Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Polishing a 2000 year old Han sword...


  • Please log in to reply
19 replies to this topic

#1 Thomas Chen

Thomas Chen

    Grand Tutor (Taifu 太傅)

  • CHF Han Lin Scholar
  • 321 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Singapore
  • Interests:I am interested in ALL aspects of Chinese military science, strategy, history, arms and armour throughout ALL the various dynasties...
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese Art of War
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Chinese Swords, Ancient Chinese Military, Chinese Art of War

Posted 16 January 2006 - 11:08 AM

Hi dudes

Alex* had just polished a 2000 year old Han Dynasty jian and here are the results...
The martensite** differential heat-treatment pattern along the edge can be clearly seen....
Alex and I speculate and hazard a guess that this weapon was heat-treated using clay.....
We know that differential heat-treatment existed during the Han Dynasty from historical
records and archaeology reports.... But were unsure whether clay was used or not....
Alex and I think this blade is one possible example...

*Alex is a famous China-based dealer on Chinese antique swords
**martensite is the technical jargon for the hardest structural form of steel after quenching
and its color resembles misty snowy white

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image


I have digitally enhanced the contrast on a portion of the jian... Check it out...
Posted Image

Edited by Thomas Chen, 16 January 2006 - 11:52 AM.

_________________________________

website on Chinese swords: http://thomaschen.freewebspace.com

#2 Ta-ts'in Centurion

Ta-ts'in Centurion

    Grand Guardian (Taibao 太保)

  • CHF Rookie Member
  • 202 posts
  • Location:Legio VI Ferrata, Antioch
  • Interests:Fencing, stickfighting, knifefighting, martial arts, combat sports, physical culture, kettlebells, & military history.

Posted 16 January 2006 - 11:27 AM

Wow--the blade appears comparatively narrow, and it's so acutely pointed--like a rapier.

What are the stats on this thing (length, width, etc)?
"Their drills are bloodless battles, and their battles bloody drills." -- Flavius Josephus (aka Joseph Ben-Matthias), commenting on the Roman Army's approach to training.

#3 Yang Zongbao

Yang Zongbao

    General of the Yang Clan

  • Master Scholar (Juren)
  • 2,758 posts
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Ancient Chinese Arsenals
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Chinese Weapons, Chinese Martial Arts

Posted 16 January 2006 - 12:15 PM

Wow, incredible!

I thought these things usually rust to nothing?

Like the pieces of the Han Dao on your site all seem fully rusted.
Posted Image

#4 Thomas Chen

Thomas Chen

    Grand Tutor (Taifu 太傅)

  • CHF Han Lin Scholar
  • 321 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Singapore
  • Interests:I am interested in ALL aspects of Chinese military science, strategy, history, arms and armour throughout ALL the various dynasties...
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese Art of War
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Chinese Swords, Ancient Chinese Military, Chinese Art of War

Posted 16 January 2006 - 12:17 PM

Sorry, I don't have the stats on this jian....
_________________________________

website on Chinese swords: http://thomaschen.freewebspace.com

#5 Thomas Chen

Thomas Chen

    Grand Tutor (Taifu 太傅)

  • CHF Han Lin Scholar
  • 321 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Singapore
  • Interests:I am interested in ALL aspects of Chinese military science, strategy, history, arms and armour throughout ALL the various dynasties...
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese Art of War
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Chinese Swords, Ancient Chinese Military, Chinese Art of War

Posted 16 January 2006 - 12:45 PM

Many Han Dynasty jian and dao are found totally rusted but occasionally you may find a piece or two that is quite well preserved and shows its quality after going through a polish to remove the rust and all....
_________________________________

website on Chinese swords: http://thomaschen.freewebspace.com

#6 浪淘音

浪淘音

    State Undersecretary (Shangshu Lang 尚书郎)

  • CHF Grand Historian Award
  • 628 posts

Posted 16 January 2006 - 02:10 PM

that is gorgeous

its 2000 years old and i can still clearly see the grain patterns from the lamination process

it really shows how far ahead Chinese metallurgy was

#7 Ta-ts'in Centurion

Ta-ts'in Centurion

    Grand Guardian (Taibao 太保)

  • CHF Rookie Member
  • 202 posts
  • Location:Legio VI Ferrata, Antioch
  • Interests:Fencing, stickfighting, knifefighting, martial arts, combat sports, physical culture, kettlebells, & military history.

