Chinese Swords

History of the Chinese Swords

Just like China, Chinese swords that were used in wars also had a long and rich history. The earliest known Chinese swords were made of stone and were used during the prehistoric era. Chinese swords that were made of bronze have been traced back to the Shang Dynasty where daggers and other weapons were mostly utilized.

In the middle of the 3rd century BC, long swords made from bronze suddenly appeared and later on, swords made of steel and iron also emerged in Ancient China. These metals were wrought and not cast, and the swords during the period usually measured around 70 to 100 centimeters; however, there were a lot of long swords that have been found as well. The Chinese swords have been classified into two main types: the Jian which featured dual-edged blades, and the Dao which featured a single edge instead.

During the Zhou Dynasty in 1045 BC until 256 BC, the Chinese swords commonly appeared as short and single-handed pieces with bronze straight blades with double edges. Upon the arrival of the Qin Dynasty, the swords developed into two-handed swords and also had an increase in its size. The very first single-edged swords, as well as those with steel blades, were created during the Han Dynasty. This new design of the Chinese swords became prominent until the Song Dynasty when some adjustments were done to fit the requirements of the army.

During the Yuan Dynasty, the Turko-Mongol saber became the primary weapon for civilians and soldiers. Its shape also became the basis for the Liuyedao and Yanmaodao which were Chinese swords of the later dynasties. Lastly, in the late Qing Dynasty, the more prevalent Niuweidao was finally developed. It was a single-handed Chinese sword that featured a single edge with a distinctive flaring tip. This weapon was never issued to the army or the military and it was mainly used for the defense of the civilians.

The Jian is a Chinese sword with a straight, double-edged blade and was a used during the last 2500 years in ancient China. The first mention of the Chinese Jian was around the 7th century BCE or the Spring and Autumn Period. One of the earliest samples of this weapon was the Sword of Goujian. The classic, single-handed versions of the Jian had blades that measured up to 45 to 80 centimeters long, with an average weight of 1.5 to 2 pounds for swords that measured 70 centimeters.

Historical and Modern Use of the Jian

The Jian in different periods featured various measurements and weight. Although the Chinese blade had unique features, its main purpose was to cut and thrust towards a target. There were also some schools of swordsmanship that teach the Jian in a variety of styles. The historical wielders of the Jian also engaged in Shizhan, a test cutting process that allowed them to practice and hone their skills in using the Chinese blades; the targets they utilized for practice were called the caoren. Today, a lot of Chinese martial arts such as the Taijiquan have practitioners who continue to train extensively with the Jian. The majority of the Chinese Jian that is present includes the washu jian or the flexible tai chi which are mainly utilized only for performance or ceremonial purposes.

Appearance of the Jian

The Jian features guards or hilts to protect the wielder’s hand especially when the opponent’s blade aims to poke or thrust along this area. The guard’s shape has short wings that point either backward or forward; its handle is placed at the back of the guard to provide the wielder with a better grip for either one or two hands. The grips are usually made of fluted wood or sometimes wrapped in rayskin and most are also overlaid with a cord. The ends of the handle feature a pommel which is vital for proper balance; this also prevents the handle from sliding through one’s grip.

The Dao are single-edged Chinese blades that are primarily utilized for chopping and slashing. Its most known form is the Chinese saber; however, the swords that featured much larger blades are often referred to as the Chinese broadsword. In China, this weapon is considered as one of the four classic weapons together with the spear, sword, and the staff.

Historical and Modern Uses of the Dao

The Dao became one of the most well-known pieces among the cavalry during the Han Dynasty. This was due to the Dao being extremely sturdy; plus, it was superior when it came to chopping targets. In this day and age, Chinese martial arts schools still progressively train participants extensively with this blade since it is seen as a powerful and highly efficient conditioning tool and a very versatile weapon. Training with the Dao also teaches its participants proper self-defense.

Other variations of the Chinese Dao include the large Bagua Dao and the Pudao. Some of the blades obtained from the Qing Dynasty survived history and also had numerous descendants see military action in the 20th century. During the Sino-Japanese wars, the Dadao was often utilized by the Chinese militia against the Japanese invaders. The Miao Dao was the descendant of the Chang Dao and was also utilized during this era.