We have been reading about different modes of transport since man started walking from one place to another with their goods and chattels. To begin with, man lugged everything they needed on their back, but slowly as man evolved, they started thinking how they could make life easier.
From walking to riding various animals and then getting the animals to pull and push various wagons and carts, they thought up ways in which man could be the power behind the moving object.
Of course, man first had to invent the wheel. With the wheel, they invented carriages, wagons, carts and wheelbarrows! Wheelbarrows help man carry heavy loads easily and efficiently.
Whether wheelbarrows have one or two wheels, they changed the way man can move things in this world in small ways. They are particularly useful when building places to live in. They are exactly what one needs when working in the garden or farms. In some poor countries, the wheelbarrow is used to transport sick people to hospital – the wheelbarrow can go where cars cannot.
Wheelbarrows were built and used in Ancient China, Greece and Rome. Archaeologists digging in the dirt in Europe have discovered interesting looking “wheelbarrows” that they have dated back to 1170 and 1250 A.D. Paintings of men using wheelbarrows were found in tombs in Sichuan, China, that dated to 118 A.D. (A.D. means after Christ was born.)
However, according to the history book The Records of the Three Kingdoms by the ancient historian Chen Shou, the single-wheeled cart we call a wheelbarrow was invented by a Chinese prime minister in 231 A.D.
This man called his invention the “wooden ox!” The difference back then was that the handles of the cart faced the other way so that it was pulled – not pushed! This invention was used to carry men and material in battle.
There is a big difference between the style of the wheelbarrows in ancient China and those used today. The placement of the wheel in old China was in the middle of the “box”. Today, as you know, the wheel is placed at the very front of the “box”. In some old paintings of the Chinese wheelbarrow, you see that the clever men rigged a sail to catch the wind to help them move the heavy “box”.
The Chinese invention with the wheel in the middle of the box meant that the weight was more evenly distributed so that the man could pull or push more easily. If you have ever tried to get a box with a wheel on it over a bump in the dirt, you know you could do with some help from a friend – you push, he pulls!!
The wheelbarrow we use today, with one wheel at the front and handles sticking out from the back, is used around the world. The shape is perfect; the sloped frontend over the wheel makes for easier tipping (especially if the load is sand, cement, small stones or garden compost).
Some wheelbarrows are shallow; some are deeper. People can push these wheelbarrows over dirt tracks. They do not need the complications of an engine or the help of an animal. Man can be quite self-sufficient and do the work himself if he is strong and able.
The only problems are easily fixed. Some wheelbarrows have tires like a car; these get punctured and go flat. Of course, some wheelbarrows also rust causing the handles and legs to fall off. But broken wheelbarrows can be repurposed to make very good herb gardens. Now if you see an old wheelbarrow, you know how you can reuse and repurpose it, reducing waste at the dump.
What a fantastic invention the wheelbarrow is – from using it to transport stuff to turning it into an herb garden!