In spite of crackdowns, the motorized tricycle is an essential transportation tool in urban and rural China

“In order to celebrate the 24th birthday of the People’s Liberation Army, to remember forever their heroic struggles on Jinggangshan Mountain,” announced acting PLA chief of staff Nie Rongzhen on August 3, 1951, unveiling five motorized bicycles, “this military-use heavy machinery push-bike shall be named ‘the Jinggangshan.’”

They may not have sounded particularly exciting, in Nie’s formulation, but the Jinggangshan would prove to be a triumph for modern Chinese engineering.

Lacking experience in manufacturing motorbikes, workers at the PLA No. 6 Automobile Plant had reverse-engineered the Jinggangshan by taking apart and copying the pieces of a German Zündapp K500. By 1954, though, the military was already demanding Jinggangshan brand three-wheelers in order to transport more people—and the bombastic original two-wheeler went out of production just a year later, as the motorized tricycle sputtered its way into Chinese transportation history.

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Three Wheels Good is a story from our issue, “Home Bound.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Hatty Liu

Hatty Liu is the managing editor of The World of Chinese, and an award-winning communications researcher. Born in China, and raised in China, Canada, and the US, she leverages her cross-cultural identity to create more empathetic knowledge across national boundaries.

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