Three Traditional Chinese Ethnic Swords: Achang swords, Yingjisha knives and Bonan swords

Ethnic sword (the word DAO in Chinese is a general term for sword and knife in English) refer to instruments or tools hand-made by traditional-style forging and quenching and used for cutting, slicing, slashing, chopping and paring. Most of swords are made of iron and steel. They are usually decorated with silver, copper, jewels, animal bones, bullhorns, shark skins and glass. The major application of ethnic sword is used for fighting. The swords consist of the blade, the hilt and the scabbard. They fall into two major categories – dao (broadsword) and jian (straight sword). Dao is also called danrendao (single-edged) in Chinese. It has a blade short in length and slightly bent with a sharp pointy tip. Jian is also called shuangrendao (duble -edged) in Chinese. It has two long, thin and straight blades with a ridge between the blades.

Chinese swords have a time-honored history dating back to the Bronze Age in Shang and Zhou dynasties over 3,000 years ago. At first they were used only in rituals as symbols of power and status. But they gradually became portable weapons for the carriers to guard and defend themselves. By the Ming dynasty, yaodao (waist dao) had become a major weaponry choice, which was further popularized as a common weapon in the Qing dynasty. On the other hand, jian gradually faded out of people’s daily lives.

Over thousands of years, swords developed large families of different designs and sects, all symbolic of their local cultures. Outstanding forging techniques would often blossom into a self-contained philosophy and culture closely interleaved with the local economy and social customs. This can be clearly seen in the fact that the Achang, Yingjisha and Baoan are claimed as the three major ethnic sword styles in China.

Our collections of the three ethnic sword sects and their sub-branch, namely, Yushu Tibetan sword and Mongolian sword were developed under their influence and covered a wide range of delicate designs and perfect craftsmanship. Mostly from the Qing dynasty and the Republic of China period, they were collected from Yunnan, Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Gansu and Beijing over the time span of 300 years.

Location: 2nd floor, Bai Branch Museum, South Park

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