The oldest toy in the world was the yo-yo.
The "empty bell" was invented during the Ming Dynast between 1386 to 1644 AD.
During the Chinese festivals in the old days, the Chinese yo-yo presentations played an important role as an entertaining program. The yo-yo became popular in the North part of China in the spring.
The bamboo or empty bell was made of two ends of round saucer shapes with the middle being a horizontal piece of wood. They were mounted on a string and twirled with a vibrating motion. This emitted a humming sound.
The top in China can be traced back as far as the Sung Dynasty between 960 to 1279 AD.
A four inch ivory disc called the Ch'en-Ch'ien was the forerunner to the top. It served as a pastime by court ladies.
"Tuo-luo" was the word for top, and was first found in records of the Ming Dynasty between 1386 to 1644 AD, when it was played by children in early spring.
Some tops were spun by means of a string wound around the base. The string was pulled sharply as the top is thrown forward. A small whip was used with some tops to maintain a continuous spin.
Tops come in a variety of sizes and materials. Tops are equipped with a sharp metal end to slip other tops apart in top "duals". Tops were developed in the Ta-hse village.
Today, tops are mainly used by children. We now have tops made of plastic, as well as wood, tin, and glass. The latter is used for decorative purposes. The decorations on the tops have changed through the years, but tops are still used for entertainment.
Next time you look out the window onto a rainy day and pull out an umbrella, know that you owe your thanks to the Chinese. Umbrellas in China were not simply used to protect the skin from the sun's rays: made from oil paper produced by the bark of the mulberry tree, the first practical umbrella, invented in China during the Wei Dynasty (386-532 AD), was designed to protect from both the rain and the sun. Soon thereafter they took on a more symbolic meaning as ceremonial ornaments and momentos of the Emperor's trust.
The Seismograph: China. In 132, Zhang Heng of China's Han dynasty invented the first seismometer, called Houfeng Didong Yi (lit. instrument for measuring the seasonal winds and the movements of the Earth). By use of a mechanical chain reaction caused by the earth's heavy vibration during an earthquake, a pendulum mechanism within the copper-framed, urn-shaped seismometer would sway and activate a series of levers. This in turn would ultimately drop a spherical brass ball from an artificial dragon-mouth of the urn's top into an artificial toad-mouth below, signifying the cardinal direction of the earthquake. Use of this device was recorded in the historical text of the Book of Later Han.