Image Chinese abacus, c1900

TLF ID R1783

This is a rectangular wooden abacus (15.5 cm x 29 cm x 2.5 cm), made in about 1900. It has two decks (divided horizontally by the beam) of 13 rods inserted vertically in the frame. On the bottom deck there are five wooden beads on each rod and on the top deck there are two beads on each rod. The abacus has a removable wooden backing (not shown) that slides from one side. It was made in China and used on the Adams Flat Chinese gold field, Central Otago, in the South Island of New Zealand.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset illustrates that Chinese people worked in the gold mining industry in New Zealand - in 1871, when the last profitable gold mines for independent miners were almost totally exhausted, there were about 2,400 Chinese miners in Otago; by 1906 there were 612.
  • It shows that Chinese gold miners brought their own customs and technologies to New Zealand - this abacus would probably have been used in a commercial setting as, like all abaci, the 2/5 abacus is capable of a multiplicity of calculations.
  • It is in good condition, indicating that such a device was valued and therefore well cared for by its owners.
Year level

1; 2

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Organization: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Description: Content provider
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Organization: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
  • Hearing independence
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements