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Thread: Fullered jian...?

  1. #1
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    Fullered jian

    I came across this old jian on OA and thought it was interesting because of the fuller on the blade, and also because the tip profile is significantly more pointy than usual for jians. However, those details may be due to the relatively recent dating of the sword (late 19th C. to early 20th C.). I wonder about the possibility of Russian influence, as this blade looks like a long kindjal. Any thoughts...?

    http://www.oriental-arms.com/item.php?id=875




    Last edited by Ty N.; 12-19-2011 at 06:53 PM.

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    Are there any markings at all on the blade? I know a lot of blades were imported into China by Solingen manufacturers.

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    Do like the classic over all shape of the hilt. The blade looks a little pointy but that is way cool. The brass pins through the blade I've seen many times. Hold the san-mai together or add toughness or I wonder. I've heard maker trademarks as well. Never seen those on a Solingen.
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    The seven brass dots are from Chinese astrology, representing the 'major' planets Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. Later the Sun and Moon were added to make seven 'stars'.

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    Sorry if my question is silly, but I just wondered, is maybe the crossguard the wrong way around...? Wouldn't it bother the handling with the tips toward the hand, and not toward the tip...?

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    No. That's a common misconception I never understood. European rapiers, baskethilts and sabers often put your hand inside knuckle guards and steel cages, but you don't hold a sword like a tea cup, so it shouldn't be an issue.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ty N. View Post
    The seven brass dots are from Chinese astrology, representing the 'major' planets Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. Later the Sun and Moon were added to make seven 'stars'.
    The seven stars are a constellation, not the planets (going by Taoist beliefs). If you have linkage to such regarding, I'd be curious as most of southeast Asia regards the seven on a blade as the dipper. Also true of Hindu mythology. I had also read them as regarding several stories and mythology as a cradle or throne as well as the pools of tranquility, so I am open to other interpretations or stories but the blade plugs are generally regarded as the Seven Stars, not planets.

    I wouldn't be surprised if it is a recycled blade but I don't recognize the blade within the Russian Military.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; a tourista jian was a first sword for me, the blade was actually pretty nice

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    As I stated, the question may be silly, but in this case, if your hand is all the way to the guard, the points are very close to your hand, and some moves might be hindered by it... Or it looks that way to me, anyway... Knuckle guards and cups are further away from the handle in most cases I have seen...

    Again, just an uneducated observation from someone that doesn't practise any form of Chinese sword-art, and that leaves me with just my general idea of the possible movements of the hand in swordplay, more so if used with both hands in one way or another...

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Glen C. View Post
    The seven stars are a constellation, not the planets (going by Taoist beliefs). If you have linkage to such regarding, I'd be curious as most of southeast Asia regards the seven on a blade as the dipper. Also true of Hindu mythology. I had also read them as regarding several stories and mythology as a cradle or throne as well as the pools of tranquility.
    Sounds good to me. I like pools of tranquility.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hrvoje Samija View Post
    As I stated, the question may be silly, but in this case, if your hand is all the way to the guard, the points are very close to your hand, and some moves might be hindered by it... Or it looks that way to me, anyway... Knuckle guards and cups are further away from the handle in most cases I have seen...
    AFAIK, you're not meant to hold it hard up against the guard. You might have the lead knuckle up on the ferrule by the guard, but the rest of the hand will be on the rounded part of the grip (rayskin, wood, horn, or cord-wrapped). So, if your lead knuckle fits under the horn/ear of the guard, no problem. If not, hold it a little further from the guard.

    Might not be a big deal for a fancy late sword such as this - art over function works well enough if it's not going to be used in battle.

    Fullered blades and blades with a long ricasso look like good signs of late jian (late Qing or Republican). Seven stars is also more common on late jian, I think, but this is less diagnostic. Pointy, I hadn't really looked at, or considered Russian influence. But this is a very pointy jian.
    Last edited by Timo Nieminen; 12-22-2011 at 06:36 PM.
    "In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hrvoje Samija View Post
    Sorry if my question is silly, but I just wondered, is maybe the crossguard the wrong way around...? Wouldn't it bother the handling with the tips toward the hand, and not toward the tip...?
    No, it's quite a common guard arrangement (Albeit not my preferred). Jian are not held in the fist like many other forms of sword. The grip is angled and comes down from the side, if that makes any sense. However, having studied jianfa, if you're getting your hand caught up on the guard, you're doing it very wrong.

