Spinning Top (Tuó luó 陀螺)

The Spinning Top is the world’s oldest toy. Types of spinning tops have been found in ancient archeological sites across the world so we don’t really know who invented them. Chinese spinning tops date back to about 4 000 BC. These earliest tops were made using things found in nature – nuts, seeds, bamboo and so on. Later on, a length of string or cord, known as a ‘whip’, was wound around a wooden or stone or pottery top which was pulled away sharply to make the top spin. This type of top is the most popular in China today.

It seems tops have always been used as toys and in ancient China, women who lived at the Emperor’s Palace played with them to pass the time. By the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), tops were seen as a children’s toy. Nowadays, spinning tops are hugely popular in China and even used in competitions called da tuoluo. In these competitions there are different types of games, such as the one where opponents try to knock over each other’s top or where tops navigate obstacles. In the competitive sport the whip can be as long as 2m.

Here is a link to a great video about different tops from around the world from 1969:

Make it at home!

You will need:

  1. A plastic lid (e.g. from a yoghurt container)
  2. Paper, markers or acrylic paint, stickers, glue etc. to decorate
  3. Ruler
  4. A wooden skewer


  1. Decorate the plastic lid. You can decorate directly on the lid or use white paper to make a pattern and glue it on. Spirals look good when it is spinning and segments of colour blend together.
  2. Poke the skewer through the middle of the lid. You may need to make the first cut with a sharp tool like a knife. To find the middle, measure the diameter (the line that goes through the middle of the circle) and mark its centre point.
  3. You are ready to spin!

Suggestion: try using different size circle. Does it make the top spin faster or slower? Try making the skewer shorter. Does that make it easier to spin?


Options: Think of ways to make spinning tops using other objects. How about toothpicks, pencils, old CDs, melted beads, paper plates, Lego, bottle tops, washers or beads?

Starting October 1st the Garden will be open 11am-4pm Friday - Sunday

Explore our Mid-Autumn Moon decorations during your next visit to the Garden and tune in with us on social as we celebrate this annual festival virtually!