What Is a Chinese Lock?

The development of keys by different communities arose from the desire to keep property safe. A well-locked house would be protected from invasion by burglars. The Chinese had their unique lock designs. However, their locks meant more than just protecting their houses. They also had lock charms to protect their children. So what did the Chinese locks look like? How did lock charms work? Read on to learn this and much more.

Chinese Lock and Key

chinese lock
chinese lock

The Chinese locks are mainly made of bronze. However, some could be made from other materials like silver. They were primarily mechanical, opened by using a key or letter combinations. These padlocks came in different shapes. There were different engravings on their surfaces.

The Chinese locks can be classified into several groups. Top on the list would be the large iron padlocks. The Arabs influenced their use in china. Then there were the box-shaped padlocks. These came in two types; a sliding key opened one while a turning key opened the other. These padlocks were made of brass or bronze.

Cast in aluminum or brass, wedding locks had a rounded shape, with a single key to open. There were also iron padlocks and box-shaped padlocks. The Chinese also had keyless padlocks, also known as combination locks. These could be opened by turning several rings or cubes, each in the correct position.

What Is Chinese Lock Charm?

chinese lock and key

These are pendants inspired by ancient Chinese locks. Made in the shape of Chinese locks, these pendants lack the functional parts of the lock. They are flat with different engravings on the surface, which are either Chinese characters or symbols.

Parents offered these lock charms as gifts to their boys on the hundredth day after birth. If the family were poor and could not afford it, they had to request assistance from other families. A lock obtained this way was referred to as the hundred-family lock charm.

Chinese Padlock History

The Chinese used wooden door beams to lock their doors for a long time. During the Tang Dynasty, trade by the Silk Road brought with its influence from other cultures, including the Arabs and Europeans. The use of padlocks in China dates back to the 17th century. We can observe padlocks in various shapes and sizes.

How to Open a Chinese Lock Without a Key

It is frustrating to reach the door and realize that you have lost your key. Most Chinese locks use a simple split spring mechanism. The easiest way to open this lock is by lock-picking. To open such a lock, you would need to replicate the action of the key.

Insert a piece of wire into the lock, and twist it several times against the surface where the teeth of the key rest. With a few trials, you should be able to unlock it.

Ruyi Lock Meaning/Ancient Chinese Lock Meaning

Ruyi Lock

Worn around the neck by young boys, the Ruyi lock symbolized long life. The Ruyi head was a wish for things to go as one wished. Boys who wore the Chinese lock were protected from evil spirits and danger and would live a long life, dying a natural death in old age.

Wearing the lock, locked the boys to the earth. It was also to bring good luck and to obtain high ranks within the community. The locks had different symbols engraved on them. One of these symbols was the plum blossom, which signified good fortune and resilience.


Today, locks are essential tools of protection in our homes and businesses. For the Chinese, locks are more than just that. They wear them, too, as protection charms. The Ruyi locks, inspired by the original door locks, are designed to protect young boys from danger and ensure they live a long life.

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