Introduction


54 - 17 = 37


Chinese Culture Index







History



Many centuries ago, the abacus evolved independently in many countries throughout Europe, the Middle East and China. Its use is recorded in China as early as 6th century B.C., from where it found it's way to Korea and Japan.

Different styles of abacus were used in different countries, the Chinese version being known as a "Suen Poon" (abacus), use of the abacus in the Western world ceased many years ago but it is still in extensive use in Hong Kong and China.


Abacus (Suen Poon)

Abacus (Suen Poon) consists of a wooden frame with 13 sticks (some may have less) stretched vertically between the top and bottom, a wooden bar runs horizontally in the frame, two third of the way up the sticks. Two beads are strung on each stick above the horizontal bar and five beads below. The two beads represent five units each and the lower beads, single units of the order represented by the column.

Use of the Abacus

The Abacus (Suen Poon) is still in use and its distinctive noise can be heard in many small businesses and restaurants in Hong Kong and China.



Experts use it to make long and complicated calculations faster than the same calculations made by using an electronic calculator. Indeed, competitions are regularly held in Hong Kong to determine which method is faster and the Abacus (Suen Poon) users inevitably win.

One mathematics teacher in Hong Kong has gone a step further; he teaches his pupils to calculate using a Abacus (Suen Poon) and when they are proficient, he removes the Abacus (Suen Poon). The pupils then solve complicated mathematical problems by moving their fingers as if using an imaginary Abacus (Suen Poon). They have been tested and have proved capable of making mental calculations quicker than using electronic calculators.

The first time, an IBM computer was put on display at the old Radio Show at Earls Court, a glass-fronted box containing an abacus (Suen Poon) was located on the wall next to the computer. Under the box was the message:

"IN CASE OF FAILURE, BREAK GLASS".





Numbering System



Lower Portion (LP):
Five beads - represent ONE each.

Upper Portion (UP):
Two beads - represent FIVE each.

(1)

The first stick = 1

(2)

The second stick = 2

(3)

The third stick = 3

(4)

The fourth stick = 4

(5)

The fifth stick = 5

(6)

The sixth stick = 6

.........and so on

(1)

Fingers to Use

Use the THUMB and the FOREFINGER.

Basic operation === apply to both Upper Portion (UP) and Lower Portion (LP)


=== Push Upward -- use Thumb


=== Push Downward -- use Forefinger


(2)

Action to Take

"Push to" (Pt) or "Away from" (Af) the horizontal bar (B).

(3)

Set up Position

Upper Portion (UP) and Lower Portion (LP), all beads "Away from" (Af) the horizontal bar (B).



(4)

Direction to work from

From Left to Right for addition and subtraction. (see examples below)

(5)

Units Arrangement

(Example - Seventy-six thousand five hundred and twenty-one)



C1 Unit C4 Thousand

C2 Ten units C5 Ten thousand

C3 Hundred C6 Hundred thousand

and so on.....................

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(6)

Five units and Ten units

(A)

Five units

5 beads in LP = 1 bead in UP

Action:

(1) 5 green beads Af LP - use forefinger



(2) 1 green bead Pt UP - use forefinger



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(B)

  Ten units

2 beads in UP = 10

1 bead in LP in next column also = 10

Action:

(1)

C1: 2 green beads Af UP - use thumb



(2)

C2: 1 red bead Pt LP - use thumb



(C)

Ten units

2 beads in UP = 10 

or

 1 bead in Up and 5 beads in LP = 10

Action:

(1)

15 brown beads



(2)

=== C1: 1 beads Af UP - use thumb

5 bead Af LP - use forefinger

(3)

=== C2: 1 bead Pt LP - use thumb


= 15

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