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Imported Japanese blades.


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#1 Guest_Conan the destroyer_*

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 06:55 AM

According to The Connoisseurs Book of Japanese Swords several thousand Japanese blades were imported to China in the Ming period. Disregarding the authors baseless comment about the "clear superiority of the Katana", it would be interesting to know why these imports were desired, and whether they were simply ornaments or actually used on the battlefield.

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Edited by Conan the destroyer, 21 January 2006 - 06:58 AM.


#2 Yun

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 07:38 AM

Japanese swords were, in fact, admired by the Chinese in the late Ming. This can be seen in the Tiangong Kaiwu by Song Yingxing, a classic Ming book (written in 1637) on various aspects of artisanry and engineering. He wrote that the Japanese sword has a very thin blade and yet can be balanced on one finger - something that Chinese swordmakers had not yet learned how to do.
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#3 Guest_Conan the destroyer_*

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 08:38 AM

I believe these imports were in the early Ming though, before the decline in sword quality due to corruption and inefficiency. Still, I'm sceptical about Song Yingxing's comment--given that no other Ming generals or soldiers considered the katana to be noticeably superior as far as I am aware. Did Song Yingxing have a history in the use of weapons? Maybe Thomas Chen can comment on this...

Edited by Conan the destroyer, 21 January 2006 - 08:54 AM.


#4 Yun

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 10:24 AM

I believe these imports were in the early Ming though, before the decline in sword quality due to corruption and inefficiency.



I have read somewhere that swords were a major item of 'tribute' brought to China by Japanese embassies in the early Ming. The Japanese were very keen on trading for Chinese bronze coins through the tribute system (under this system, tributaries would send valuable items as tribute and the Ming court would reward them with gifts like coins and silk), since these were the main form of currency in Japan, and since one of their more marketable products was swords, they brought lots of swords with them. The Ming court actually had no great interest in the Japanese swords at this time, but went along with it for the sake of decorum.
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#5 Inst

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 06:15 PM

You know, militarily, the Katana is probably superior to the Jian. The fast draw is very important when it comes to a sidearm.

#6 浪淘音

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 06:31 PM

You know, militarily, the Katana is probably superior to the Jian. The fast draw is very important when it comes to a sidearm.


Samurai fought with mostly polearms and bows. the fast draw of a katana would be more useful in stopping an assasination attempt or duelling as opposed to on a battlefield

plus, Jian were already largely replaced by Sabers (like the ring pommelled 鐵環首刀) due to the importance of cavalry by the Han dynasty

#7 Inst

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 07:10 PM

I know, I know, maybe the Dao is a better comparison than the Jian for military use, but can Dao quickdraw? Being able to quickly draw your sidearm after your main weapon fails is an assset, and can improve combat effectiveness.

#8 浪淘音

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 07:36 PM

I know, I know, maybe the Dao is a better comparison than the Jian for military use, but can Dao quickdraw? Being able to quickly draw your sidearm after your main weapon fails is an assset, and can improve combat effectiveness.


that is true. the curve in a katana blade allows the draw to be smoother and quicker

but don't assume all Chinese Dao were straight bladed either. Turko-Mongol-Arabic sabers(which were curved) were very popular among Chinese warriors. In fact, the katana is more or less a mini version of a Chinese zhan ma dao.

Chinese never really developed quick draw techniques. From what i can infer from battle tactics. Chinese infantry had no problem (as far as speed goes) dropping their bows/crossbows when a cavalry charge got too close and taking out their zhan ma dao to deal with the closer combat situation. Accomplished without the aid of Iajitsu-esque technique

i'm a sword enthusiast myself (though i prefer my bows) and am fascinated with Iajitsu. But all I'm saying is that quick draw technique are far more useful in personal combat (which had died out for the most part in China by the Warring States era)

by the way, Personal combat could happen on the battlefield in Japan but in China, distinction between the two is more. China's emphasis on mass infantry and steppe style cavalry warfare pretty much nixed the need for a quick draw

#9 Inst

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 09:08 PM

So, basically, you're proposing that an archer would carry a heavy anti cavalry weapon as a back-up weapon?

I still think a light and small sword would make a better back-up weapon than a polearm...

#10 浪淘音

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 09:46 PM

So, basically, you're proposing that an archer would carry a heavy anti cavalry weapon as a back-up weapon?

I still think a light and small sword would make a better back-up weapon than a polearm...


the Zhan Ma Dao wasn't THAT heavy and plus, it worked. Most infantry formations would have specialists with anti cavalry weapons anyway that were prepared when the cavalry was closing in

honestly, if Jurchen heavy cavalry was closing in on me. i would not try to stop him by using Iajitsu. the katana blade would just stick in his double layered lammellar armor

plus, the conversation we were having was about speed of the draw vs. effectiveness on the battlefield. We're not arguing about carrying a shorter sword as a side arm

quick draw styles like Iajitsu would only be useful dismounted anyway. on a horse, drawing a sword would be the same speed regardless

I know, I know, maybe the Dao is a better comparison than the Jian for military use, but can Dao quickdraw? Being able to quickly draw your sidearm after your main weapon fails is an assset, and can improve combat effectiveness.



-You

Edited by 浪淘音, 21 January 2006 - 09:47 PM.


