【NSTM’s collections】The history of locks
The history of locks is in close association with the materials, tools, and cultural background of a specific time. And, the development and applications of locks in the past reflected the technological, cultural, and economical situations of each period in the history.
Ancient Chinese padlocks can be classified into two categories: the splitting spring locks and the letter-combination locks. A splitting spring padlock has to use a key for opening, and it has the types of broad locks and pattern locks. A letter-combination padlock has no keys for opening, and it is unlocked when the letters of all wheels are rotated into the right positions.
NSTM collects over six hundreds of ancient Chinese locks. There are some locks with special designs that the right portion of the key-head must contact the keyhole in the right position and in the right orientation in order to enter the keyhole, and such locks are named "labyrinth locks" or "fix-orientation locks". In such a design, even if a stranger has the right key, it is difficult for him to insert the key into the keyhole for opening the lock.
There is a lock with special design that the keyhole of such a lock is actually a seam between the lock-body and the sliding bolt. The key is a thin piece of elastic metal. The key is inserted and pushed until hearing a clack. Then, it is unlocked by pulling the key back. Such a lock is named “pull-back lock” and for the motion of opening. It also shows the clever designs and exquisite skills of ancient locksmiths.
Most of them have open keyholes and keys can be inserted directly to open the locks. However, some locks were designed with hidden keyholes that are very delicately designed. The keyholes are hidden so well such that many puzzles have to be solved before finding the keyholes. It is a challenging work to find the keyhole.