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Peter Bosman




Location: Andalucia
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PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2008 8:30 am    Post subject: Jian blades         Reply with quote

Buenas.
Currently I am looking at relatively recent types Ming/Qing Jian blades and am surprised at the HUGE variety within an appearantly simple and homogenous blade type.

Taking wall hangers, 'tourist' products and competition blades out of the equasion the variety is still Eek!

Just three examples:
- 19th. c. Militia sword: blade length 65 cm., thickness at guard 12 mm., at 50% 9 mm., at tip 6 mm.
- 19th. c. Middle class civilian sword: blade length 75 cm., thickness 5,5 mm., 5 mm. and 4 mm.
(Ok, these two are not from the middle of the spread, but I will honestly admit that I did not realise the functional differences would vary SO much even within historical examples of appearantly the same type of sword meant to be used for martial action.)
- Modern quality replica Qing type: 75 cm. , 8 , 5 , 2 mm.

Three completely different functional instruments even though their general appearance is about copy cat.

And from this forum:
Quote:
All my jian are made with around 80cm blades and 23cm handles, because 103cm is the distance from my belly button to the floor. the longer than usual handle allows for some two-handed jianshu practise with the same jian, providing variety for matches. I have only ever once had a shorter jian, and it felt, well, wrong... And because I am taller than the very vast majority of Chinese people, I have all my Jian custom-made.


I will furthermore admit that the (few) jian I have handled sofar felt.... strange. The modern competion instruments have a pob in the guard or even in the grip, causing them to feel insignificant.
Both authentic and replica examples felt LONG, almost like straight sabres which they are not.

I do not want to go into the subject of what would be effective in the real world as I personally am simply looking for a taichi tool.
The HUGE difference is that with modern instruments there is virtually no NEED for proper technique as even if you never hold anthing else that a fountain pen, the wrist will still be strong enough to smuggle the sword through the forms. No such thing with a militia tool Eek!

VERY interesting!

peter


Last edited by Peter Bosman on Mon 18 Feb, 2008 9:23 am; edited 1 time in total
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P. Cha




PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2008 9:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jians were split into two groups in that era. One was for the "scholar" with the lighter blade and one for war with a heavier blade. This is why you see those first two number. That replica...no explanation for that other that it's a bad replica.
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Peter Bosman




Location: Andalucia
Joined: 22 May 2006

Posts: 598

PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2008 9:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

P. Cha wrote:
Jians were split into two groups in that era. One was for the "scholar" with the lighter blade and one for war with a heavier blade.


Well there is a problem with that as the intellectuals of the period looked down their nose upon anything martial Wink but I sure get what you mean and do read your accolades.
Although purely ceremonial taoist swords definitely existed the blades produced in this period typically are pretty good quality and meant to be (possibly) used.
Also the army was equiped with the dao so the jian was mainly a civilian weapon in this period.
From what I read about it the heavier blades were meant to be used by militia and the lighter blades not, which is about the gist of your reply.

I have also read very interesting, even opposing arguments about the reason(s) of this rough ' devision'.
One argument was that the typically farmer militia was strong(er) and could wield a heavier blade.
The other argument was that the farmer probably was not as skilled and thus needed the heavier blade to be effective whereas the ' scolar' knew how to use a lighter blade just as effectively.
I do not know: either one or both may have applied.

It is striking that swords that sometimes can hardly be distinguished by the eye can be SO differing even without going into the properties of the steel used. There sure is more than meets the eye to swords! Laughing Out Loud This jian example is straightforward illustrative of this.

Btw, it amazes me that we seem to know SO little (or that there is so little info accessible) about a period that is hardly behind us. We are talking 19th century here!!

peter
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Thomas Watt




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PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2008 11:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter, based on what my instructor has told me plus some reading, the "scholar" version was mandated by the Court, so regardless of whether or not one wanted to have a sword, it was an emblem of office/social rank... and might never need to function at all aside from looking pretty.
And the modern replica... if that is a "competition" sword, then the extremely thin foible is intended to provide a snap or popping sound almost like the flick of a whip during some sword-form moves.

My personal favorite is my Hanwei Adam Hsu series Tai Chi sword (modern). Much thicker than the flimsy competition blades with a hollow ground look. Plus it makes a nice sound when swung quickly.

For Tai Chi practice, I prefer that one to the competition sword I have, although I have managed to nick myself with it.
Good luck finding one you like... Hope this is helpful!

I think the lack of information has a lot to do with the Japanese invasion of China in WW2 coupled with the Maoist attempt to exterminate the old culture (my teacher comments that when he goes to China, that no one knows much about the old ways).

Also, I was under the impression that the Jian continued use as an officer's sword even though the Dao was issued to troops... but I cannot say why I have that impression.

