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made in Japan

Postcard of Abacus.
© National Museums Scotland


This wooden abacus, also known as a sorobon, was made in Japan in the 19th century. It is unsigned.

The abacus is divided into two sections. The upper section contains two beads, representing five, while lower section contains five beads, each representing one. Each row represents a digit. This example has 21 rows.

Western Europe became aware of the bead and wire abacus in the 17th century when examples from Russia, Japan and China were brought home as curios by travellers. Older people in these countries still use the abacus for basic computation.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-100-103-098-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0098: National Museums Scotland
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  T.1903.L.1
Date: 19th century
What: Abacus / soroban / calculating machine
Subject: 19. MATHEMATICS, Calculating machines (Departmental Classification)
Where: China
Description: Chinese abacus, 19th century
  • Him, Lau Chung, The Principles and Practice of the Chinese Abacus. Hong Kong: 1958 
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