A Study on Ancient Chinese Shanxi Locks

  • K. H. Hsiao
  • Y. ZhangEmail author
  • J. L. Lin
  • J. F. Huang
  • H. An
Conference paper
Part of the Mechanisms and Machine Science book series (Mechan. Machine Science, volume 73)


The use of locks has been around for thousands of years throughout history. The developments of locks are closely related to the materials, technologies, tools, and cultures of the subject’s time period, but very few literatures for ancient locks can be found. According to the existing ancient locks left, the flat-springs locks are the most important types that can be traced back to the 2th century BC. The springs are installed in the lock. The elasticity effect between the key and the springs are applied for locking and opening. The flat-springs locks were commonly used after the Eastern Han dynasty around 200 AD. It was no later than the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 AD) that locks which needed specific procedures and methods to open were widely manufactured and used. These kinds of locks are difficult to open within a short period of time even if the correct keys are in place. According to the opening methods and the types of keyholes, ancient Chinese locks can be divided into two categories such as open-keyhole and hidden-keyhole locks. There are diversified types of Chinese locks with ideas, which are full of ancient craftsmanship showing extraordinary technology and superb wisdom. This paper takes the locks of Shanxi Province as an example to give a brief description about the developments of ancient Chinese locks.


History of MMS Ancient Chinese Lock Flat-springs Lock 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



The authors are grateful to the Ministry of Science and Technology (Taipei, Taiwan) under grant MOST 106-2221-E-359- 001- for the financial support of this work. Support from the Ancient Chinese Machinery Cultural Foundation (Tainan, Taiwan) and the Classical Chinese Puzzle Foundation (Berkeley, USA) are also greatly appreciated. The authors would like to thank the collectors who had been of continuous assistance, especially Zhi-Jun Shen (沈志軍), Xi-Quan Wang (王喜全), and Yong-GangQin (秦永剛).


  1. 1.
    Yan, H.S.: The beauty of ancient Chinese locks. Ancient Chinese Machinery Cultural Foundation, Tainan, Taiwan (2004).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Yan, H.S., Huang, H.H.: On the spring configurations of ancient Chinese locks, In: Proceedings of 2000 HMM International Symposium on History of Machines and Mechanisms, pp. 87-92. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Casino, Italy (2000).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Yan, H.-S. and Huang, H.-H.: Design consideration of ancient Chinese padlocks with spring mechanisms, Mech. Mach. Theory, 39, 797–810 (2004).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Yan, H.S., Huang, H.H.: A study on Western and Chinese locks based on encyclopedias and dictionaries, In: Proceedings of 2004 HMM International Symposium on History of Machines and Mechanisms, pp. 41-56. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Casino, Italy (2004).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Hommel, R.P.: China at work: an illustrated record of the primitive industries of China’s masses, whose life is toil, and thus an account of Chinese civilization. John Day Company, New York (1937).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Needham, J.: Science and civilization in China. vol. 4, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1965).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Tanavoli, P., Wertime, J.T.: Locks from Iran - pre-Islamic to twentieth century. Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, Washington, DC, USA (1976).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Shi, K., Zhang, Y., Lin, J.L, Hsiao, K.H.: Ancient Chinese maze locks. T. Can. Soc. Mech. Eng., 41(3), 433–441, (2017).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Hsiao, K.H.: On the structural analysis of open-keyhole puzzle locks in ancient China, Mech. Mach. Theory, 118, 168–179 (2017).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Hsiao, K.H.: Structural analysis of traditional Chinese hidden-keyhole padlocks, Mech. Sci., 118, 168–179 (2018).Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Qiao, Z.Q.: History of iron production in Shanxi. Shanxi People Publishing House, Taiyuan, China (1978). (in Chinese)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. H. Hsiao
    • 1
  • Y. Zhang
    • 2
    Email author
  • J. L. Lin
    • 1
  • J. F. Huang
    • 1
  • H. An
    • 3
  1. 1.National Science and Technology MuseumKaohsiungTaiwan
  2. 2.Beijing University of Chemical TechnologyBeijingChina
  3. 3.Shanxi Folk Arts MuseumTaiyuanChina

Personalised recommendations