The earliest example of a spoon-shaped "South Pointer," or Si nan
can be dated as early as the Han Dynasty (2nd century
BCE. "The spoon-shaped
lodestone was placed on a cast bronze plate called a "heaven plate" or
diviner's board that had the eight trigrams (Pa Gua) of the I Ching,
as well as the 24 directions (based on the constellations), and the 28
lunar mansions (based on the constellations dividing the Equator)....
The square symbolized earth and the circular disc symbolized heaven.
Upon these were inscribed the azimuthal points relating to the
constellations.... Its primary use was that of geomancy
(prognostication) to determine the best location and time for such
things as burials."
China, 220 BCE,"
The earliest recorded use
of a lodestone to find direction is in a fourth century Chinese book,
Book of the Devil Valley Master. In the T'ang Dynasty (7-8th
century BCE the Chinese
devised a way of magnetizing iron needles and suspending them in
water, or heating iron needles red hot and then cooling them while they were
oriented north-south. The needles were floated on a piece of wood or
suspended from a silk thread. By 1000
compasses were used for navigation.
Since the Chinese oriented their geographical thinking
to the South their compasses were also "south-pointing."