    Dao are used the way that you're thinking of, but they have a totally different guard design because of it.

    Done correctly, you shouldn't even brush the collar behind the guard with your finger when using the jian.

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    Thanks for your expertise, Aidan. Very helpful indeed.

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    No problem.

    The above is an example from Chinese Swords Guide it gives a good showing, but that's about the closest to a regular grip that it ever comes.

    It's using the Ace of Spaces guard, but you can see how far back the hand is. Also, when you thrust, you should be able to have the blade, not simply parallel but running in a direct line with your forearm without any particular effort or stretching.

    Often, if anything, the grip is more extreme than the photo shows and is quite often further back on the grip.

    The only time it comes within actual contact with the guard is using it in a reversed grip (as at the start of many forms). And in this instance, the guard should fit neatly into the crook of your wrist, enabling quick and easy shifting between hands.

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    Is the flat of the pommel ever used for leverage, considering how far back the hand is positioned?

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    Aidan's comments are most noteworthy. This is actually quite typical of Middle Republican Era jian (1920-30's). The guards often sport Yazi, a mythical Chinese beast who shares some characteristics with the dragon and also those of the lion dog (foo dog). This one has it's ears/horns curled backwards. Conversely, some turn forwards, although they are the vast minority. Eventually, this trait devolved into what we have come to know of as the kind of jian guard wushu weapons exemplify.

    Such a transitional change in design reflects a sad decline in methodology of jianfa in this late period, as older jian had guards designed to deflect the opponent's incoming blade away from the line of attack (as with this example). It is important to understand that the blade of the jian itself, was the primary source of defense. The guard was essentially designed for those cuts alone, that got by the circular movements of the blade, to protect the sword hand.

    The later variants, post 1930's, were designed to catch and bind the blade, so as to derail it's attack and steer it away by leverage. This change in strategy is mirrored in many of the ensuing 20th century Chinese sword forms. But I digress... back to this piece we are discussing.

    Such hushou (sword guards) are always crafted in brass, the primary metal used for sword fittings in the late 19th and 20th century in China. Prior eras used iron or steel fittings, sometimes gilded or silvered, depending of the status and rank of the owner.

    While fullers or "blood grooves" are not common on jian predating 1900, they surfaced in abundance in the post Dynastic period, as did jian possessing such triangulated, pointy tips. Not the portrait of the Chinese jian in it's illustrious zenith.

    That being said, I have owned two of this very same design. One with a high quality San Mai (3-plate construction) to it's steel blade and another, with an untempered mono-steel blade (of only mediocre quality). 30-50 years prior to these latter examples, truly wonderful jian surfaced at the decline of the Qing Dynasty. As Aidan clearly suggests, many of them sported the "Ace of Spades" guard and possessed blades forged of vastly superior steel.

    Frankly, such jian are crafted with only a partial understanding of how they were historically used in actual combat situations. If one notes one significant detail, the tip of this jian is not designed to facilitate many of the more subtle techniques of jianfa, as many of the cuts utilize the point of the jian for a variety of attacks, both in thrusting and cutting horizontally.
    Last edited by jonpalombi; 12-22-2011 at 10:28 PM.
    "A wise person aspires the study of swordsmanship. A lucky person finds a worthy teacher, an unlucky person finds yet another student... in the guise of a genuine Master. Sadly, a fool cannot tell the difference either way." Anecdotes of The Unknown Swordsman

  16. #16
    BTW, this example looks rather handsome, with it's Seven Star constellation inlaid with brass dots and shagreen (rayskin) scabbard and grip.
    Last edited by jonpalombi; 12-22-2011 at 09:48 PM.
    "A wise person aspires the study of swordsmanship. A lucky person finds a worthy teacher, an unlucky person finds yet another student... in the guise of a genuine Master. Sadly, a fool cannot tell the difference either way." Anecdotes of The Unknown Swordsman

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ty N. View Post
    Is the flat of the pommel ever used for leverage, considering how far back the hand is positioned?
    It can be and I've seen some people do so. I personally don't and it's not even really mentioned in my particular school. Never seen the need for it. The jian is rarely used in a contest of strength, in a situation where you would be tempted to use both hands, jian methodology generally dictates to yield and circle around.

