hinese swords have been with us for a long time. The first ones we know about were made of bronze. This progressed with the discovery of better metals to iron and then steel. The process of making the blades is a fascinating study all by itself. The steel in jian from the Qing and Ming dynasties has qualities of resonance and resiliance modern swordsmiths are still trying to equal. Take the ancient processes for making a sanmei blade, for example. These swords have such quality about them, it is well worth continuing to make them, even though we have modern equipment and methods.
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Jian grips were often made of hardwood - usually fluted. They were sometimes wrapped in rayskin and sometimes in cotton cord. I have two sets of statistics for them. this first one is a description by the Zheng Wu Forge, of one of their jian:
Blade length: 30 inches / 75 cm
Hilt length: 6 inches / 15 cm
Blade width: 1.35 inches / 3.43 cm
0.95 inches / 2.41 cm
Blade thickness: 0.34 inches / 0.86 cm
0.16 inches / 0.41 cm
Sword weight: 2 lbs. 5 oz. / 1.05 kg
And these, from something Scott Rodell wrote on Sword Forum International some years ago about the more common characteristics of antique jian:
Overall Sword Length: 39 1/2", 100.5 cm.
Blade Length from Handle to tip: 31 5/8", 80.5 cm.
Blade Width at Guard: 1 1/2", 3.7 cm.
Blade Width at 1 Inch from Tip:1 1/16", 2.7 cm.
Blade Width at 2 Inches from Tip 1 1/8", 2.75 cm.
Blade Thickness at Guard: 3/16", .5 cm
Blade Thickness 1 Inch from Tip: 1/16", .2 cm
Overall Handle Length including pommel:7 7/8", 20 cm
Guard Length: 2 5/8" , 6.5 cm.
Guard Width: 3 3/4", 9.5 cm.
There was a lot of variation. Swords were hand-made one at a time, not mass produced by machines, so there are quite naturally, many variations and it is not something you can classify within a few types. My own Qing jian is 1100 grams in weight. This is considered rarely heavy. To me, it's normal and I have never seen another jian I'd rather have than my own.
Click here for parts of a sword, the names of everything on a jian in Chinese and English.
Dao - Chinese Sabres
The dao is a Chinese sabre, a single edged, curved sword. It is sometimes called the Chinese broadsword. Most dao are moderately curved and have a canted hilt (it curves in the opposite direction to the blade). Most dao came with a disc shaped guard. Sometimes the guard was S-shaped, and more rarely, similar to a jian guard.
As for the jian, they progressed from bronze, about 2,500 years ago, to iron and then steel. By the time of the Han Dynasty, they were the weapon of choice for mounted soldiers. Later they replaced the jian as the most commonly used infantry sword as well.
The word, Dao means knife. this makes it easier to understand the many names for these Chinese swords. They are simple descriptions such as these:
All of these Chinese swords will have pages in this guide in the future, as I have time to write them. I am not an expert but I do get my information from good sources, such as my collection of information posted on forums by people such as Scott Rodell and Philip Tom.
If you are looking for Damascus steel swords, click here.
Let's have a quick look at the sanmei process. It will have a bigger section soon. These notes are from traditional Japanese blade making. It is widely held that the Japanese learned the process from the Chinese. So while there may be some discrepancies, this will be the general direction of how Chinese swords were originally made.