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Traditional Chinese ‘Mechanical Linkage’ Wooden Toys are now Classified as ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Ecologically friendly wooden toys like whistles, horses, tiny furniture, jumping horses, spinning dancers, and flapping birds that operate on indigenous, age-old mechanical engineering techniques are both a fascinating experience and an eye-opener to the depth and breadth of Chinese traditional handicraft knowledge and practices. They symbolize the rich and varied cultural heritage of China. These toys are finely hand-crafted from soft wood and are highlighted with imaginary colorful paintings, representative of unique Chinese painting traditions.

Recently, Chinese wooden toys with mechanical linkages were listed in the Provincial Intangible Cultural Heritage, ensuring continuity and preservation of these age-old handicrafts and painting traditions for posterity. These traditional wooden toys with mechanical systems are a special particularly in the Tancheng Country of East China’s Shandong Province, and they are generally built by drawing extensively from Chinese myth, historical epics, folk tales, and other forms of story-telling common to the region. These toys, with their quaint mechanism that allow them to move, reveal how the Chinese applied the laws of basic science such as physics centuries ago to create toys that engaged young kids for several hours.

These Chinese wooden toys, apart from representing their old culture and tradition, are even to this day used in rural areas for entertainment in the form of musical instruments. They are also found nowadays on sale at many fairs, local markets and specialty shops which are popular among both local and foreign visitors throughout the world. The ‘mechanical linkages’ that are used in these wooden toys are special attractions that amaze not only children but adults as well.

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