“The invention of the wheelbarrow is usually traced to China’s Chuko Liang, and adviser to the Shu-Han Dynasty from AD 197 to 234, who had it developed as a means of transport for military supplies. The first evidence of wheelbarrows being used in Europe is found in illustrations in the thirteenth century.”
Niall Edworthy, The Curious Gardener’s Almanac (2006).
Remembering that odd piece of information from earlier use, I had to photograph a garden barrow when I came across it in Kunming Botanic Gardens in China last month. In fact these Chinese barrows are more like carts and they must be pulled, not pushed. If your definition of a wheelbarrow is that it be a single-wheeled cart, then these would not qualify, even though they are to be found in the original habitat.
Double wheeled barrows are, however, clearly more stable than our garden barrows, capable of holding a greater volume and decidedly versatile. We came across this building site in a small village in the south of China where it is a receptacle for winching bricks up to the second storey. There did not appear to be a New Zealand Workplace Safety Officer on site.
And then winched down again to be refilled.
It is said that the earliest barrows had a large, single wheel centrally located beneath the load. It does seem likely that as a means of transporting military supplies, the barrow would have been designed to have one person pulling from the front and one pushing from behind. Presumably the need for greater stability has led to design modifications over the subsequent centuries but the only huge, technological advance has been the development of the pneumatic tyre.