Walking Wooden Ox Recreated From a 1,800-Year-Old Design

December 9, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

A Guangyuan carpenter re-created the Wooden Ox, a famous design from 1,800 years ago. (Internet photo)
A Guangyuan carpenter re-created the Wooden Ox, a famous design from 1,800 years ago. (Internet photo)
In Wangchang County, Sichuan Province in southwest China, villagers have recently seen a strange animal walking local streets: a wooden ox made by a local carpenter, patterned on a 1,800 year-old design.

Huaxi Urban Daily reported that 53-year-old carpenter He Duo from Baihu Village has created a wooden ox that can walk and climb slopes.

He began work on the design six years ago. Friends and relatives thought it was idiotic and nonsensical. Mr. He believed that the records from an ancient book he had were not simply made up, and that there must have indeed existed a wooden ox at that time, so he continued to pursue the hobby.

Reference to the wooden ox is found in ancient texts from the Three-Kingdom Period (220–280). It was designed by Prime Minister Zhuge Liang (181–234) of the Kingdom of Shu as a transportation vehicle, and used in a series of famous wars with the Kingdom of Wei between 228-234. The original piece weighed over 440 pounds and could walk dozens of miles a day, often transporting grain for hungry troops. It didn’t consume energy, but needed a human operator.

But the details on how to construct the wooden ox were lost long ago.

Mr. He began work in 2004. Three years later he had the first prototype ready. Commenting on the first version he said: “The material was inferior and the design was too simple. I didn't show it to anyone.“ This March he began on an improved version.

With an axe, a ruler and five months of hard work, by August he had created another wooden ox. It weighs just under 300 pounds and measures about 7 feet long.

"This wooden ox is easy to make and operate. Its construction employs algebra and geometry common to carpentry work. It can carry 440 pounds of weight while walking up mountain paths and climbing slopes."

He said he strictly followed the dimensions set down in ancient texts, and looked up numerous historic documents; the design was kept historically accurate by the use of levers and pulleys.

He has applied for a patent.

Read the original Chinese article