Posted 16 January 2006 - 03:51 PM

that is gorgeous

its 2000 years old and i can still clearly see the grain patterns from the lamination process

it really shows how far ahead Chinese metallurgy was


It does not indicate "how far ahead Chinese metallurgy was" (since swords from other parts of the world were arguably as good), but it does at least show that the Chinese of that period made top-notch swords.
"Their drills are bloodless battles, and their battles bloody drills." -- Flavius Josephus (aka Joseph Ben-Matthias), commenting on the Roman Army's approach to training.

#8 浪淘音

浪淘音

    State Undersecretary (Shangshu Lang 尚书郎)

  • CHF Grand Historian Award
  • 628 posts

Posted 16 January 2006 - 03:59 PM

It does not indicate "how far ahead Chinese metallurgy was" (since swords from other parts of the world were arguably as good), but it does at least show that the Chinese of that period made top-notch swords.


actually, yes it does indicate how far Chinese metallurgy was.

the supposed process that Henry Bessemer created in 1855 is the same process of oxidating cast iron/melted pig iron to reduce the carbon content that Chinese have been using since around the time that sword was made

100 B.C to 200 AD compared to 1855 AD is quite a large chunk of time. i'd say Chinese were quite ahead by a few centuries :rolleyes:

#9 Mei Houwang

Mei Houwang

    Prime Minister (Situ/Chengxiang 司徒/丞相)

  • CHF Grand Historian Award
  • 1,933 posts
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese Art of War
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Chinese Military History and Chinese Art of War

Posted 16 January 2006 - 04:12 PM

the supposed process that Henry Bessemer created in 1855 is the same process of oxidating cast iron/melted pig iron to reduce the carbon content that Chinese have been using since around the time that sword was made



Actually, this process only arrived by nearing/right after the end of the Han. What the Han were supreme at instead was the blast furnace(allowing low carbonated steel) and the ability to raise temperatures to a degree beyond that of anyone else(allowing cast iron).

Edited by Anthrophobia, 16 January 2006 - 04:16 PM.


#10 Kenneth

Kenneth

    Grand Marshal (Da Sima/Taiwei 大司马/太尉)

  • CHF Han Lin Scholar
  • 1,491 posts
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Ancient Chinese Arsenals
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Ancient Weapons. Artefact studies.

Posted 16 January 2006 - 04:35 PM

Thomas,
If possible;
Do you have pictures of it before polishing?
How is it dated to Han? (i.e 2nd century AD or earlier) It seems to have no tang.
Where was it recovered to explain survival with so much steel intact?
How was it polished/how much oxidised metal was actually removed?

I first wonder what it looked like originally, what sort of burial conditions it was in (unless it was never buried) and also how much metal was removed to get it to the intact steel.
It has been said that in museum collections that there are Viking swords that could be polished up and used to effect according to one curator from Europe on Sword Forum. We only see the rotted hilts and corroded blades, so there should be some Chinese examples surviving too.
I would just like to know more about the origin and treatment of the piece.




BTW, Yes. Chinese metallurgy was comparitively advanced at this time. Absolutely no doubt. If we can balance this out instead I would point out that iron working first had to come from the West via Xinjiang & steppes peoples and both the Chinese bronze and iron ages are late on a world scale (bronze weapons used up to the mid 2nd century BC is very very late).
The early Chinese discovery of true steel however and an efficient refining of iron by the 5th century BC along with the remarkable improvements in quality & scale during Han is a unique Chinese technology.
I find that scoring points is always sensitive. It shouldn't be. Best to view each culture in technological isolation as the East & West largely were.
It is possible to score points vis-a-vis East & West technology if we want to pick and choose moments in time but it isn't generally an enjoyable excercise on CHF .



Actually, this process only arrived by nearing/right after the end of the Han. What the Han were supreme at instead was the blast furnace(allowing low carbonated steel) and the ability to raise temperatures to a degree beyond that of anyone else(allowing cast iron).

True dat.
True mid carbon steel out of the furnace is just after Han. The Han were remarkable both in output of low carbon steel, and the quality of the blades they fashioned into mid carbon steel and the Chinese had also been casting pig iron from even earlier than this period...a bonus for making tools and farming implements.
In all respects they were very advanced at this stage.
Climb over the Great Firewall.
http://www3.youtube....h?v=tzax4KkQ4ug

Posted Image

#11 浪淘音

浪淘音

    State Undersecretary (Shangshu Lang 尚书郎)

  • CHF Grand Historian Award
  • 628 posts

Posted 16 January 2006 - 04:50 PM

the western origin of iron working is debatable

iron working before 500 B.C might have had a western route in getting to China but by 500 B.C had been replaced by Iron smelting technology that came up from modern day Jiangsu

