Crossbow Trigger Mechanism

Unknown CreatorWestern Han dynasty (206 BCE – 9 CE)

Hallwyl Museum

Hallwyl Museum
Stockholm, Sweden


Western Han dynasty (206 BCE – 9 CE)
Reportedly discovered in “Yen-ku Chi,” close to Shouzhou, Anhui province
Inventory number: XLIX:I:A.a.02.

The end of the trigger is in the shape of a dragon’s head holding a pearl between its jaws. The top of the frame is decorated with a lozenge pattern in silver inlay and the back-sight is graded with silver threads.

Intended to be mounted on a wooden stock, this crossbow trigger mechanism is composed of several pieces. The dragon’s head decoration is unusual for crossbow trigger mechanisms. The top surface is decorated with four parallel inlaid silver wires running the length of the trigger mechanism. This is surrounded by a thin interconnected triangular border.

The crossbow was invented in China during the Warring States period (475 BCE – 221 BCE). The highly developed technology required for the precision of fitting the different pieces together, was an advantage the Central Plains cultures had over their neighbors. The first recorded use of the weapon was at the battle of Ma Ling in 342 BCE. 10,000 foot soldiers with crossbows were deployed by Sun Pin of Qi State in aid of Han State. The forces of Pang Zhuan of Wei State were driven away, and their general committed suicide.

Crossbows were used by infantry and cavalry. By the Han Dynasty, crossbows came in various sizes. Some could probably have been used by one hand, while others were stationary and had a pull of over 160 kg (350lbs) to cock them. This weapon, which could pierce armour, was often credited for the superiority of the Han dynasty’s army. They proved particularly effective against cavalry attacks when a volley of bolts were shot en masse.


  • Title: Crossbow Trigger Mechanism
  • Creator: Unknown Creator
  • Date Created: Western Han dynasty (206 BCE – 9 CE)
  • Location Created: China
  • Physical Dimensions: L: 10.5 cm
  • Subject Keywords: Chinese Bronze Age, Crossbow trigger mechanism, Warfare, Weaponry
  • Rights: CC BY

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps