angle with the ground. Ancient Chinese had invented compass for inscribing circles and Set Square for drawing lines and measuring angles. Lu Ban improved the square, made an L- shaped wooden ruler. It makes drawing right angle so much easier, therefore his descendants named it as Lu Ban Ruler. Other than that, it is widely believed that Lu Ban invented other carpentry tools such as drill and shovel.

(13) Lu Ban's wife, Yun, was also believed to be a talented inventor. Lu Ban and his carpenters often got drenched in the rainy days. She thought all day and all night to make a movable pavilion, which could always follow the people and shelter people against the rain. One day, Yun delivered daily meal to the work site for Lu Ban. She looked up and saw the shape of the pavilion that Lu Ban was building and she had a brilliant idea.

(14) She requested Lu Ban to split bamboo into pieces, covering animal skis on the slim pieces, shaping like a pavilion while looking like a stick. This "stick" could be closed and opened freely. Thus, the first umbrella was invented. She made the umbrella for Lu Ban to carry, enabling him to work outside under any weather.

(15) Lu Ban brought the umbrella whenever he went. He had seen people spent great effort and energy in crushing wheat into flour with a stone plate. Wheat grains are generally oval shape. It requires a right strength when crushing it. With little strength, the wheat won't break; with much strength, the wheat would be deflected away.

(16) One day, Lu Ban saw an old lady was crushing wheat grains with a mortar and pestle. The pestle was too heavy to be lifted up, so she rubbed the grains with the pestle, without lifting the bulky pestle up. He contemplated on this action.

(17) Back at home, Lu Ban got Yun to find him two large stones. He ground the stones into stone plate, then gouged out toothed-groove on them. Then, he placed the wheat grains in between the two toothed stone plate, creating the "scissoring" or grinding action of the stones. The grains were ground into powder speedily. This is the invention of stone mill. Stone mill is still being used in the village of China these days after rounds and rounds of improvement and development.

(18) Lu Ban was not only known as a capable carpenter and builder, he was also a marvellous mechanical engineer and inventor. The book of Mo-tzu (Chinese : 墨子) recorded that Lu Ban constructed a wooden bird. After Lu Ban set it to flight, the bird stayed up in the air for three days. Glided for three days without landing might be exaggerated, however, it shows Chinese had the ambition to explore air space two thousand years ago. This spirit is invaluable.

(19) Lu Ban was born in the spring and autumn and the warring states period. During the Warring States Period (475-221BC), the dukes vied for supremacy, huge walls were put up to defend the borders of the different kingdoms. Lu Ban was credited with inventing devastating military weapons like grappling hooks and ram for naval warfare (when the enemy were retreating they used the hooks; and when the enemy were advancing they employed the rams) as well as a mobile counterweighted cloud ladder that could be extended to reach high places to attack towns fortified with tall walls or fortress. The cloud ladder has evolved and become the aerial ladder that usually mounted on a fire truck.

(20) As stated in the Critical Essays (Chinese : 論衡) wrote by Wang Chong (王充), a Chinese philosopher who was active during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220AD), Lu Ban was mourning of the loss of his mother. He built a wooden horse carriage that was well equipped and needed no human intervention, could walk on the ground automatically. When his mother rode on, it sped away never to return. This amazing creation is the earliest recorded form of an "automobile", it has a vast impact to the latter generations in constructing mobile transport. The Wooden Ox and Gliding Horse (木牛流马))of Zhu-ge Liang (诸葛亮 181-234AD)was inspired by Lu Ban.

(21) Padlock was born in China long before Lu Ban. The fish-shaped lock came with simple structure and easily breakable. The design was to remind people to keep an eye on the household without blinking eye, like a fish. Lu Ban further improved the padlock to shellshaped, embedded mechanical structure in the lock and required a key to unlock.

(22) The multi-skilled talented Lu Ban was also an extraordinary bridge builder. Lu Ban and his team had built numerous bridges in ancient china. Furthermore, he craved the earliest three-dimensional map (九州图 ) in China on a marble stone, the map diagrammatic illustrated the boundaries of the nine provinces in china. People in that era and the latter generations pay high tribute to him, praise him as an ingenious, gifted artisan.

(23) There were some inventions and creations of Lu Ban originated by other unsung heroes, but were accredited to Lu Ban (for example, bronze-made saw had existed in Shang dynasty; and mill was created earlier in the primitive society). Till now, to memorize his greatness, he is called The Father of Chinese Carpentry.