    It's rarely needed to use that amount of leverage. Properly generated strikes are more than enough to do the job with one hand or your second hand upon the wrist. (Which is where in jianfa the backing hand goes rather than upon the pommel. Think similar to how in a chin up, if you grab the bar one handed, then grab the wrist of that hand with your other you are able to heave yourself up, even if you normally wouldn't be able to on just one hand on the bar. Similar concept, especially since it doesn't sacrifice the maneuverability of the sword.)

    There are more than a couple of pommel strikes in the forms however.

  18. #18
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    Mr. O'Brian and jonpalombi, thank you very much for your explanations.

    Kind regards and Season's Greetings.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Hrvoje Samija View Post
    Mr. O'Brian and jonpalombi, thank you very much for your explanations.

    Kind regards and Season's Greetings.
    Right back at you. I hope you had a wonderful Solstice Day and I wish you and each of the other SFI members, all the best in the coming New Year.

    Aidan clearly describes the functioning aspects of the historical fighting jian and it's parameters encoded throughout the sword forms, which survive to this day. Me, I'm still deep into the learning curve... but I am an avid collector for the last 20+ years and a practicing martial artist.

    I think it's fair to say that the closer we study these archaic weapons of war, the more questions arise than are satisfactorily answered. Still, by careful examination of historical examples, who are definitively dated by an educated collective, we find clues which guide us though the maze of possibilities. Meaning, the saga of the jian is one of constant transformation.

    Each era has it's own interpretation of this weapon's place in combat and the society of the age. IMO, this edged weapon reached it's zenith, as a science and complex methodology, during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. At least in terms of the level of precision and sophistication we have come to understand today, about this noble sword.

    Back to topic, this example is one of he better ones I've seen. The acutely angled point was developed,ironically, long after the jian was used for actual combat situations. As if the thrusting capacity of this sword was it's sole function. I don't mean to drive this point beyond reason but the finest historical jian have a much a more arching/rounded point, capable of horizontal slicing cuts, like the hua and ge.

    That being said, the above jian is much less of an extreme than some I've encountered. Overall, it's a nice example of the Roaring Twenties, brought to you by the China of that day, undergoing rapid changes. The Yazi hushou is beautifully featured, from what I can see from such a distant view. Many of them have crude artistry but I can tel this one is good. I just wanted to make that clear.
    "A wise person aspires the study of swordsmanship. A lucky person finds a worthy teacher, an unlucky person finds yet another student... in the guise of a genuine Master. Sadly, a fool cannot tell the difference either way." Anecdotes of The Unknown Swordsman

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Hrvoje Samija View Post
    Mr. O'Brian and jonpalombi, thank you very much for your explanations.

    Kind regards and Season's Greetings.
    Right back at you. I hope you had a wonderful Solstice Day and I wish you and each of the other SFI members, all the best in the coming New Year.

    Aidan clearly describes the functioning aspects of the historical fighting jian and it's parameters encoded throughout the sword forms, which survive to this day. Me, I'm still deep into the learning curve... but I am an avid collector for the last 20+ years and a practicing martial artist.

    I think it's fair to say that the closer we study these archaic weapons of war, the more questions arise than are satisfactorily answered. Still, by careful examination of historical examples, which are definitively dated by an educated collective, we find clues which guide us though the maze of possibilities. Meaning, the saga of the jian is one of constant transformation.

    Each era has it's own interpretation of this weapon's place in combat and the society of the age. IMO, this edged weapon reached it's zenith, as a science and complex methodology, during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. At least in terms of the level of precision and sophistication we have come to understand today, about this noble sword.

    Back to topic, this example is one of the better ones I've seen. The acutely angled point was developed long after the jian was actually used for life and death, combat situations. As if the thrusting capacity of this sword was it's sole function, which is not the case. I don't mean to drive this point beyond reason but the finest historical jian have a much a more arching/rounded point, capable of horizontal slicing cuts, like the hua and ge.

