The most distinctive characteristic of the wheelbarrow is its
single wheel. Theoretically, the center of gravity rule should make the
one-wheel cart very easy to overturn; however, the Chinese began to use it to
carry weights (with the wheelbarrow remaining perfectly steady) a long time ago.
The first man who designed the wheelbarrow must have been a daring mechanical
engineer, as the length and pitch (height, degree, strength, and so on) of the
shaft (a kind of axle), as well as the height of the supporting shank, could
vary greatly from one place to another, or even from one designer to another.
Who was first man to make a wheelbarrow? People in China usually think of
Zhuge Liang, a famous prime minister in the Three
Kingdoms Period (220-280), though there is no apparent evidence that he
invented the wheelbarrow. In addition, according to some brick carvings at the
time, the wheelbarrow may have well been invented in the Han
After the Three Kingdoms Period, wheelbarrows were largely used throughout
the country, and even now they can still be seen in some rural parts. While the
wheelbarrow is mostly driven by human or animal power, the Chinese in the fifth
century also tried to use wind power with the device by attaching a sail to it.
With its agility and handiness, the wheelbarrow has exerted great influence
on the development of the society.
Marshal Chen Yi once noted, "Huaihai Battle was won with millions of
wheelbarrows (referring to the great significance of wheelbarrows for the
logistics of that war)".
Wheelbarrows did not exist in Europe before the eleventh or twelfth century
(the earliest known Western depiction is in a window at Chartres Cathedral in
France, dated around 1220 AD).