Thursday, February 2, 2017

Myths about Chinese Swordsmanship - Scott M Rodell

Myths about Chinese swordsmanship

Chinese jian with dual rows of huawen

Damascus steel with lamelae of twists running obliquely toward the point on
either side of the median ridge.


There are many widely-held misconceptions about Chinese swords. I have
selected five of the most commonly repeated. I will attempt to dispel them.
Most of the stories have been passed down from generation-to-generation
by the Chinese themselves. These stories are based on “fairy-tales”.
Indeed, frequently these stories are repeated by people who have never handled
an antique sword and who know nothing about Chinese swords, or about metallurgy
or about the art of the swordsmith.

Misconception 1:
The Chinese carried “Belt Swords” which they wore around their waists

Tales of whip-like ‘belt’ swords are nonsense and show an ignorance of
metallurgy and battlefield combat. Whatever “belt swords” may have
existed (and the collecting and museum community have yet to see a single
authentic one) would have only been useful as an assassin’s weapon used to
slash an unsuspecting victim. There is no way to combine the three important
sword qualities in a flimsy, whip-like blade. An overly flexible sword would
lack the structural integrity to thrust or cut with accuracy and control or to
effectively deflect a blow from even a stick, never mind a larger weapon like
a spear, halberd, glaive, or fauchard. Only a fool of a swordsman would want
to meet an irate farmer swinging a chunk of 2X4 with a thin, flimsy jian.

Misconception 2:
There is a special taiji jian designed specifically for this art

Today jian are commonly referred to as “taiji swords”
in martial arts equipment catalogs and by the general public. This implies
there is a jian tailored especially for the art of taiji jian.
Aside from the fact that what makes a good sword tends to apply universally
to everyone, the principles discussed above allow for only slight variations
in possible serviceable variations.
Historically in China, there were just never enough taiji jian
practitioners to form a market to which sword smiths could cater.
Before Yang Luchan brought taijiquan to Guangping and then
Beijing in the mid-nineteenth century, it was limited to just one
small place, the Chen Family Village (Chenjiagou).
Taijiquan practitioners required swords with the same characteristics
as any other fencing system. They were (are) also constrained in the same
way any other martial art was, by the laws of metallurgy. Nineteenth century
taiji jian swordsmen adopted existing sword types, rather than
inventing new ones.

Chinese suishu peidao of
giangang with the vein distinguished
from the gu of the blade by way of a serrated


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