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Thread: "Wei Jia" Broadsword in Kung Fu/Tai Chi magazine, Aug. 2005

  1. #1
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    "Wei Jia" Broadsword in Kung Fu/Tai Chi magazine, Aug. 2005

    Here's an "onion" of an article on swords which is enough to make knowledgeable connoisseurs shed tears over the vague and misleading stuff that's being paraded as useful information to an audience which deserves better.

    As regards to the name of this sword, "wei jia", I'll leave it to Scott Rodell to comment since his take on historical Chinese terminology is a bit broader than mine due to his profession as martial arts instructor. To use the English term "broadsword" is dubious. In a Western context, a broadsword is exactly that : a sword (double edged, straight) with a wide blade. These weapons were widely from medieval times up through the Renaissance in Europe. The piece illustrated in the article is a saber, with a not particularly wide blade. Why the authors neglected to realize that in Chinese, "sword" (jian) refers only to straight double edged blades, never to something that's in the article. "Knife/saber" (dao) is the proper terminology. The Chinese character is included in the page layout, but the term "broadsword" appears in the text.

    The character on the blade is NOT ARABIC by any stretch of the imagination. From its appearance, it is mostly likely an ornamental derivative of Sanskrit, commonly used as a motif on Japanese blades, and called "bonji" (priestly writing). On rare occasions, Chinese blades have them, but the style of rendering and execution is different. Why the authors would call the writing "Arabic" is beyond me. Even though China has a large Muslim population, the writing doesn't even LOOK remotely like Arabic (or any of the other languages which use an Arabic alphabet).

    The article doesn't mention that the blade is missing some of its length; probably broken and re-tipped. Note how the fuller practically runs off the end. The author also does not seem to be aware that the Chinese also made saber blades which have a very similar profile, groove pattern, or faceting to many Japanese blades. (and contrary to what he implies, they are not necessarily junk, I've polished more than a few over the years). The way to tell the origin of two outwardly similar blades is by looking at the tang. Chinese and Japanese blade tangs are different because of the different ways they are mounted in their hilts. There is no indication that the author investigated this.

    The article also doesn't mention that the weapon appears to have been recently remounted. Note the smooth, new-looking wood grip without its customary braided silk wrapping. The slight bulge in the grips is something that's seen often in the newly made/mounted sabers from China. The lacquer on the scabbard has a spanking-new gloss, and the design of the chape is not typical of Ming or Qing China (not to mention that its decor looks a bit crisp compared to that on the rest of the fittings, an anomaly considering that chapes often get clunked around a lot during a saber/sword's working life). The text states "The blade may have been made in Japan and then mounted and fitted in China". I agree. But mounted and fitted WHEN? So much of the blade's current 'dress' is new that one can question whether the mounts and blade were associated to form a composite weapon with no historical basis for being as a unit.

    I'll leave it to Mr. Rodell to fill you in on Qi Jiguang's sword work, since Scott is actively involved in researching this subject and has a lot to say in reference to the comments made in this rather sorry piece of arms and martial arts journalism.

  2. #2
    Excellent, Philip. If you do not mind, I'd like to link this thread to the folks at martialartsmart.com to point out these discrepancies.

    We need more critical analyses!

    Thanks,

    Doug M

  3. #3

    Re: "Wei Jia" Broadsword in Kung Fu/Tai Chi magazine, Aug. 2005

    I'd like to begin by say that I was quite disapointed to see this saber presented by "Kung FU Tai Chi" magazine as a Featured Weapon. Honestly, I expect more for the publishers & editors of this magazine. The critique I offer below is meant to encourage better research on their behave in the future, not to put them down...

    Originally posted by Philip Tom
    ...As regards to the name of this sword, "wei jia", I'll leave it to Scott Rodell to comment since his take on historical Chinese terminology is a bit broader than mine due to his profession as martial arts instructor...
    This is the first time I've encountered this term. No other researchers in this field use this term, nor have I seen it in any classic, period text.

    The character Wei means "apparent strength or might," Jia means "family" & can denote a group of related practices, as in the term Neijia when used to describe "internal arts." I think everyone knows Dao means "single edges knife/saber."

    Though this article states the pictured Dao is a "classic Wei Jia Broadsword" (sic), no dictionary in my pocession lists this term & it is apparently not a term used in Mandarin. In fact, this combination of charcters does not make sense. Also, one feels compelled to ask, just what is "mighty" about a short saber that appears to have been recently parted together & which has had its tip broken off?

    In short, I'm afraid to say that apart from the details that Philip mentions above, the apparent creation of the term Wei Jia Broadsword was a total blunder from a scholarly point of view.
    Scott M. Rodell
    I train at: www.grtc.org
    I work at: www.sevenstarstrading.com

  4. #4

    "Wei Jia Broadsword" Ming?

