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Chinese yo-yo

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Title: Chinese yo-yo  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Object manipulation, Juggling, Quidam, Chinese variety art, European Juggling Convention
Collection: Chinese Games, Circus Skills, Object Manipulation, Traditional Toys, Wooden Toys, Yo-Yos
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Chinese yo-yo

A Chinese yo-yo

The Chinese yo-yo is a toy from China consisting of two equally sized discs connected with a long axle. An alternating lifting and dropping motion using two sticks, each held in one hand, keeps the yo-yo spinning on a string tied between the sticks. In modern times, it is used as a children's toy and as a performance tool in circus events like juggling and sometimes in Chinese dance. It is possible to perform a large variety of tricks with the Chinese yo-yo which can be as easy as throwing the yo-yo up into the air or tossing it around the user's back. It was found during the Ming dynasty; roughly 1386–1644.

Like the Western yo-yo, it maintains its spinning motion through a rotating effect based on conservation of angular momentum.


  • History 1
  • Design 2
  • Single-bell Chinese yoyo 3
  • Chinese name 4
  • Other uses of term 5
  • See also 6
  • External sources 7


The existence of the Chinese yo-yo is as old as the civilization itself. It was estimated that the invention of the Chinese yo-yo dates back to the Ming Dynasty between 1386 and 1644 AD. Although the yo-yo has been found in many different parts of the world, some linguistic experts say that the name “yo-yo” is Oriental in origin, supporting the theory that China was the birthplace of the yo-yo . The oldest Chinese yo-yo found in the Shanxi Province was believed to be over 4,000 years old. Early tops were originally made of two round, wooden ends contented in the middle by a horizontal piece. This simple toy was nevertheless an integral part of ancient Chinese culture.

There are many names for the yo-yo, partly because it has been around so long, and partly because it is very popular and has many regional nicknames. It can also be called 空竹( kōngzhú) The name can be derived from the side of the top in which looks like a bell, or the name could also come from the fact that when the yo-yo was spun, it would make a whistling sound due to the hollowed holes located on the side of the Chinese yo-yo.

The pitch and sound that is created depends on the size, as well as the number of holes on the Chinese yo-yo. When the Chinese yo-yo was introduced to Europe in 1700s. The Chinese yo-yo was changed and westernized in which it became known as the diabolo. The traditional Chinese yo-yo had a long, thin axle, with disc-shaped wheels, the western diabolo was made with plastic and became more cone-shaped. Some modern diabolos now have a bearing axle, in which the center axle is able to spin. This allows the diabolo to spin faster and for some is easier to use.


Chinese yo-yos were traditionally made of bamboo, which was very easy to break and not convenient for complicated tricks. Modern models, however, are now made of plastic for added durability. The sticks used with the yo-yo continue to be made of wood.

Some Chinese yo-yos have grooves inset in the rim of the discs; these grooves cause them to make a whistling sound when spinning at high speeds. The sound allows the performer to gauge his speed and adjust the yo-yo accordingly.

The Chinese yo-yo has been adapted in Western countries as the diabolo. The Chinese yo-yo differs from the diabolo in two primary ways. First, the axle of the Chinese yo-yo is much longer than that of the diabolo. Also, the Chinese yo-yo has wheel-shaped discs, whereas the diabolo consists of two bell-shapes. The Chinese yoyo is also typically grooved and made of hard plastic, while diabolos are not grooved and usually made of a durable rubber material.

Single-bell Chinese yoyo

A recent variation on the Chinese yo-yo is called the single-bell Chinese yo-yo. The yo-yo consists of only one bell, and creates an uneven weight distribution. This makes a wider variety of tricks possible, including spinning the yo-yo as a top on the floor and recapturing it.

Chinese name

There are many names in the Chinese language for the Chinese yo-yo:

  • simplified Chinese: 扯铃; traditional Chinese: 扯鈴; pinyin: chě líng; literally: "pull bell sound"
  • simplified Chinese: 响簧; traditional Chinese: 響簧; pinyin: xiǎng huáng; literally: "a name given as if it's a sound instrument"
  • Chinese: (抖)空竹; pinyin: dǒu kōng zhú; literally: "(shaking) Empty Bamboo"
  • simplified Chinese: 空钟; traditional Chinese: 空鐘; pinyin: kōngzhōng; literally: "hollow bell"

Other uses of term

An unrelated toy also called Chinese yo-yo or paper laser consists of a short stick with a long coil of paper wrapped tightly around one end. Typically the whole device is about 12" long with 4-6" of paper. With a light flick of the wrist, the coil of paper extends out for several feet in the direction of the flick. As the device is moved upright, the coil retracts back to the stick.

See also

External sources

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