Have 11 swords, 2 dirks, half a dozen tomahawks and 2 Jeeps - seem to be a magnet for more of all.
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Peter Bosman




Location: Andalucia
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Posts: 598

PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2008 12:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The replica I mentioned is by Zheng Wu and mentioned by Scott Rodell as the best, most authentic, balanced repro to date even if still a far cry from the real thing.

Chinese history gets into a maelstrom halfway the 19th c. leading up to a revolution in 1911 and remaining in turmoil untill the japanese disaster.
All in all say a century of hidden and plain crooked agendas and history bending on a scale alien to europe. China is however SO huge and divers and the 19th c. only just beyond living memory, so close in time.

peter
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Peter Bosman




Location: Andalucia
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PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2008 1:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thomas Watt wrote:
Good luck finding one you like...


... and thank you ofcourse.

peter
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Bennison N




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PostPosted: Mon 18 Feb, 2008 2:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Peter.

I do not recommend getting a late 19th century Qing Jian.

After the Opium War, and the theft of most objects of value by Westerners during this period, the swords made were not of the same quality as the previous Dynasties, by far...

Previous to this, though, the swords of the Manchu Empire are very good. It is true that the Army of the time were equipped with Dao, but officers, and especially ones of significant rank, often used war-swords of the double-edged, straight type.

I personally recommend a Ming Dynasty period Jian. The reason for this is that it will resemble the "Tai Chi" jian appearance you seek, in looks, but it will be a very good quality, reasonably quick blade, which it appears you also seek.

Confucian Scholars often secretly practised Martial Arts. It is how a large number of Martial Arts techniques survived through peaceful times in Chinese history, however few of those there are...

Zheng Wu is great. They have from 4,000 to 32,000 layer sanmai steel available for Jian, and 4,000 twistcore, and a good selection of period styles. Masterforge in the United Kingdom are also very good, with basically the same range, although I understand there is a dramatic law change set to be put in motion there very soon.

"Never give a sword to a man who can't dance" - Confucius

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Peter Bosman




Location: Andalucia
Joined: 22 May 2006

Posts: 598

PostPosted: Tue 19 Feb, 2008 12:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you Son of Benni Wink

Late Qing seems to be quite tricky too because the sword makers were producing swords for westerners to take home even then. Meaning correct period, correct producer, yet not the real thing.

Personally I am a sucker for the seven stars inlays and those can be found in any sort of blade from several centuries and crafty fakes so I depend on expert info to advise me.

peter
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Bennison N




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PostPosted: Tue 19 Feb, 2008 6:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Personally, I prefer the Han Dynasty style Jian. They are thicker (a near perfect diamond cross-section) and longer than most other Dynasty styles, which of course makes them heavier. As the Han Dynasty was the "golden age" of Chinese History, the swords from this time, are fairly simplistic, but very beautiful and effective. I have one, which is very good against Japanese swordsmanship, as it can take a beating and doesn't "shock" easily. I intend to have another one made by Masterforge, which will be dressed in white rayskin (handle and scabbard), with fittings of green jade and an 80cm long 4000 layer twistcore sanmai blade. It should be a very good sword, if Masterforge's work matches their reputation.

The other "golden age" of Chinese History, the Tang Dynasty, is very interesting. The standard of dress is identical to traditional Japanese dress, and a style of dao that emerged during this time is basically a straight Katana, like the Korean Jung Kum used in advanced Kumdo. I do not recommend getting a Jian of this period.

Yeah, I'd say the best sword for you, Peter, is the Ming or Early Qing style. They will be perfect for Taiji practise, as well as being suitable for matchplay if necessary. A heavier one is not a problem for Taiji practise (you go slow anyway... hahaha!), and if you are buying a sword from the actual period, the stories that blade could tell....

Before I get my Masterforge Han Jian though, I intend to get a not-so-authentic, more extravagant and just plain bigger replica of Gou Jian of Yue's sword. I have wanted one since I first saw the original in Hubei Museum.

This sword is amazing. It sat submerged for nearly 2500 years, before being discovered in Hubei in 1965. It never rusted, tarnished or lost it's edge in all that time! It was underwater! Some say it is the sulphur additive in the blade materials that caused this. It can cut 19 pieces of paper in an effortless swipe, and apparently causes a "flash" when drawn from the scabbard. It is also very beautiful, with the slogan " this sword is exclusively owned and used by King Gou Jian of Yue State" in very old "bird script" still clearly visible on the blade.

Mine will, of course, have my favourite 80cm blade and 23 cm handle, which is not authentic as the original is only 55.6cm long. The handle will be from one piece of jade, which again is not authentic, as the handle on the original is iron. I will also include my personal symbol in xiaozhuan hanzi (which is just period authentic, just not in Yue State), not bird script, on the blade. And I will have the blade made from steel, which again is not authentic. I will use the same comparative dimensions though, and use Gou Jian's sword as a model for appearance.