    There is a very strong tendency amongst Chinese dealers & collectors to date everything as from the Ming dynasty. Without going into a long discussion of why this is nonsense over 90% of the time, let me just point out that the Ming dynasty fell in 1644 & was on very bad legs in the years before that. Since the Ming fell over 350 years ago, & since steel RUSTS AWAY, it should be fairly obvious, to those who can do math, that there are very, very few genuine Ming swords around.

    Having said that, there are a few, I've seen & handled about 10. All of those were of excellent steel, very high quality dao. While that is an admitedly small sample, it is still interesting to note that they were all high quality. Now this could mean that they survived into our time because they were good pieces & so a special effort was made to preserve them, but it should also be noted that many of these appear to rare standard issue military type dao. This has lead me to wonder where the notion that all Chinese swords at the time were poor quality originates. It is true that the Ming government did import Japanese blades, but perhaps there were other reasons for this, aside from the quality of the Japanese blades vs. Chinese ones?
    Scott M. Rodell
    I train at: www.grtc.org
    I work at: www.sevenstarstrading.com

  5. #5

    Re: "Wei Jia" Broadsword in Kung Fu/Tai Chi magazine, Aug. 2005

    Originally posted by Philip Tom
    ...I'll leave it to Mr. Rodell to fill you in on Qi Jiguang's sword work, since Scott is actively involved in researching this subject and has a lot to say in reference to the comments made in this rather sorry piece of arms and martial arts journalism.
    Some readers of this thread may wonder why Philip & I are putting some much energy into a one page short in a martial arts magazine. The reason is simple, many people treat any printed word as gospel & repeat it without questions. I'm afraid that just this kind of thing has happened in reference to General Qi Jiguang. Let me explain...

    I have written about this before here in this forum, us I'll keep it brief here:

    It is commonly stated that General Qi developed his Shuangshoudao form from information he recieved from captured Japanese. I've read this in a number of books, both Chinese & English. However, not a single one of these texts ever explains where this idea orignates, or even how it is possible that this could have happened. In short, someone made this state (I believed incorrectly) & others half simply repeated it. No one stopped to question this appearently unfounded suggestion so it has become excepted as far. Let us examine this suggestion in the light of historical fact:

    1). General Qi was an accomplished General who spent much of his time studying with local CHINESE martial arts masters where ever he was stationed. And Chinese has about a 2000 year history of two-handed swordsmanship.

    2). One of General Qi's colleages in the war with the pirates in the late 16th c. was General Yu Dayou, who was himself a famous martial artist & from who General Qi developed his staff work.

    3). The majority of the pirates General Qi was fighting were NOT Japanese, they were local Chinese. Only about 20% were Japanese. EVERY Pirate leader was native Chinese.

    4). The pirates at that period were refered to as wokou which means "dwarf bandits." This was a term applied to all rebels during the late Ming, but that LATER was used to refer to the Japanese. This has caused historical confusian & frankly, the Chinese, for nationalistic reasons, would rather say it was the Japanese slaughting their people then say it was thier own people.

    5). General Qi won many battles with the pirates where he was OUTNUMBERED by the pirates. If he was beating them, why would he search them out to learn AND adopt the methods of those he was defeating?

    6). How would have General Qi have spoke with Japanese sword masters? They spoke different langauges.

    I could go on, but I believe these 6 points are enough to support my postion that it is unlikely General Qi learned or adopted swordsmanship from the defeated pirates. General Qi did arm his men with shuangshoudao when he was stationed on the Great Wall & was fighting the Mongols. I suggest that it is possible that he was inspired to relive the Chinese shuangshoudao tradition, as did another ealier famous Chinese General, Yue Fei, from having seen their use on the southern battlefields. But this is an open question & possible inspiration for use is quite a very long distance from wholesale adopting.
    Scott M. Rodell
    I train at: www.grtc.org
    I work at: www.sevenstarstrading.com

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    link idea is good

    Doug,
    Yes, I think it's OK to link this thread as you suggested. Let's get the word out! Enough of this horsefeathers parading as legitimate research and reliable information.

  7. #7

    Re: Re: "Wei Jia" Broadsword in Kung Fu/Tai Chi magazine, Aug. 2005

    Originally posted by Scott M. Rodell
    Some readers of this thread may wonder why Philip & I are putting some much energy into a one page short in a martial arts magazine.
    I, for one, enjoy those times when the very knowledgable persons on this forum step out of the shadows and take reputedly factual statements to task for regurgitating popular but inaccurate info. I enjoy it for two reasons.

