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  • Writer's pictureDen Chan

Chinese Swords

Updated: Dec 16, 2023

In Chinese traditional culture, Jian (剑 Chinese double edged sword) is considered to be a sacred weapon. By the time of the Zhou Dynasty (周代), sword fight skills were important skills of aristocrats and upper class Chinese.

In the Daoist text Zhuangzi (庄子), which was written in above 300 BC, there is a chapter which has a story about philosophy of swords.

In this story, there is a king of state of Zhao (赵) who is fond of sword fights. He likes to invite sword men and make them fight each other. Because of this, many sword men died and state of Zhao (赵) was becoming weaker. Therefore, a prince of Zhao (赵) asks Zhuangzi (庄子) to stop the king of Zhao (赵) to make sword men to fight each other. Zhuangzi (庄子) goes to the king to explain him what are the sword of son of heaven and sword of ordinary people. The sword of the son of heaven is the entire universe. It is pointed at nobody and it is used to fight against nobody. When you use this sword, the world is governed and people are harmonized with law of the universe. Ordinary people’s swords are used to kill others. Those who use them are nothing different from cocks in cockfight. Zhuangzi(庄子) tells the king that the king has capacity to use the sword of the son of heaven. It is such a waste that he is obsessed with swords of ordinary people. Hearing this, the king stopped inviting sword men to fight each other. This way by around 300 BC, there was a sophisticated philosophy of swords.

After China was unified by the first emperor of Qin (秦始皇), swords were continued to be important part of Chinese culture. For self defense, the first emperor of Qin always carried a sword. Liu Bang (刘邦), who became the first emperor of Han(汉高祖), always carried a sword as well and after his death, his sword became a treasure of Han Dynasty imperial family.

By the time of the Eastern Han Dynasty (东汉), Chinese swords techniques had highly sophisticated theories and practices. In the novel called Wu Yue Chunqiu (吴越春秋), which was written during the Eastern Han Dynasty (东汉), there is a scene in which a maiden of Yue (越) explains sword techniques to king of Yue (越王). She talks about breathing techniques, theory of yin and yang, and physical movements.

Even today, in Daoism (道教), swords are considered to have sacred power. Daoist priests carry swords because there is a belief that swords can drive away evil spirits.

Chinese sword is a sacred weapon
Ancient Chinese stories of the swords

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