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Chinese Spouting Bowl

  • Chinese Spouting Bowl
    Item #: SPT-100
  • - +
Actually "spout" water up and out of the bowl using resonance!


Educational Innovations is very excited to make available these full-sized Chinese spouting bowls. Simply fill the 15" diameter bowl halfway with water and rub the handles vigorously with wet hands. The resonance set up within the bowl is powerful enough to actually "spout" water up and out of the bowl! Totally amazing! We first saw these bowls demonstrated at the Ontario Science Centre. We're sure you will be as impressed as we were.

Read more on our Blog - Spouting Off in the Classroom


Lesson Ideas

Download the pdf of this lesson!

The Chinese Spouting Bowl first appeared in the Han Dynasty (202 BC - AD 9) Four 'Han' dragons or fish can be seen in the bottom of the basin, spraying streams of water up the sides of the bowl. It is said that long ago the bowl was a kind of plaything for nobles, gifted scholars, and socialites in the Ming Dynasty. It was believed to foster happiness, prolong life, and increase strength.


  1. Place the bowl on a surface that is firm, but will allow the bowl to vibrate. A damp, folded bath towel makes a good base.

  2. Fill the bowl about halfway with clean water.

  3. Wash your hands thoroughly, ensuring that your hands are completely free of any oils. Also, clean the handles of the bowls thoroughly with isopropyl alcohol. (This is especially important before using it the first time.) You will not be able to work the bowl with even the smallest amount of oil or lotion on your hands or the handles of the bowl.

  4. Moisten your hands slightly by dipping your palms into the water.

  5. Rub your hands back and forth in opposite directions on the brass handles. You should have that 'squeaky-clean' feeling where your hands meet the handles. Soon you will notice standing waves developing on the surface of the water in the bowl. As the vibrations build, the water will begin to spout up and out of the bowl.

    Your ability to control the bowl will improve with practice. Try to make long, steady strokes using your whole hand, from the tips of your fingers to the heel of your palm. Also, try varying the amount of downward pressure you use. A light touch seems to work better. With practice, you should have water spraying 50 cm (about 20 inches) out of the bowl.


Your hands create vibrations in the handles from the adhesion of your wet skin to the brass. Oil reduces this adhesion. As your hand move, the adhesion creates a tension in the skin of your palms, and when this exceeds the frictional force, your skin will slide, reducing tension. If your hands are in constant motion, your skin will vibrate the handles as it repeatedly sticks and slides. The vibrating handles will then create transverse mechanical waves to travel outward from the handle along the metal rim of the bowl in both directions. The metal rim acts as an elastic medium to transmit these waves. If the circumference distance around the rim from handle to handle is equal to a multiple of a half wavelength, then stable standing waves will be produced. It is easy to create a mechanical wave in the rim with a wavelength exactly equal to the arc length along the rim from handle to handle. In this case, n = 2 in the standing wave equation: L = nλ/2 where L is the arc length of the rim from handle to handle, and λ is the wavelength of the mechanical vibrations in the rim.

Standing waves are produced by the addition of two identical waves traveling simultaneously in opposite directions through any elastic medium. These waves will constructively and destructively interfere with each other as they pass one another. The resultant wave from the addition of these two waves will form a standing wave in the metal rim. The handles and the midpoint along the rim between the handles will experience minimal vibrations. These positions are called nodes. There will be four positions around the rim that are nodes, and another four positions that are anti-nodes. The anti-nodes appear at 1/4 and 3/4 arc lengths from handle to handle. Between the anti-nodes, a node will appear at 1/2 the arc length between handles. These positions will be regularly spaced and evident from the ripples and disturbances in the water along the edges of the bowl. The nodes show very little water rippling while the antinodes show maximum water rippling. With practice, you should see four anti-nodes along the entire rim of the bowl that are so strong that the water will spray out of the bowl. This occurs where the artist knowingly engraved the spray from the fish.

Try This!

If the bowl is touched firmly at any of the anti-nodal positions, the finger will dissipate the vibrational energy, and the waves will be reduced or totally stopped. This effect is called dampening. If the bowl rim is touched at any node, there will be no energy lost since the node has minimal vibrational energy.

Try varying the amount of water in the bowl. Is it easier or more difficult to play?

By rubbing harder and faster, try to make the bowl produce a high-pitched squeak. When it does, you can sometimes create additional nodal and anti-nodal points in the water.

Try floating a cork or small bowl in the water while playing the bowl. Observe its movements.

Put a small amount of sand in the bottom of the bowl and observe how the vibrations move the sand. (Magic Sand from Educational Innovations works quite well for this.)

Special thanks to Marshall Mosesson, Moorestown High School, New Jersey for his contributions.

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8 reviews
spouting bowl
Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon Jan 25, 2016
Thank you! Now I can do my assessment.
Cristina Scalley

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Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon Dec 19, 2014
This is amazing way to show resonance! My students loved it!!

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1   0

Advanced Physics with Spouting Bowl
Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon May 29, 2012
This is an excellent resource for taking the physics of sound to a higher level with my physical science students. It is engaging and allows them to grasp the higher level concepts it models. They love it and really learn the concepts!
Karen Vaughn

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Absolutely spectacular!
Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon May 29, 2012
This bowl is just SO awesome! It never fails to get a great reaction from onlookers and is really simple to use with a bit of preparation. Just make sure everyone has washed their hands, and also wash the bowl handles to the "squeaky clean" stage and it should work for most people with minimal effort. Well worth the investment!

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Ohhs and Ahhs
Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon May 29, 2012
A big hit every year.
Kate Baker

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Chinese Spouting Bowl
Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon May 16, 2012
My 13 year old son has wanted one of these since he used one in a museum. he got it for his birthday and --'though it took a while to get the technique--it works well and he loves it. looks good in his room too!
Pat Shaw

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Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon May 16, 2012
I've been using one of these for several years with my high school physics classes. Yes, it DOES take practice but the results are definitely attention-getting (although 6-8" spouts are the best I can get; I've never seen the 20" spouts the instructions claim). You must have a high-friction pad under the bowl for it to work.
B Meadows

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So much fun!
Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon Review star icon May 16, 2012
The spouting bowl is fantastic. It is a great way to teach resonance and well as a great decoration for your home. It is easy to see nodes and anitnodes and is wonderfully messy which students love.
Becky Thompson

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