How Did The Ancients Iron Clothes | The Development History Of Irons

What Are “Irons”

Irons is a kind of tool that irons wrinkled clothes and cloth with heat.

In modern times, iron is one of the common household appliances, which is used to iron clothes. Nowadays, irons are of various types according to different designs.

However, in ancient times, the irons were originally made of stones, pottery, copper and iron pieces, which were heated on the fire and pressed on the clothes to make them flat.

The Origin Of The Name “Irons”

On the origin of the name “irons”, there are two explanations in ancient Chinese. One is to take the meaning of Beidou, and the other is that the shape of iron is very similar to that of an ancient cooking utensil “dou”. According to research, the ancient Chinese iron was invented earlier than the electric iron in the West in 1880, and it was the first country in the world to invent and use iron.

The Development History Of Irons

Shang Dynasty

The earliest prototype of the iron appeared in the Shang Dynasty, when it was used as a tool of torture, specially used to burn prisoners’ skin. Until the late Qin and early Han Dynasty, its function was shaped in ironing clothes and has been handed down to this day.

Han Dynasty

In the Western Han Dynasty, the object of iron appeared.The irons of Han Dynasty were mostly made of bronze, with a round belly and a wide mouth edge. There were long handles, and some of them were decorated with dragon patterns.Before ironing, put the burning charcoal in the iron, and use the heat and weight of the metal to iron out wrinkles or beautiful wrinkles.

Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties

During the Wei, Jin, southern and Northern Dynasties, irons were more popular.A story of a mother and her son using an iron together is recorded in <Shishuoxinyu Suhui>.In the story, although Han KangBo is poor, but his family is still equipped with an iron, which shows that the iron has become a basic household appliance at this time.

Sui and Tang Dynasties

The Tang Dynasty was a time when ironing was very popular in China. Because the silk weaving industry was very developed at that time, and the people were rich, people had more leisure time to pay attention to dressing up. Therefore, ironing clothes with iron was quite common from the monarch to the common people.

The picture below shows women ironing clothes in Tang Dynasty.From this painting, we can see the specific use of iron in ancient times: in the painting scroll, there are two women holding one end of silk with both hands, and another woman, pressing the middle end of silk with her left hand and holding an iron in her right hand, is ironing back and forth on the cloth and silk.

Song Dynasty

The iron in Song Dynasty was more widely used than that in Sui and Tang Dynasties, and its shape also changed: generally, it was hollow short handle and inserted into wooden handle, so as not to iron when ironing. The supporting basin for carbon fire is also higher and deeper. Its shape is not completely round, but some are bucket shaped. And there are many exquisite patterns printed around the bowl. It is not only used for ironing clothes and silk, but also for incense, ironing paper, protecting books and drinking alcohol.

Incense: The Song Dynasty invented a combination of irons and smoked cage utensils. While ironing the pleats of clothes, they also use incense to bring fragrance to the clothes.

Ironing paper and protecting books: Some irons in Song Dynasty have the function of ironing books and flattening paper.

Drinking: Some small irons in Song Dynasty can also be used for drinking.

Ming and Qing Dynasties

In the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the iron followed the song and Yuan Dynasties, but the mouth edge near the handle was raised higher to prevent the fire from falling out.Some irons are decorated with patterns of happiness and longevity, which are not only practical but also ornamental.

The Republic Of China Era

During the period of the Republic of China, the iron changed from the shape of bowl mouth to the shape of triangle and airtight. At this time, there were ceramic irons, alcohol irons, hot water irons and so on.


The shape of the iron we use now is invented by Westerners, but the time when Westerners used iron was much later than China. It was not until about the 16th century that Dutch tailors began to use the hollow box type iron. They put the red hot iron plate into the iron from the back door for heating, which was more than 1600 years later than that of China.

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