I have asked Jot Singh Khalsa to create it for me. It should be a very, very nice sword. I have yet to finalise the order, but it will be happening soon.

"Never give a sword to a man who can't dance" - Confucius

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Peter Bosman




Location: Andalucia
Joined: 22 May 2006

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PostPosted: Wed 20 Feb, 2008 1:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting line about the recovered submerged sword! Could it be electrum? This is far more resistant to corrosion and holds the hammered edge extremely well. Sounds very different too.

The old Han swords are nice indeed; real cavalry tools, but obviously only replicas are availeable. Beautifull ones for that, even with carved jade fittings.

Yes, I am looking for a Ming/Qing blade or -sword. I would prefer a relatively light(er) one exactly because the forms are slow Wink
Beggars can not be choosers though and authentic swords are not scarce but not thick on the ground either.

peter
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Bennison N




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Feb, 2008 2:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Carved Jade is authentic to the period, and I don't mind having jade as fittings. I don't use the crossguard for defence anyway, so it's really only there to stop me putting my hand on the blade. Hahaha!. The jade just makes the whole appearance of the sword more simplistic, and simply for use. I'm hoping the Masterforge Han Jian will be as effective as my other black one has been.

I don't expect to be using the Gou Jian replica in real matches, though. Jot Singh Khalsa's work is not cheap, although it is very beautiful and good quality.

Peter, I was looking for a Kris to buy for an Indonesian friend of mine, and I found something you might like. I'll PM it to you. A bit of restoration work and they'll be good I think.

"Never give a sword to a man who can't dance" - Confucius

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Peter Bosman




Location: Andalucia
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PostPosted: Wed 20 Feb, 2008 4:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just returned from taichi lessons and thank you most cordially!

If I were collecting something I would covet a twistcore sanmai Han with green jade fittings and lacquered scabbard. It is a matter of taste, but boy do I like those! Fortunately for the family budget I am not Laughing Out Loud

Anyway, thank you again for the supportive thinking.

peter
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Chris Lampe




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Feb, 2008 2:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would have to disagree with the notion that mid-to-late Qing jian were inferior quality. I'm sure there were plenty made for the tourist trade but high quality blades were still being produced.

I had a turn-of-the-century (20th century) blade that was very nice. It wasn't a fancy twist pattern or anything like that but it was a high quality, fully functional and combat proven blade (attested to by the numerous nicks in the edge).

The blade was about 27.75 inches long, about 1.25 inches wide with a little profile taper and had about 50% distal taper. The blade was extremely stiff with just a few degrees of flex. The total weight of the sword was 1.75 lbs and the balance point was 7.5 inches from where the handle meets the guard. Other than being a bit on the narrow side, I consider it to be a very stereotypical late Qing jian.

I purchased the blade from Scott Rodell and had the restoration done by Philip Tom. In fact, I still have an identical set of jian fittings. I eventually sold the jian when my interest in swords waned. I do miss it sometimes.


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Bennison N




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Feb, 2008 9:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's nice. It really scrubbed up well, didn't it?

Did you ever test it against another sword?

"Never give a sword to a man who can't dance" - Confucius

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Peter Bosman




Location: Andalucia
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PostPosted: Thu 21 Feb, 2008 12:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chris Lampe wrote:
I would have to disagree with the notion that mid-to-late Qing jian were inferior quality.


The period was very difficult in all aspects. The opium wars realy were a disaste and the west with England up front can correctly be said to have destroyed Qing society with criminal intent. You would not be wrong to call it a crisis. Sure enough some pretty good things were produced even when overall the sword makers like the rest of the country had to make do. There are quite a lot with typical component mismatches too.

Quote:

I purchased the blade from Scott Rodell and had the restoration done by Philip Tom. In fact, I still have an identical set of jian fittings.


Restoring has a conflicting aspect: renewing means unolding.
There are two distict points of view concerning restoring. Philip Tom in general reclaims a blade and will fit replica fittings.
An archeologist specialised in restoring will follow a different route and conserve rather stan restore in the renewing sense.
Personally I value the honourable patina of a long life: it tells a story.
As an example I realy LIKE the reconstructions of an ancient vase using the authentic shards in a modern material of contrasting colour. This is a way of ADDING history without loosing anything of the actual story.
There is a feature on a smallsword with a newly made loophilt on an authetic colichemarde blade: brilliant! The hounourable patina of the historic part has been complemented with something new to complete the story it tells.

