What is Diabolo / Chinese Yoyo?

chinese yoyo

The diabolo is derived from the Chinese yo-yo, it is a juggling or circus prop shaped like two disks connected by an axle and is spun by a string wound around its center and by pushing and pulling on the string by moving two sticks.

Playing diabolo / Chinese yoyo is one of the popular sports in China.

And there are many names for the Chinese yoyo, partly because it has been around for so long, and partly because it is very popular and has many regional nicknames. 

In the picture below, these are the original style of the Chinese yoyo which are made of bamboo. The one on the right is a two-sided yo-yo and the others on the left are one-sided. The most common name for the Chinese yoyo is 空竹 which means hollow bamboo.

chinese yoyo

You can also see the holes in the disks, when the Chinese yo-yo is spun it makes a whistling sound. And that is why Chinese yoyo also got these names: 扯铃(pull bell), 响簧 (make the sound of the woodwind), 空钟 (hollow bell).

When the Chinese yoyo spread to Europe with the traders after the 17th century, it got the new names. Devil on two sticks must describe the difficulty of learning the skill. It became enormously popular among both adults and children. It was introduced to the circus where jugglers developed elaborate tricks and feats of skill.

in 1906, Gustav Philippart patented significant design changes to the Chinese yo-yo, he called it a diabolo. His had open cups at either end and was made of tire rubber. It would be incorrect to call the kongzhu or Chinese yo-yo a diabolo, that name should apply to Philippart’s invention, but many sources do refer to it as a diabolo. The diabolo’s design is significantly different, although it is still played with two sticks and a string. Interestingly, Philippart’s version has also been adopted by the Chinese as one of several versions they use. 

And this is what a Chinese yoyo or Diabolo looks like today:

chinese yoyo


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