    One, this is a scholarly forum. It's kinda what it's here for, to debate evidence and try to iron out a solidly supportable theory of causes and effects.

    Two, I always learn something when Sifu Rodell and Mr Tom post even if it's just a small detail or even learning about how much I don't know. That's why I come here. I would wish you fine gentlemen would post more often, though I realize it takes much longer to write this kind of stuff than for me to read it.

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    I knew something wasn't right about that sword the moment I saw the article. I actually came on here to post about it and ask if anyone else thought something was fishy. Then I find this thread. Great job guys.

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    Scott, have either you or Phillip decided to write to the Magazine and basicly tell them what you've explained here? While we on here now know about the sword, not everyone that reads Kung FU Tai Chi Magazine are members here. If they chose not to publish your responce, then they cannot claim they were not told....

    Craig R.

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    Craig,
    At Scott's urging, I emailed the editors of the magazine and attached this page. I agree, it does no good for us just to "preach to the choir".

    You may recall that late last year, Scott and I wrote an article for this magazine. We weren't too pleased that the editors monkeyed a little with the text, and also made a major and embarrassing typographical error. What was worse, the article appeared in an issue with other badly-written and commercially-oriented articles on swords, containing contradictory and inaccurate information. I wrote a letter to the editors, who did not respond to me, but I understand from third parties that this letter was printed in a subsequent issue. Judging from what just appeared, I don't think that this publication is at all sincere about maintaining any meaningful standards of editorial quality.

  11. #11
    Could someone find a picture of this blade, and copy the text from the article?

    Indeed, this sounds like an astonishingly...badly...researched piece.

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    reproducing image

    Mr. Yuan
    If you have a scanner (I don't), you could get a copy of the mag from the newsstand and post the image that way. If you do, please cite the publication's name and volume number in your post so that there are no copyright issues.

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    Kungfu Tai Chi magazine July/Aug 2005 issue.
    Last edited by Terry W; 06-09-2005 at 07:41 PM.

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    Kungfu Tai Chi Magazine July/Aug 2005

    Hope this helps.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

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    Another misinformed soul who believes chinese swords were inferior to japanese ones... Yet gives no reason WHY they are inferior....

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    the consequence of uncritical acceptance of lore

    This is what happens when people don't have the opportunity to study and handle blades that are in a condition to reveal their metallurgical details. It's easy with Japanese swords, which, barring abuse and neglect, have survived in large numbers in good polish. With other types of blades, even experienced collectors have traditionally looked at a scoured, patinated, or rusted piece of steel (often with edge nicks and other signs of hard usage) and have no idea what stuff they're really made of.

    For instance, it's only recently that collectors have realized that Moro blades are laminated and are differentially hardened. For years, people would just assume that anything from the Philippines was made of a filed-down leaf-spring from a truck or automobile. (an exotic material indeed back in the 16th cent. when the Portuguese explorer Magalhaes [Magellan] was cut down on a Philippine beach with a campillion!)

    Another example: You also read in arms literature about how Thai and Burmese "dha" are made of such poor steel compared to the Japanese katanas that they superficially resemble (at least to the grossly uninitiated). I've had the opportunity to polish quite a few dhas, and note a considerable number of examples with a fine lamellar structure and a prominent so-called "temper line", in some cases bordered by the crystallization called "nie" that Japanese connoisseurs rave about so much on their own swords.

    The criticism of many SE Asian and Far Eastern swords is that their blades "bend easily". Some do have a tendency to take a set if flexed beyond a point, others are more resilient. But the same is the case with Japanese blades. Some of them bend surprisingly easily (a polisher of Japanese swords once showed me how to straighten kinked ones, and he did it with a relative ease not possible with a spring-tempered European blade). The thing to remember is that blades which are quenched and tempered with a hard edge and relatively soft back cannot, in general, attain the springy resiliency of (for instance) a hussar saber or a smallsword from Europe. However, the edges of most Western swords are not as hard.

    Different steels, and different ways of working it into a blade, each have their strong points. Cultures select their materials and methods depending on what works for them, and the techniques of swordplay are important considerations. The harder edges and focus on cutting efficiency of many Oriental weapons dictated an avoidance of edge-on-edge parrying (I once saw a Japanese katana mounted up as a saber for a Hungarian officer in the 19th cent., the guy used it through a few campaigns and the edge resembled that of a saw). The relative brittleness of the "wootz" or crystalling damascus steels of India and the Muslim world discouraged ANY blade parryinng, and thus we see the prevalence of small bucklers in these cultures for defensive work.

