The Development of Locks in Ancient China

Locks are very common in today's society, and many facilities cannot do without the protection of locks. There are vehicle locks which are used for vehicles, vending machine locks for vending machines and laptop locks for laptops.

Locks for safes have been developed for thousands of years, which almost appeared at the same time with the private ownership of human beings. During the period of the Yangshao culture, our ancestors had already created wooden locks that were installed in the wooden structure construction 5000 years ago. The early wooden locks had simple structure and cumbersome bodies, and people used bamboo poles as keys, which was unsafe. During the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, Lu Ban improved the wooden lock, which improved the security. Copper was used for making keys since then.

During the Ming Dynasty, wooden locks were still popular, though they had a great improvement in forms. Not only the appearance became delicate, but also the decorative patterns of lock bodies became more luxuriant. 

During the Yin and Shang Periods, Bronze locks were used as shackles for slaves. After the further improvement of the bronze lock, bronze padlocks that were used to lock the doors were invented. However, it was difficult to smelt bronze at that time, and the material was expensive, resulting in bronze locks only being used by a few people.

After the Bronze Age of the Yin and Shang Dynasty, China entered the Iron Age in the Spring and Autumn Period, and the initial lock manufacturing gradually formed. In the Eastern Han Dynasty, people began to use lots of iron locks and bronze locks.

During the Tang and Song Dynasties, the development of social productivity as well as the progress in the technology of iron and steel smelting provided more economical raw materials for lock manufacturing, which promoted the further development of lock manufacturing. Since locks were mass-produced, their prices were reduced, which made locks further popularized. During this period, the lock industry was flourishing. The produced locks had made a great improvement in shapes, patterns and sizes, and ordinary people were able to purchase and use inexpensive locks.

During the period of Ming and Qing Dynasties, a variety of locks developed simultaneously. They were mainly bronze locks and iron locks, and the craftsmanship was more exquisite. There were great innovation in unlocking and appearance of locks. The locks with all kinds of figures and animals were dazzling and stunning. 

The traditional locks such as the "twelve Chinese zodiac signs" locks on the hope chests used for brides on the wedding day, the "Blessings, wealth, longevity and happiness" locks for celebrating birthdays and the longevity locks for celebrating birthdays for kids in ancient China also have rich cultural connotations. There were Chinese characters, carved pictures and stories on the traditional locks, which made them have rich cultural connotations.

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