Bamboo-copter was a toy in China, dated to 400 BC. A Rotary Fan also existed in China around 180 AD. I'm interested in both of those things, as they work on the exact same principle.

Do we have any archaelogical finds of them? Absent that, are there any detailed drawings of them dating from those periods?

I can find tons of pictures of these things online, but they all look like modern versions. I want to see original versions, because it's very critical to see the blade shape. In particular, I want to know if the blades were plain rectangles, or had some curves in them, especially washout twist like you see in modern propellers.

  • dating from those periods There's no evidence the Bamboo Dragonfly existed in "400 BC". This looks like a typo for 400 CE.
    – Semaphore
    May 31, 2018 at 16:34
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    @Semaphore If it is, it's a typo on Wikipedia too. The article has a cite for it, but it's some book I don't have.
    – DrZ214
    May 31, 2018 at 16:54
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    Yes, I was suggesting whoever wrote that on Wikipedia made a typo. Regardless, the first attestation to the bamboo dragonfly is the early 4th century document cited on Wikipedia, so there's no earlier primary source.
    – Semaphore
    May 31, 2018 at 17:13
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    @Semaphore - Might be worth going to the WP page's "talk" page and making that point there too.
    – T.E.D.
    May 31, 2018 at 18:12
  • 400 BC is also in the cited book Principles of Helicopter Aerodynamics with CD Extra By Gordon J. Leishman "The ideas of vertical flight can be traced back to early Chinese tops, a toy first used about 400 BC." - page 6 May 31, 2018 at 22:54

1 Answer 1


The attached image is a Bamboo-copter of Jin Dynasty. The related exhibition can be accessed in JiangHanGuan Museum at Wuhan, Hubei province, China. enter image description here

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    Interesting, but I see no date given for that object, rather the statement that for all the toys in the exhibition "The time span ranges from the late period of the new era to the 1980s." Sep 7, 2019 at 5:47
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    Please refer the second last paragraphy of link. It's said this bamboo-coper was made about 1700 years ago between 266 to 420 AD.
    – Robert
    Sep 12, 2019 at 5:31
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    @BobLew: I dunno, it looks mighty pristine for a 1700 year old piece of wood to me. Judging by the Google translation, the link says the things appeared in the Jin dynasty; not that it's an authentic one. Compare with e.g. this statue from just a few centuries later. It's almost certainly an imitation built for the purpose of the exhibition. Oct 7, 2019 at 7:25
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    @KentaroTomono: I suspect you're not understanding what prompted my comment. The answer claims the photo is an artifact from the Jin Dynasty. The very first comment by Aaron questions whether it is authentic. OP seems to reject the idea it's some kind of modern example. I agree with Aaron. And then for some reason you jump in and the whole discussion goes haywire and turns incomprehensible. Sigh. Oct 7, 2019 at 11:01
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    @DenisdeBernardy I read all the comments by Bob Lew. He was not saying such a thing. Only he is saying, "the bamboo copter was made around 200-400 AD, not BC, and the image is from the Chinese exhibition." Why would you think the Chinese exhibition only can present replica? ( Btw, I bet Bob Let can read and understand Chinese perfectly. )
    – user12387
    Oct 7, 2019 at 11:08

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