    I know that I'm wandering off topic, but my point is that any evaluation of weapons in a particular culture must be based on actual investigation not only of the objects themselves but of the historical circumstances surrounding their use. With this in mind, a student of martial culture will be more analytical, and not just accept hand-me-down lore. Only is this way will our community's knowledge increase. It's a pity that the magazine's writers and editors haven't realized this.

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    Hi Everyone,

    Looking at the scan I think the authors made an mistake on the first Chinese character. The character that they used is "łđ - wei", meaning "force, might, authority." The character is very similar to "É╩ - qi", the character used in General Qi's name. It's a very easy mistake. However, even with this correction the article still doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

    Josh

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    Oops, the Chinese characters didn't show. Let me try again.

    wei:
    Attached Images Attached Images  

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    qi:
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  20. #20
    I posted a thread at Kung Fu Magazine. Here is a link:

    http://ezine.kungfumagazine.com/foru...d.php?p=613770

    Let us see where this goes, eh?

    Doug M

  21. #21
    Hey Everyone,

    You should check out the link to the thread:

    http://ezine.kungfumagazine.com/for...ad.php?p=613770

  22. #22
    Good job, Doug, on forcing the academic standards issue to the front and demanding some accountability.

    The following in particular disturbed me:

    Their article was wonderful, but sadly, Philip chose to denigrate that issue in a letter to our magazine which we published in our May June 2005 - his main point was that the other articles weren't up to snuff, so to speak, to the level of theirs.
    I have a lot of respect for both Scott and Philip - I think they have done tremendous work in the field of Chinese swords. My only complaint is that they are using a scholarly/academic standard on our dear little newsstand magazine, which is quite an unfair barometer really. We are not a scholarly journal or we wouldn't be on the newsstands. We are a popular magazine. That being said, it's always a challenge to maintain an academic degree of accuracy, especially hard when the so-called academic researchers are giving us grief for doing what we do, but we do the best we can.

    Seems like the trend is to villify people who push for higher standards, rather than invest a little effort and apply critical thinking skills. That's happening in other places on this very forum, unfortunately, and it saddens me because the community will never grow without high standards of scholarship.

    People who complain about standards being "too academic" are trying to have it both ways -- they want the respect and status that is the result of true research, yet don't want to put in the hard work that such research requires. When they're given constructive criticism, they get defensive and divert the issue ("giving us grief" instead of saying "We'll try harder next time").

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    Whoa!!!

    The mag's editors now announce that they are a "popular" publication, not an academic one. That's fine. They have every right to be what they want.

    What I do object to is the strong implication that as a "popular" publication, they needn't apply to their product any sort of intellectual accountability, i.e. THE OBLIGATION, AS PUBLISHERS, TO PROVIDE READERS WITH ACCURATE INFORMATION. Of course no one expects footnotes and bibliographies of primary and secondary sources in a magazine of that nature, but I would at least expect that authors get their facts straight.

    Unless I'm missing the boat or am living on another planet, I don't see why any piece of writing has to be "academic" in order to be truthful and well-reasoned. There is a general expectation in our society that non-fiction periodical literature meet this basic and minimal standard. The same applies to non-published stuff, such as interoffice memos. So why should Kung Fu/Tai Chi Magazine be any different?

    Unless this magazine is marketed as fiction or satire (and so indicated in print), the readers (and purchasers) deserve articles with well-researched and accurate factual content. To take subscribers' and purchasers' money and not give them editorial quality is a real disservice.

    I have nothing personal against this publication or the people who run it; the critique which I have made to date could apply to any other magazine, on any other subject.

  24. #24
    Kinda makes me want to puke how matter of factly that he states that Chinese blades were inferior to Japanese ones, and how very Japanese that the design is.
    Offers no explanation whatsoever.

    So excuse me as I go to do exactly that. *puke*

    Anyways...I think that this guy reads way too much Turnbull...and is extremely misinformed.

  25. #25
    Doug, I don't think he's really taking you seriously.

    Sure, he's talking very professional and slick, but he's not really caring.

    I'm going to jump in there with you, mate...
    Phillip, won't you say something yourself? I think that your powerful presence would make him think twice about brushing everything off.

    EDIT:
    Agh, gotta wait for it to get approved. Anyways, I'd just love to point out the inaccuracies on Chinese Sword quality...and making everything sound as if we relied on Japanese made weapons to have an effective military...

    And then, I'd love to remind our friend Gene, that if he has no other motivation to make an accurate representation of Chinese swords, he should at least help provide an accurate picture and stop myth from being taken as fact...
    If he is Chinese and he does not, he is helping to destroy his own heritage.
    Last edited by Thomas Yuan; 06-15-2005 at 03:21 AM.

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