Antique (top) and Modern Huanuo Royal Peony Gold Jian (bottom).
Alt Text--chinese swords antique and modern jian

Chinese 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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Chinese swords fall into two broad categories - Jian and Dao. The Jian is a double edged straight sword. Most of them were for single hand use but there are also larger two-handed versions known as shuangshou jian.

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.

Information for savvy Chinese swords buyers:

Click here for parts of a sword, the names of everything on a jian in Chinese and English.

Want to own a best quality sanmei jian?

Click on the Royal Peony Gold Sanmei Jian below to find out more about it and how to buy it.

Royal Peony Folded Steel Sanmei blade, jian. Buy this sword.
Alt Text--Real Swords Royal Peony Sanmei Jian for sale

Dao - Chinese Sabres

Two hander dao from Sevenstars Trading.
Alt Text--Chinese swords two hander dao

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:

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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.

Would you like to own a cutting quality Dao?

Click on the Huanuo Round Grip Battle Dao below to find out more about it and how to buy it.

Huanuo Round Grip Battle Dao. Buy this Chinese sword.
Alt Text--Sword cutting dao for sale

How Chinese Swords Are Made

These days a lot of Chinese swords are factory made with machines - mass produced as quickly as possible for the highest profit. This is the way much of our world is going. True craftsmanship and good quality has been sacrificed for money. In this guide, I'll be showing the old ways, the true craftsmanship, and how the best is produced. I'll show you how some iron sand and carbon becomes a sanmei blade at the hands of an expert swordsmith. I'm one of those people who is spoiled for anything but the best.

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.

  1. Ironsand is melted in a forge.
  2. Carbon is added. It can be done by burning the right woods over the melted steel and combining them.
  3. A block of metal is produced.
  4. Brittle shattering steel is separated from soft bendable steel.
  5. The uneven qualities of the steel are evened out by forging and running the steel together.
  6. Harder pieces are melted into a block, heated until they can be folded and melted. Heating and folding in this manner fourteen times produces sixteen thousand layers. This forms the patterns in the steel. Different patterns can be formed by folding the steel in different ways, twisting it when it is hot, etc.
  7. The softer steel is forged together into a single bar to form the core of the sword.
  8. the other layers are made into a sandwich that wraps around this layer, and it is forged together.
  9. The blade is shaped.
  10. Water, ash, clay and other ingredients are mixed into a paste and patterned onto the blade.
  11. The blade is slowly heated until the crystal structures inside the steel begin to change. they take on a sparkly appearance.
  12. The blade is removed from the heat and quickly quenched in water.
  13. The heating has caused the uneven factors inside the metal to flow together. Quenching reduces the heat quickly so that they are sealed in place.
  14. The blade cools at different speeds because of the clay, achieving the hard edge and resilience of the Chinese sword.

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