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Chinese Finger Trap

Updated on July 10, 2008

The more you struggle, the tighter you are trapped.

Chinese finger traps have existed for hundreds of years. These fun puzzles are made out of woven bamboo strips. The trap is shaped like a cylinder, and it traps your index fingers when you put them through the holes. Most people try to free their fingers by pulling outwards, but this only makes the trap pull tighter around your fingers and further trapping them. The purpose of the trap is to solve the puzzle of how to get your fingers free.

A lot of jokers out there like to imagine that they can truly trap someone with Chinese finger traps, which are also commonly called Chinese handcuffs. However, if you strugge and pull hard enough on it, the bamboo will eventually break. These traps are a useful tool for teaching lessons about patience and not struggling.

Some can't figure out how to get free of a Chinese finger trap.

President Bush Gets Trapped
President Bush Gets Trapped

Freeing Yourself from a Chinese Finger Trap

The solution to this puzzle is to stop struggling. Instead of trying to pull your fingers out, push them further in. This will bunch the bamboo strips together, and the trap will loosen around your fingers. Now, you can slowly twist your fingers out.

Chinese Finger Trap as a Metaphor

The idea of how a Chinese finger trap works has turned into a widely used metaphor. Basically, if you try too hard to solve a problem, you won’t be able to—just as you won’t be able to get out of the finger trap if you struggle against it. When you relax, it finally lets you go. If you fight it, you are stuck. This is a fabulous metaphor for teaching people to work together towards a solution as opposed to working against each other and making the problem worse.

Ironically, this metaphor is often used to describe political situations—oftentimes referring to China itself.

Finger Traps Used as Models

  • In the 1950s, the weaving pattern of the Chinese finger trap was used as a model to make a slingshot/catapult without having to use string or glue (this improves the appearance).

  • While there is evidence that parachutes were used in China as far back as the 12th century, serious parachute development didn’t begin until the 18th century. Coincidentally, however, a parachute canopy is often attached to the harness using a method of threading similar to the weaving pattern of the Chinese finger trap.

  • In medicine, a crisscrossed stitch is referred to as a Chinese finger trap suture.

How do Chinese finger traps fit into your life? Do you use the toys to trick people, or do you use it as a metaphor? Share your ideas and stories by leaving a comment in the box at the bottom of the page.

Escaping the Chinese Finger Trap


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Comment's author: Holy09/02/07 06:25:00 AM我測了大概1x個網站....結果讓我真的很懷疑....從, www.worldofwarcraft.com到一些色情網站....全都被大陸封鎖了這....我想現在的問題應該不是什麼網站被封鎖, 而是什麼網站沒被封鎖吧 XD

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      what great invetion for sprain releaf for hand injuies could be teeter for wrist sprains any inventers out there?

    • profile image

      7 years ago


    • profile image


      8 years ago

      My eight year old daughter just used the term and we googled it....a good lesson learned

    • ChristinCordle12 profile image


      8 years ago

      Never heard and seen Chinese Finger traps before. Thanks for introducing them.Great hub and voted up.

    • Sasha88 profile image


      11 years ago

      This hub brought back some memories, I had one of these when I was kid!!! I think one of the best contributions the Chinese has made to the world hahaha...well next to chinese food that is =)

    • Stacie Naczelnik profile imageAUTHOR

      Stacie Naczelnik 

      11 years ago from Seattle

      Yup, they can also be called a Chinese finger prison, Chinese finger puzzle, and Chinese finger cuffs.

    • Bogey047 profile image


      11 years ago

      When I was a little boy we use to call them Chinese Hand Cuff.


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