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Special> Video> Latest
UPDATED: November 6, 2013
Abacus Nominated for World Intangible Cultural Heritage

China's Zhusuan or the knowledge and practice of arithmetic calculation using an abacus, has been nominated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for competition to be listed as World Intangible Cultural Heritage. The final result will be announced early next month. The time honored invention has been slowly fading away from people's lives, but some are calling to preserve it.

"Before the age of calculators, this is what Chinese people used to do their sums. They'd move the beads on the abacus following certain rules. Each bead in the upper deck equals five, those in the lower deck equals one.

Zhusuan has a history of over 1800 years. The Chinese invention is considered as the world's most ancient computer.

"The abacus can perform addition, subtraction, division and multiplication, and can obtain square roots, cubic roots and Gauss equation," said Su Jinxiu, deputy director of Chinese Abacus & Mental Calculation Development Association.

For centuries, the abacus was a major calculating device. It even helped to make calculations when China developed its first nuclear bomb in the 1960s. But now, only some banks and shops used them as supplements to computers.

"But very few people learn how to use the abacus now," Su said.

Until the 1990s, abacus lessons were compulsory in primary schools; later they became a selective subject. And then it was totally removed from the curriculum.

However, abacus operation has developed into mental calculation. Some children learn this as an interest. Learners figure out results with an abacus in mind. And there are national contests.

Advocates of the practice say mental calculation can help improve children's intelligence.

Today, the abacus is still an auspicious symbol of wisdom and wealth. In 2008, it was listed as a national intangible cultural heritage. People in the abacus association hope the valuable heritage won't die.

(CNTV.cn November 5, 2013)


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