#12 Wujiang

Wujiang

    Emperor (Huangdi 皇帝)

  • Visiting Scholar
  • 2,046 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese Art of War
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Ancient Chinese Military, Weapons Science, Martial Arts, Daoist and Buddhist Psychology, Mythology & Ancient Chinese philosophy

Posted 16 January 2006 - 11:35 PM

Are my eyes playing tricts on me ? I am somewhat surprised at the lack of Tang on this sword

It doesn't really make sense that this will cause the sword to be dangerous for the user when thrusting. Maybe it was never a war sword and never meant to see action of any form. This would be consistant with the near-perfect edge.
包容天下之心,明明仁義之念,開天闢地之志

#13 Thomas Chen

Thomas Chen

    Grand Tutor (Taifu 太傅)

  • CHF Han Lin Scholar
  • 321 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Singapore
  • Interests:I am interested in ALL aspects of Chinese military science, strategy, history, arms and armour throughout ALL the various dynasties...
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese Art of War
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Chinese Swords, Ancient Chinese Military, Chinese Art of War

Posted 17 January 2006 - 10:19 AM

Thomas,
If possible;
Do you have pictures of it before polishing?


The owner of the blade is "Longnu", a forumite of www.hfsword.com, who gave it to Alex to polish. They rate it as Han Dynasty, judging from the rust patina...probably recovered from some riverbank or lake in China... The rust on a Chinese jian or dao recovered from a water burial site is less extensive compared to being buried in the ground... Visually, the rust also looks different... Apparently these weapons suffer less damage from rust as the water induces a rust coating on the blade that seems to protect the blade from further corrosion....

As for the missing tang, I think it was originally there but was severely damaged or had broken off...

Pics courtesy of Alex:
Posted Image

Posted Image

Posted Image

Edited by Thomas Chen, 17 January 2006 - 10:41 AM.

_________________________________

website on Chinese swords: http://thomaschen.freewebspace.com

#14 Ta-ts'in Centurion

Ta-ts'in Centurion

    Grand Guardian (Taibao 太保)

  • CHF Rookie Member
  • 202 posts
  • Location:Legio VI Ferrata, Antioch
  • Interests:Fencing, stickfighting, knifefighting, martial arts, combat sports, physical culture, kettlebells, & military history.

Posted 17 January 2006 - 10:31 AM

actually, yes it does indicate how far Chinese metallurgy was.

the supposed process that Henry Bessemer created in 1855 is the same process of oxidating cast iron/melted pig iron to reduce the carbon content that Chinese have been using since around the time that sword was made

100 B.C to 200 AD compared to 1855 AD is quite a large chunk of time. i'd say Chinese were quite ahead by a few centuries :rolleyes:


If sword manufacture is any indication of a culture's metallurgical skills (and it clearly is), then no--the matter is not so cut-and-dried as you claim.

Celtic and Iberian smiths made swords that were at least as good as Han weapons. Author & researcher Peter Connolly saw a 2,000-year-old Celtic sword dredged from a lake that was flexed in a semi-circle and it "returned to true"--perfectly straight.

Examination of Iberian falcata blades reveal a very sophisitcated tempering process, with varying degrees of carbon in the blades. This merely confirms contemporary accounts of both how Iberian swords were actually made, and how feared their use was in battle.

Later, in the Dark Ages, we have the amazing pattern-welded swords of the Vikings and the Frankish smiths of the Rhineland. I have seen a comparatively late (c. 10 century) example that was preserved in a church--it was bent in a semi-circle and flexed back perfectly straight. About the time this sword was made, those same Frankish smiths developed homogenous steels swords, which then became the norm in Europe.

Nor must we forget the Indians, whose excellent wootz steel has been used to produce so many fine swords over the centuries. Many of the swords made in Damascus were made from imported wootz steel.
"Their drills are bloodless battles, and their battles bloody drills." -- Flavius Josephus (aka Joseph Ben-Matthias), commenting on the Roman Army's approach to training.

#15 Yun

Yun

    Sage-King

  • CHF Han Lin Scholar
  • 9,057 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Singapore/USA
  • Interests:Ancient Chinese history, with a focus on the Age of Fragmentation. Chinese ethnicities, religion, philosophy, music, and art and material culture. Military history in general.
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese History
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Three Kingdoms, Age of Fragmentation, Sui-Tang

Posted 17 January 2006 - 11:36 AM

Stop comparing Western and Chinese metallurgical technologies, people. If you want to, start a new thread. This one is not for that purpose.
The dead have passed beyond our power to honour or dishonour them, but not beyond our ability to try and understand.




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users