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Traditional Chinese Spinning Top Toys

Chinese Spinning Top General Introduction

Top (Tuoluo, 陀螺 [Chinese spinning top names/ spinning top in Chinese word], literally mean gyro/gyroscopic) is a traditional Chinese folk sports game that has spread widely. It is called differently in different areas like "Dihuangniu, 地黄牛, Yellow cattle", "Laohuangniu, 老黄牛, Old cattle", "Niuniu, 牛牛, Cattle cattle" and "Lingjiao, 菱角, Pyramid". They are made of wood (usual), pottery, bamboo, stone or tile. The wooden top is in conical shape with large tip, often with iron nail or small steel ball on the tip to reduce friction. In order to make top looks beautiful when it spins, you can draw several rings with different colors on top’s body. And, you need to make a whip, that is, use a small wooden stick about two feet long, and attach a rope, fine leather strip or cloth strip to one end of the stick.

Chinese Spinning Top
Chinese Spinning Top

When play with Chinese spinning tops, bring the tip to the ground and wind the rope around the screw body, then rotate and release the whip rope to make the top spiral. Then, you just whip the rope to spin the Chinese wooden spinning tops. Or, rotate the top directly by hand until it touches the ground and take the rope to spin it (spinning top with stirring). The harder you whip, the faster it spins.

Chinese Spinning Top History

Chinese spinning top has a long history. There were small ceramic tops (ancient Chinese spinning top) unearthed in the Yangshao Cultural Site (approximately 5,000 – 6,000 years ago) in Xiyin Village, Xiaxian County, Shanxi Province.

As early as the 10th century, this traditional folk children's game in China was passed to North Korea, Japan and other countries, and it is still circulating today. (spinning top Chinese inventions)

As early as in the Song Dynasty, a top-like toy named “Qianqian” had already appeared. It is a needle-shaped object about three centimeters long. It is placed on a plate made from ivory and whirl held by hand. The winner is the player who spin the “Qianqian” for the longest. This was a nobility game that was used to play when feel boring by women in the palace. (Chinese spinning table top) 

Chinese Top Spinning
Chinese Top Spinning

The term "Tuoluo, 陀螺, Chinese word for spinning top" first appeared in a book written by Liudong and Yu yizheng in Ming Dynasty. At that time, the tops had become children's toy, not a game of female in palace. According to the records, the Chinese spinning top toys were wooden, solid and sessile.

When play, the top was wrapped in a rope and once it was thrown, the top was spinning silently on the ground. When it slows down, whip it with a rope to speed it up. This play method handed down for two to three hundred years, until the early years of the Republic of China.

Chinese Tops Categories

Hand Spinning Tops

The example is the “Qianqian” mentioned above. Today’s hand spinning tops are like these.

Hand Spinning Tops
Hand Spinning Tops

Whip Tops

The Chinese top spinning became a favorite game for the palace in the Ming Dynasty. Later, there was a new gameplay: when the spinning top slowed down and stopped or tripped, it was allowed to whip it with sleeves, that is, remedy with external force. The sleeves later became a small rope whip. It is exactly the same as modern Chinese spinning top whip. 

Whip Top
Whip Top

Vocal Tops

Vocal top is formed by a hollow cylinder made of bamboo and wood with a rotation axis. The cylindrical body has a narrow slit, which can be sounded due to the air flow during rotation.

Steel Vocal Top
Steel Vocal Top

Rhombic Tops

The rhombic top has two small heads and a large middle. Use rope to wind around the screw body and rotate the rhombic top on the ground. Draw the rope to spin the top take advantage of rotational inertia. 

How to Play with Chinese Spinning Top?

With the progress of the society and the production of different materials, we have a wide variety of tops and different gameplay. There are two ways to draw a spinning top for a child, to draw horizontally and vertically. In general, there are two Chinese top spinning competitions:

Team Competition

Divide the participants into two groups. Then, all participants spin tops together to see which group’s top falls to the ground first. The top that fells to the ground is called a "dead top" and is under the slash of other live tops. The winner can hold their top over heads and hit the failed tops.

Chinese Spinning Top Competition Team
Chinese Spinning Top Competition Team

Circle Competition

Draw a circle on the ground. At the center of the circle, draw a small circle. Each person in turns whip his top into the small circle and make sure the top can spin out of the small circle. If the top spins staying at a point, participants can whip it out with whip. As long as it is still rotating when it gets outer circle, it is still “live”. If the top stops by itself in the small circle, or stops as soon as it is whipped, it is considered “dead”. Then, it should be placed in the small circle and be punished by others. If the top that penalizes other dead tops also stops in the small circle, it also has to be placed in the small circle and be punished. If your top is fortunate enough not to be hit down, or not being broken down even if been hit, you can use another top whipping with the horizontal method to hit the dying top out of the small circle. 

Chinese Spinning Top Competition Circle
Chinese Spinning Top Competition Circle

The Popularity of Chinese Gyro Spinning Top

Throughout the country, there are many places where "spin top" is called "play top", which better reveals the entertainment of the game. Due to the strong entertainment of the spinning top, especially in the northern parts of China, once it has been frozen in thick ice on the banks of the rivers and lakes in winter, many children are attracted to the ice to participate in this activity. 

Spin Top on Ice
Spin Top on Ice

As more and more people participated, enthusiastic people actively promote and exchange experiences of Chinese top spinning. Playing top has gradually developed into a national fitness sport. Many cities and townships have come into being spectacular scenes of formal or informal organizations playing tops.

On June 9, 2010, Wujiashan Street, Wuhan, Hubei Province held the 3rd National Fitness Community Games. In Wuhuan Square, two residents from Wunan Community vigorously whipped at a top weighing 23 kilograms. The top spinning extremely quickly and brought cheers to the audience. 

Spin Large Top
Spin Large Top

Here is a video about Chinese top spinning.

In the parks across the country, when the weather is fine, you can always see men, women, the old and the young drawing spinning tops. People playing tops while in exchange the experience of top spinning. Many elders not only enriched their spare time, but also exercise their body by spinning tops. For a long time, many elder people who have been suffering from frozen shoulder for many years feel much better, and the blood pressure is normal again. It is said that the National Ministry of Health established a top association for the elder.

Tops are usually played on the ground, but there is also non-ground gameplay, only rotating in the air. Some masters can even play tops on top of their heads. Due to frequent mutual discussion, there have come into being a lot of “top talents” among folks. 

Play Top in Air
Play Top in Air

The Negative Effect Chinese Spinning Top Game Bring to Us and Solutions

Spin tops on the square, whistle buzzing noise is a great source of noise. Many residents think that playing top is more disturbing than square dance. Monotonous high-decibel (80-100 dB) whip sounds are more irritating to people with heart disease. There are two main problems caused by playing tops on the square: the sound produced by the top affects the rest of the residents nearby; the top whip is long, and the player is always moving, which may injure past-by pedestrians.

The solutions can be on the one hand, pregnant women, infants, people with hearing problems, and people with cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases should stay away from the top playing. On the other hand, top players should play tops away from the crowd.

Have I ever played Chinese spinning top? Yes, of course when I’m young. Yet, I didn’t play it much and I’m not good at it with less interest.

Today’s tops which we usually seen are mental since they are easy to made by machines. Still, they are cheap Chinese metal spinning top. Yes, few people are willing to made a Chinese wooden spinning top by themselves. If they want to play, they just buy one, wooden or mental, better to play than hand made. If you want to play top, get your Amazon spinning top right away! 

OK, Helen’s share about Chinese spinning top is all this. Hope it satisfies you!



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