As quality fittings are not thick on the ground you are lucky to have kept the set, congrats!

peter
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Bennison N




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Feb, 2008 2:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chris Lampe wrote:
I would have to disagree with the notion that mid-to-late Qing jian were inferior quality. I'm sure there were plenty made for the tourist trade but high quality blades were still being produced.


That is true, but only for other Chinese. This is really an insight into late Qing (and even today, to be honest) Chinese mentality. They as a whole hate to share their good stuff. If there was any chance that something like a fine sword would end up in the hands of a foreigner, even a Japanese, they wouldn't make it properly ON PURPOSE. And seeing as foreigners (particularly Englishmen and Japanese) had convinced themselves of... and established themselves as... being some kind of superior and vastly different race to Chinese (known at this time as "The Sick People of Asia"), they could take anything they wanted without serious consequence. Chinese people couldn't risk the finer points of their culture, such as Jianshu, which is considered a very high form of Martial Art, falling into the hands of someone who wasn't Chinese. And so it became patriotic to supply foreigners with lesser quality stuff.

No-one is disrepecting mid Qing. The Dynasty was founded in 1644 and ended with Sun's revolution in 1911. Mid Qing is somewhere in the mid to late 1700s to the early 1800s, leading up to the Opium War and the Western "Rape". Mid Qing was a comparatively peaceful era, perhaps best described as a seemingly benevolent dictatorship, and about marks the time China started to slide into a decadent, overconfident decline. Mid Qing is pretty much China at it's most powerful, at least appearance-wise. Swords from this time show this in their detailed and extravagant decoration, and techniques from this era are "flowery" and acrobatic.

Early Qing, marked by Ming remnant and peasant rebellions and constant fighting, came up with a lot of combat-proven, no-nonsense techniques and weapons by comparison.

"Never give a sword to a man who can't dance" - Confucius

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Peter Bosman




Location: Andalucia
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PostPosted: Thu 21 Feb, 2008 11:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-9108313835753892698

peter
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Fri 22 Feb, 2008 12:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Bosman wrote:
Interesting line about the recovered submerged sword! Could it be electrum? This is far more resistant to corrosion and holds the hammered edge extremely well. Sounds very different too.
The sword of Gou Jian is bronze, but contains various alloys. You can find a summary on the Wikipedia website:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sword_of_Gou_Jian

The very high tin contents puzzles me, as in my experience anything above 15% tin is extremely brittle, and shatters like glass on the lightest impact. The sword also looks far too yellow to be of such a high tin contents, so it makes me question if the given chemical composition is correct.

Regarding the condition of the sword, mind that bronze is a very corrosion resistant material. There's plenty of bronze swords of this age or older that only have a light patina on them, but which are still perfectly servicable weapons. When they are preserved in a submerged condition, shielded from any oxygen, the preservation can be even better, such as with the sword of Gou Jian.
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Peter Bosman




Location: Andalucia
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PostPosted: Fri 22 Feb, 2008 1:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for the link Jereon.

Jeroen Zuiderwijk wrote:
Regarding the condition of the sword, mind that bronze is a very corrosion resistant material. There's plenty of bronze swords of this age or older that only have a light patina on them, but which are still perfectly servicable weapons. When they are preserved in a submerged condition, shielded from any oxygen, the preservation can be even better, such as with the sword of Gou Jian.


That is why I assumed it would be a bronze alloy. The bronze alloys get ' sealed' by the outer oxidated layer.
I suppose that it was a statement of status and not intended to be battle functional.

Peter
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Bennison N




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Feb, 2008 11:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's said that Gou Jian and his Yue State lost a war against Wu State, started because a Yue princess ran away from her Wu husband. Originally Gou Jian killed the Helu, King of Wu, but was defeated and captured by Helu's son Fuchai, who of course became the next King.

He was a servant for Fuchai for 3 years, and was finally allowed to return to Yue. As soon as he arrived back, he sent spies all through Wu, and set about weakening Wu State through lies, politics and financial sabotage. He also worked to build Yue up to a strong as possible. He seems to have been very resentful of his servitude.

During this time, Gou Jian was said to sleep on beds made from rough sticks, with a gall bladder suspended to allow him to taste bile, which it appears is very bitter in flavour. He ate very basic food, not suited for a King. The Chinese saying "Wo xing chang dan" is apparently because of this forced punishment, which allowed him to remember his capture and work at the hands of Fuchai.

It was during this time that Gou Jian ordered the making of many weapons of excellent quality. That would, it seems, include the sword.

Needless to say, Gou Jian destroyed Wu State in the last major war of the Spring and Autumn Period. In 473 BC, Fuchai, who lay beseiged in his capital after three years of seige, committed suicide and Wu fell to Yue.

Take at look at Fuchai's spear, which is also very beautiful...

"Never give a sword to a man who can't dance" - Confucius

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