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Wheelbarrow - Invented by Zhuge Liang

Zhuge Liang-Wheelbarrow
: c.231
: China
: Construction Materials

About Invention

Zhuge Liang (181-234 A.D.) of China is considered to be the inventor of the wheelbarrow. Liang was a general who used the wheelbarrows to transport supplies injured soldiers. The Chinese wheelbarrows had two wheels and required two men to propel and steer.

The earliest wheelbarrows with archaeological evidence in the form of a one-wheel cart come from 2nd century Han Dynasty tomb murals and brick tomb reliefs.The painted tomb mural of a man pushing a wheelbarrow was found in a tomb at Chengdu, Sichuan province, dated precisely to 118 AD.The stone carved relief of a man pushing a wheelbarrow was found in the tomb of Shen Fujun in Sichuan province, dated circa 150 AD.And then there is the story of the pious Dong Yuan pushing his father around in a single-wheel lu che barrow, depicted in a mural of the Wu Liang tomb-shrine of Shandong (dated to 147 AD).However, there are even earlier accounts than this that hark back to the 1st century BC and 1st century AD. The 5th century Book of Later Han stated that the wife of the once poor and youthful imperial censor Bao Xuan helped him push a lu che back to his village during their feeble wedding ceremony, around 30 BC.Later, during the Red Eyebrows Rebellion (c. 20 AD) against the usurper Wang Mang (45 BC–23 AD), the official Zhao Xi saved his wife from danger by disguising himself and pushing her along in his lu che barrow, past a group of brigand rebels who questioned him, and allowed him to pass after he convinced them that his wife was terribly ill.

Nevertheless, the Chinese historical text of the Sanguozhi (Records of the Three Kingdoms), compiled by the ancient historian Chen Shou (233–297 AD), credits the invention of the wheelbarrow to Prime Minister Zhuge Liang (181–234 AD) of Shu Han from 197–234.It was written that in 231 AD, Zhuge Liang developed the vehicle of the wooden ox and used it as a transport for military supplies in a campaign against Cao Wei.Further annotations of the text by Pei Songzhi (430 AD) described the design in detail as a large single central wheel and axle around which a wooden frame was constructed in representation of an ox.Writing later in the 11th century, the Song Dynasty (960–1279) scholar Gao Cheng wrote that the small wheelbarrow of his day, with shafts pointing forward (so that it was pulled), was the direct descendent of Zhuge Liang's wooden ox.Furthermore, he pointed out that the 3rd century 'gliding horse' wheelbarrow featured the simple difference of the shaft pointing backwards (so that it was pushed instead).

Wheelbarrows in China came in two types. The more common type after the 3rd century has a large, centrally mounted wheel. Prior types were universally front-wheeled wheelbarrows.The central-wheeled wheelbarrow could generally transport six human passengers at once, and instead of a laborious amount of energy exacted upon the animal or human driver pulling the wheelbarrow, the weight of the burden was distributed equally between the wheel and the puller.European visitors to China from the 17th century onwards had an appreciation for this, and was given a considerable amount of attention by a member of the Dutch East India Company, Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest, in his writings of 1797 (who accurately described its design and ability to hold large amounts of heavy baggage).However, the lower carrying surface made the European wheelbarrow clearly more useful for short-haul work.As of the 1960s, traditional wheelbarrows in China were still in wide use.


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