Historical Illustrations of Two Handed Chinese Swords Han, Sui, and Tang Dynasties

October 11th, 2010
 

Historical Illustrations of Two Handed
Chinese Swords
Han, Sui, and Tang Dynasties

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Historical Illustrations of Two Handed Chinese Swords Ming Dynasty

October 11th, 2010
 

Historical Illustrations of Two Handed
Chinese Swords
Ming Dynasty

General Qi Jiguang (1528 – 1588)

In China, falchions and sabers with grips long enough for
two-handed use were employed in civilian martial arts and were issued
to various military units during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The former
are characterized by broad blades which widen towards the tip, which is
“clipped” in the manner associated with a typical bowie knife. These weapons
could have developed from polearms and from agricultural knives which
blades of similar form. They were the perennial favorite of the common
folk, whether they fought as rebels or in various infantry or militia
formations. During the Qing, several versions were issued to the Luying,
or Green Standard Army, composed entirely of Han Chinese not affiliated
with the Banner system. The weapons shown in the accompanying illustrations
have blades of another type. In contrast with the broad falchions, these
are narrow-bladed and gradually tapering. Their blades are related in
form to the liuyedao, a short-hilted saber worn in a scabbard slung >from
the belt. It is generally assumed that these weapons were based on prototypes
introduced from Japan, because outside of their scabbards, they bear a
superficial resemblance to the no-dachi, a long sword slung across the
back. Japanese influence cannot be discounted, considering the importation
of large numbers of Japanese sabers into China during the Ming. The involvement
of Japanese in the coastal piracy that plagued the Chinese seaboard during
the 16th cent. may also be contributory. However, it is interesting to
note that the Chinese versions have scabbard attachment systems and a
manner of wearing that are different from the no-dachi. Rather, the suspension
bands and bar on the scabbard closely parallels those found on the peidao,
or saber worn at the belt. It could be just as likely that the Chinese
two-handed sabers could have evolved parallel to the long-handled falchion
blades described above. During the Ming Dynasty, the famed general Qi
Jiguang gave two-handed sabers an important role in the combat systems
he devised for his pirate-suppression forces. Similar weapons were also
used by the Koreans in their struggle against the Hideyoshi invasion in
the 1590s.

The Huangchao Liqi Tushi (Illustrated Regulations for the
Ceremonial Regalia of the Current Dynasty), 1759 edition, lists four types
of two-handed sabers (as opposed to three long-handled falchions). All
of these weapons were issued to the Green Standard Army. The generic term
for two-handed sabers in the Manchu language is jangku. The basic model
was the zhanmadao (sacimbi loho in Manchu), a weapon used by infantry
to cut the legs of charging horses. (It is interesting to note that the
Chinese term zhan and the Manchu word sacimbe both mean “behead” or “sever”).
According to the regulations, this weapon had a blade length of 3.4 (Chinese)
feet, and a hilt 1.3 feet long. Almost identical, except for slightly
greater hilt-to-blade length ratio, was the changren dadao , or long-edged
big knife. Also similar, except for a much shorter blade but longer hilt,
was the shuangshoudai dao , or saber carried in two hands. The fourth
one was the beidao. The term bei means “back” or “spine”, and it may refer
to the greater-than-average thickness of the blade. In fact, the Manchu
language has a term, yungturu jangku, a thick-bladed two-handed saber.
Two handed hilt weapons of the above types were used, with but slight
variation in form, in Vietnam. There, the long handled falchions were
called dao truong and the sabers, guom truong.

Swordfighting stances from the 1588 edition of Chinese General
Qi Jiguang ‘s Ji Xiao Xin Shu. General Ji inflicted a great defeat
on the Japanese pirates in 1561 at Taizhou, capturing the leader
and 1900 pows. These techniques were obtained after interrogating
(ie torturing) the pirates.

General Qi Jiguang ‘s book, Ji Xiao Xin ShuChinese originally consisted
of 18 chapters. However a revised 14 chapter version actually more
popular in China than the 18 chapter version for the past few centuries.
In fact, it is known to exist in 6 different editions, more numerous
than the original. The first 14 chapter edition was published in
1584. The remaining editions were published in 1592, 1604, 1644;
there are also other Ming-era handwritten copies.

 

 

Historical Illustrations of Two Handed Chinese Swords Ming Dynasty (pg2)

October 11th, 2010
 

Historical Illustrations of Two Handed
Chinese Swords
Ming Dynasty

 

Ming dynasty Two Handed Jian techniques from the
Wu Bei Zhi manual.

 

 

Historical Illustrations of Two Handed Chinese Swords Qin Dynasty (pg2)

October 11th, 2010
 

Historical Illustrations of Two Handed
Chinese Swords
Qin Dynasty

Terracotta Warrior showing chariot escort commander’s
double-handed jian from the tomb of Qin Shi Huang (the First Emperor of
China), 221BC.

       

 

 

Historical Illustrations of Two Handed Chinese Swords Ming Dynasty (pg3)

October 11th, 2010
 

Historical Illustrations of Two Handed
Chinese Swords
Ming Dynasty

Swords drawing techniques from a Ming dynasty
manual, 1678.

 

 

Historical Illustrations of Two Handed Chinese Swords Ming Dynasty (pg4)

October 11th, 2010
 

Historical Illustrations of Two Handed
Chinese Swords
Ming Dynasty

Ming dynasty sword manual.

 

 

Historical Illustrations of Two Handed Chinese Swords Qin Dynasty

October 11th, 2010
 

Historical Illustrations of Two Handed
Chinese Swords
Qin Dynasty

Terracotta Warrior showing chariot escort commander’s
double-handed jian from the tomb of Qin Shi Huang (the First Emperor of
China), 221BC.