    That being said, the above jian is much less of an extreme than some I've encountered. Overall, it's a nice example of the Roaring Twenties, brought to you by the China of that day, undergoing rapid changes. The Yazi hushou is beautifully featured, from what I can see from such a distant view. Many of them have crude artistry but I can tell, even from such a distance, this one is well crafted. I just wanted to make that clear.

    Be well and practice often, Jon
    Last edited by jonpalombi; 12-24-2011 at 09:33 AM.
    "A wise person aspires the study of swordsmanship. A lucky person finds a worthy teacher, an unlucky person finds yet another student... in the guise of a genuine Master. Sadly, a fool cannot tell the difference either way." Anecdotes of The Unknown Swordsman

  21. #21
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    Thanks Aiden and Jon for the cool information on the Jian. It's a rare treat to see these weapons in the general.
    "Ah, the old disco room.......just as I left it!" Cassanova Frankenstein

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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Lundemo View Post
    Do like the classic over all shape of the hilt. The blade looks a little pointy but that is way cool. The brass pins through the blade I've seen many times. Hold the san-mai together or add toughness or I wonder. I've heard maker trademarks as well. Never seen those on a Solingen.
    I just remembered this, from what I've heard (I questioned a couple of people about them) they are added after and hammered in. They are deliberately offset from the opposite side, so that there is minimal loss of strength in the blade. Many of the patterns and designs involved within sword furniture (especially among Taoist weapons, of which I simply classify either the smith or the person commissioning the blade as a Taoist, same as the cross iconography in a lot of Euro blades) are mystical/spiritual in nature. Designs of protection and good fortune (the classic pattern you see on many, or stylised bats) of which the seven stars are just another example, very beautiful example however.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Glen C. View Post
    The seven stars are a constellation, not the planets (going by Taoist beliefs). If you have linkage to such regarding, I'd be curious as most of southeast Asia regards the seven on a blade as the dipper. Also true of Hindu mythology. I had also read them as regarding several stories and mythology as a cradle or throne as well as the pools of tranquility, so I am open to other interpretations or stories but the blade plugs are generally regarded as the Seven Stars, not planets.

    I wouldn't be surprised if it is a recycled blade but I don't recognize the blade within the Russian Military.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; a tourista jian was a first sword for me, the blade was actually pretty nice
    Indeed, the Seven Stars are a reference to the Big Dipper. Many "Taoist" sword styles name some of their movements after the Big Dipper, others after the smaller Dipper. Because remember that the constellation can be used to find Polaris and the North is a very important part in the crazy world of Taoist deities.

    It's also the domain of Xuan Wu (Xuan Tian Shang Ti) a patron deity of martial artists and has many temples on Wudang Mountain.

  24. #24
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    I came across this page from the yet untranslated masterwork 'Iron and Steel Swords of China' by Alex Huangfu. I think the jians pictured are Qing examples:



    The sword on the right is particularly appealing to me because it has all of the aesthetics that I like in a great jian, and the proportions feel 'harmonious'. The guard and pommel appear to be made of steel, perhaps with silver plating. I'm guessing, since I can't read Chinese. In each example, the two ends of the grip are similar in shape and size, while the middle widens out like a barrel. Also note how much of the grip's length is taken up by the bronze spacers.



    .
    Last edited by Ty N.; 01-02-2012 at 07:49 PM.

  25. #25
    Happy New Year, Ty N!

    These jian are from the Ming Dynasty era, not the Qing Dynasty. And yes, I agree, they are superb examples! Sadly, Alex's book is written in Chinese and it's impossible to understand the time-lines indicated from the text, unless one reads Chinese. I do not... but I am familiar with the Ming and Qing designs in edged weaponry, to some small degree. Those lucky enough to have genuine Ming Dynasty pieces in their collections are few in numbers. I hope to be able to see one in person, one of these days.

    Thanks for posting these lovely jian pics! I sure hope Alex's English language version hits the press, some day soon. Even so, it's a wonderful book and a great addition to any arms library, just based on the volume of quality photographs alone.
    "A wise person aspires the study of swordsmanship. A lucky person finds a worthy teacher, an unlucky person finds yet another student... in the guise of a genuine Master. Sadly, a fool cannot tell the difference either way." Anecdotes of The Unknown Swordsman

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