Swords

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(China). The earliest Chinese swords belong to the Western Zhou period: examples from Zhangjiapo and Lingtai, only 24-27 cm long, date from the 10th century bc. The Western Zhou sword, a tapering two-edged blade with a flat tang for attaching a grip, is not easily related to swords made outside China and probably derives from older Chinese daggers. It may in turn be the ancestor of the standard bronze sword of late Eastern Zhou times, as a few examples of intermediate form suggest. The Eastern Zhou bronze sword differs, however, in having a hilt cast in one piece with the blade. It is two-edged and from 40 to 55 cm long. The very distinctive hilt takes the form of a hollow tube or, later, a solid bar with circular flanges that allow the grip to be bound with silk cord; in either case the pommel is a disc. The sword with flanged hilt, sometimes called the classic Chinese sword, was common in the 4th and 3rd centuries bc. Particularly famous examples are the swords of the kings of Yue. iron swords first appear around the 5th century bc. A blade of that date from a tomb near Changsha is 38 cm in length, no longer than contemporary bronze Only a century or so later, however, double-edged iron swords with flat tangs average a metre in length. Though it has sometimes been questioned whether these long blades were actually functional, examples unearthed at Yan Xiadu have been shown in recent studies to be made of good steel. The late Eastern Zhou states of Chu and Qin are said to have mastered the production of fine swords, and these are often assumed to have been iron. Many iron swords have been found in Chu tombs, but the weapons found in the mausoleum of the Qin emperor Qin Shi Huangdi (d 210 BC) were almost all bronze. The tomb of Liu Sheng (d. 113 bc) at Mancheng contained steel swords and other weapons, and by the 1st century ad forged steel swords of very high quality were made. Some of these Han swords are single-edged, ring-pommelled sabres, their shape copied from late Zhou bronze and iron knives.

The Macmillan dictionary of archaeology, Ruth D. Whitehouse, 1983Copied

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