Ancient China Yoyo

The yo-yo in one toy that almost everyone has tried to play with. Some are really excellent and develop it into a true art, while others just have fun with it.

It’s thought that the ancient Chinese created the yo-yo, although historians have also found yo-yos in Ancient Greece in and around 500 BC.

A majority of these toys were made out of painted terra cotta disks, metal, or wood. It was a custom in some cultures to have a child that turned “of age” to offer their childhood toys to their gods.
Ancient Chinese Yo-yos

The original yo-yos weren’t the sturdy kind that we have today and it is thought that these original versions might have been more symbolic than actual play toys.

The Chinese yo-yo

Today’s Chinese yo-yo is called the “diabolo” and is a toy shaped like an hourglass that spines on a string that is attached to two sticks that you hold in both of your hands.
Yo-Yo toy
The original Chinese yo-yo toy made a kind of whistling sound as it was in motion and air passed through the openings.

Another name for the diablo is Tzuh-ling, which means pulling bell, empty bell or wind bell.

The invention of the Chinese yo-yo is thought to have been around 4,000 years ago during the Ming dynasty (1386-1644 CE) The original Chinese yo-yo differed only slightly from today’s version as it had a longer axle and discs attached to the end. The diabolo appears like two cups have been attached to each other at the bottoms.

First yo-yos

The first yo-yos were thought to be made of materials that were durable and easily accessed in the culture.

Bamboo and wood were sturdy enough and are still used in today’s yo-yos. When people became really good at yo-yos they could perform tricks with them.
Terracotta Yo-yo
Street performers would astound crowds and peddlers or merchants would often do tricks to get the attention of potential customers.

Northern China has areas that the yo-yo was a springtime pastime.

Yo-yos come to Europe

Like many things in ancient China, yo-yos remained a secret until the Chinese began to share with other countries.

It wasn’t until the late 18th century that missionaries are credited with bringing the yo-yo to Europe.

By the beginning of the 1900s the diabolo version had become incredibly popular with adults and children in both France and England.

The creation of the diabolo is credited in 1906 to Gustave Pillipart, a French inventor, who made the diabolo using two metal cups with edges that had rubber protectors.

Different versions, same function

There have been quite a few variations of the Chinese yo-yo and it has been altered as well as evolved over the years.

However, the actual function of the toy has always remained the same. Whether ancient Chinese version or the diabolo, the toy is designed to move back and forth between the two ends of the string by moving your arms.

It’s spun clockwise if you are left-handed and counter-clockwise if you are right-handed. Increasing the speed also increased the toys stability.

The Chinese version of the yo-yo is not attached to the string so it can be tossed into the air for even more impressive tricks.

Additionally, the Chinese yo-yo can be passed from one person to another allowing multiple people to demonstrate their skills and techniques.

  • The largest diabolo yo-yos can weigh up to 400 grams with a diameter of around 20 cm at the widest end.
  • When yo-yos became popular in Europe during the 18thcentury the people created their own names for the toy. The British called it “bandalore” or a “quiz” and the French called it “incroyable” or a “coblentz.”
  • Napolean and his army were known to have yo-yos at the Battle of Waterloo.
  • In the 1920s a Filipino American named Pedro Flores open a toy factory in California, becoming the first person to make yo-yos for the public.
  • The Flores factory was purchased and the business moved to Luck, Wisconsin which is known as the Yo-Yo Capital of the World.
  • Until the 1960s, all yo-yos were made out of wood, often causing an uneven spin. Once they were made out of plastic or metal, the balance improved.


What were the first yo-yos thought to be made of?

woods, including bamboo

How many years ago did the ancient Chinese invent the yo-yo?


Where is the yo-yo capital of the world?

Luck, Wisconsin, USA

Why were yo-yos made out of wood a problem?

wood caused an uneven spin

What is the one main difference between the Western yo-yo and the Chinese yo-yo?

Chinese yo-yo not attached on the string

When did yo-yos begin to be made out of plastic?