The possibility exists this, and others, should have the provenence of the items explored a bit more than simply reading the inscription.
The fame of these sword in the Warring States raises a few questions.........
For people interested in making a sensible form of reply, respond on this thread.
My own post;
"Francois has made some very interesting points. The dates of the tombs that contain these relics on the limited evidence available appear to be several generations after the events they describe, and nor has there even been suggestion they are tombs of the original swords actual owners, or even elaboration on who may have possessed them.
This point is quite significant since the tombs of powerful people contain numerous relics and luxury items, yet there is no celebration of these tomb despite the almost universal mention of the Goujian sword in any-and every-text on ancient Chinese relics.
While the tombs of the Marquis of Zeng or the King of Nanyue have had volumes (literally) written on the contents, both expanding knowledge of the period and revealing their artisans skills, I have never heard elaboration of the context these famous weapons were found in.
The next oddity is the geography of the items discovery, some turning up as far away as Shaanxi. The non-barbarian 'Zhou' feudal states were obviously enamoured with the stories of the clash between the distant Wu & the barbarian Yue state generations before, to entomb these weapons outside their region of origin.
The question then is do these weapons, swords and spear show the fruits of a conqueror were passed from hand to hand to end up far from home generations later, or is this more akin to the 'spear of destiny' which medieval European leaders revered and the possession of which would be a source of pride.
The spear of destiny is considered a fabricated item, although built on a Roman spear, and it inspired the army that held it.
Is not the sword of Goujian in ancient China an exciting item for a ruler to possess, akin to ownership of Arthur's Excalibur?
The creation of this sword, and the fame of the famous sword makers employed by Wu & Yue has passed into legend. These stories were already enshrined in the period of the late East Zhou, perhaps even a little embellished considered the brevity of actual accounts of the Wu & Yue struggle.
This is my take on some of the points raised by Francois for discussion. Now a few of my own thoughts.
I always did consider the appearance of this sword as almost uniquely ahead of its time. Given how celebrated it is I was simply impressed like presumably everyone else.
The Goujian sword was bi-metallic and this is often mentioned, rightly so, as a remarkable aspect of bronze technology. This technology seems to be rarely employed on other bronze swords of the late East Zhou, yet here it was in the mid Spring & Autumn period!
Of the few other swords which were bi-metallic that I am aware of, being secondarily cast with high tin % edges, those I have seen are quite clearly the final form of the East Zhou sword. These are what are called the 'classic Warring States sword' or 'fully formed Warring States sword' (waisted and lozenge ring hilted) in appearance in these few cases. This would most likely be 4th-3rd century BC in dating. Again, did this technology exist much earlier in the late Spring & Autumn period?
The sword itself only 'comes of age' in the Warring States period, with -late- Spring & Autumn examples being some of the earliest examples of waisted bladed and well balanced swords, yet the blade of the Goujian sword is admirable and comparable to a superior blade of the Warring States period in length and form (55cm & sharply waisted near the tip).
I must confess the hilt of the Goujian sword is unusual at any time, since the lozenge ring-hilt swords are most common in the late East Zhou, and hollow hilts a typically earlier form (although again not perhaps so early as this King of Yue sword).
All that can be said is this Goujian sword is a rare type of hilt.
The sword of Helu however is more 'classic' Warring States period style with lozenge rings, again rather odd.
Neither of these swords have the hollow hilted grip, which was both earlier more typically (5th-4th century BC) but also persisted longer in the southern states in particular, according to Jessica rawson. Is a lozenge-ring hilted sword of Helu what we would expect in Wu in the late Spring & Autumn period?
Sword of Guang (Helu) King of Yue, attributed to Ganjiang
54cm long, 5cm wide.
Yes, that is interesting. More typical in the Warring States period too perhaps....
"It is interesting to note that the handguard portion of this sword where the blade meets the handle has a pattern that allows for the inlay of gems or glass beads that is virtually identical to that of the Sword of Goujian, King of Yue"
The hilt of the sword of Goujian is odd in that it is plain, but robust, with a fairly typically flared disc on the pommel. A plain hilt is not unheard of, but is rarer. The robust type was seen rarely in the Warring States period while a plain integrated hilt with a disc at the bottom does exist in the mid-Spring & Autumn the example shown in a rough chronology in 'Art & Archaeology in Ancient China' is a flimsier looking rats tail-like a tang with a pommel attached.
.................Is the quite developed form of the Goujian & Helu sword in the late Spring & Autumn period because they were made by master sword makers of legendary status, or does it mean that perhaps they date closer to the time of the tombs in which they were found?
This also adds to the questions Francois raised, and is not helped by the apparent silence of the context & associated items.
The sword is also celebrated for the inlaid diamond pattern on the blade, of which several theories have arisen on how it has been done and even experiments to replicate been carried out. The art of inlay reached particular heights in the Warring States period. Does the magnificent appearance of the sword testify to a great personal level of expertise in the early 5th century BC or does it reveal the craft of metal inlayers of a later period?
The inlay of the Warring States period is so precise that attempts to forge them are given away by imperfections. The craft was most prominent in a period after the state of Yue was already destroyed.
The inscriptions; "Made for the personal use of...." are not unusual so do not raise doubts in themselves. Weapons of people of rank seem to have had this on occasion, as this example here also records although not entirely translated. It refers to the sword of Cheng, also of Wu state as having characters similar to this halberds "...for use...".
In this respect named & personal weapons have an established authenticity.
Richard Nable mentioned he has a halberd in his collection with 'bird script' which also refers to a Wu Marquis.
Either these grand & famous weapons being discussed were far removed from home regions and kept for generations before burial by unidentified owners, or else they appeared long after the fact.
Yet what is the possible motive for creating such a famous Kings' sword for a later nobleman of the late east Zhou? (we do not know the occupant of the graves these weapons occurred in yet).
The desire of rulers in ancient China to possess a famous jade, or to control notable relics of previous dynasties is also preserved in the period accounts of the east Zhou. The desire of QinShiHuang to control & own ritual bronze Ding is recounted in tales, or single jades worth cities in value, and in the much later Song dynasty a fascination with the rites of Zhou lead to a surge of demand for antiquities, and many techniques for making forgeries of ancient bronzes or 'tomb' jades even 1,000 years ago. Forms like the ge halberd were recreated after falling out of use in the early Han period. Both a fascination with the past, and a desire to possess relics from them is not a recent occurrence. Even in the Shang dynasty there have been jades identified as Neolithic found entombed, in the Han period ancient bi (jades) were already desired & treasured. The Ching Emperors collection is a notable surviving 'recent' example of jades & bronze and even the evacuation of the bronze ding to Taipei by the Nationalists has been interpreted as having significance beyond possession of antiques, perhaps even the concept of the mandate of heaven. This was the basis of the searches for ancient ding even in the Qin period.
To return to the idea, just what would possession of the sword of Goujian mean to people in the late east Zhou?
Without information on the context of the tombs and the circumstances of their discovery, there are certainly more than a few circumstantial oddities about these weapons over which a great deal of excitement exists.
In the Warring States period there may equally have been excitement over ownership of swords of which the events they sprang from, and even the incidence and personalities behind their creation, were at the time already the stuff of high drama and re-telling.
All just bears considering. On the balance of evidence, and more specifically the lack of it, after what Francois pointed out, and thinking through some of the puzzling aspects of this sword, I am no longer completely convinced this must be an early 5th century BC masterpiece and would entertain a possibility instead as a 3-4th century BC masterpiece."