#11 Wujiang

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Posted 22 January 2006 - 01:30 AM

You know, militarily, the Katana is probably superior to the Jian. The fast draw is very important when it comes to a sidearm.

Actually, quickdraw is pretty much worthless when it comes to the military. It is only useful for civilians and law enforcements who may or may not get attacked without notice AND when your enemy is already within striking distance when the attack comes. The key time difference is the mental reflex of turning a normal situation into a confrontational one as well as the draw-cut action which reduces two seperate movements (draw and cut) into one. If go in with the mentality of killing people and you can readily idenify an enemy , then the point of mental reflex is mute. Secondly, if the enemy is not in strike distance, then the time between drawing the sword and your opponent closing in to kill you is pretty much negligible.

There are two sides to the argument between the quickdraw of chinese and japanese swords. But the matter is just a question of weight and length.
Pro Chinese = Japanese swords are longer and therefore takes longer to get the whole sword out of the scabbard.
Pro Japanese = Chinese swords are generally thicker and slightly heavier, it is hard/longer to draw.

Chinese never really developed quick draw techniques.

Only half true.
Militarily, no quickdraw have ever been recorded.
Among civilans, there are a number of quickdraw techniques. But thats for another thread.
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#12 Guest_Conan the destroyer_*

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Posted 22 January 2006 - 08:15 AM

I agree with Wujiang--the quick draw isn't really going to be of much use to a soldier on the battlefield. It was more of a self-defence thing, and not as useful in China since people didn't generally carry swords around in public places.

Edited by Conan the destroyer, 22 January 2006 - 08:18 AM.


#13 Yun

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Posted 22 January 2006 - 08:30 AM

More on the copper coins for swords "tribute trade" between Ming China and Muromachi Japan:

At the end of the 9th century, Japan was prohibited from sending any more envoys (trade representatives) to Tang China. The trade ban was not lifted until many centuries later in Japan's Muromachi period (1392-1573), when the Japanese Shogun (military ruler) Ashikaga Yoshimitsu sent a ship to Ming China in 1401 (Oei 8, by the Japanese calendar). This marked the re-opening of trade relations between Japan and Ming China.

Today if you want to go to China from Japan, you can take a boat from Osaka Port and arrive in Shanghai three days later. Or you can hop on an airplane and arrive in less than two hours. In either case, it takes relatively little time and effort to cross the seas between the two countries.

In the old days, however, sailors had to rely on the wind to drive their ships. No matter how much of a hurry they were in, it always took at least one month for the crossing. They also had to wait for the right winds to blow before leaving on or returning from their journeys. When the waiting time, the crossing time, and the time needed to travel over land after arrival were added together, many round trips to China ended up taking several years to complete! Despite such difficulties, trade between the two countries continued until the middle of the 16th century, almost 150 years later. During that time, nineteen trading ships were dispatched to Ming China.

You might wonder what kinds of things were traded. The Chinese sent such goods as copper coins and silk thread to Japan, while Japan exported sulfur, swords, fans, and other objects, to China. It might seem strange to us today that Japan would want to import copper coins from a foreign country, but at that time there was no standard currency minted in Japan. All Japanese coins had to be imported from China!

One thing about the trade between Japan and China back then differs greatly from trade today: that the two countries had an unequal relationship. The Ming-dynasty rulers thought that China was the center of the universe--the Middle Kingdom--and that all other countries were inferior.

In order to trade with someone, you have to recognize that the other person has something you want and that you have goods that you are willing to give up in exchange. This means that each side has some degree of power over the other. Even if other countries actually did have things that they wanted, the Chinese rulers of the time refused to recognize that they were worthy trade partners in fear that it would make China look less powerful. Therefore, they viewed traders from other countries as bearers of "tribute," gifts in recognition of China's superiority. In exchange for this "tribute," the Chinese would supply the foreign traders with "gifts."

In order to legitimize this trade system, the Chinese created official licenses (called kango in Japanese) for approved "tribute ships." Naturally, Japanese trading ships were also given these licenses. Back in 15th century China, almost everything was handwritten with a brush and ink. That means that anyone might hand-write a false license. How do you think the Chinese verified genuine licenses?

Actually, the answer to this is a special system--still used in Asia today--of writing in a registration book with the edge of the license covering half of the writing surface. When the license was removed, only half of each written character remained in the book.

The Chinese officials could check the authenticity of any license by placing it next to its corresponding half in the registration book. Only a real license would match exactly. Using this verification method, the Chinese were able to determine which of the trade ships were officially approved tribute ships.

Unfortunately, none of these trade licenses exist today. Luckily, however, we do have a journal written by a Zen priest who was sent to Ming China in 1468 (Onin 2) by the Japanese Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. This priest's name was Tenuyo Seikei. In his journal, called the 1468 Record of Entrance into Ming China, he sketched a diagram showing what the trade licenses of the day looked like. His sketch is pictured in the photo below.

The sketches are turned sideways, but you can see that the real licenses would have been written from top-to-bottom on rectangular paper. You can see only half of four characters, (meaning "Such-and-such, No. 1") written down the middle. The other half would have been written in the registration book. These sketches are small, but the actual licenses were probably written on large (82 cm x 36 cm), luxurious paper. After all, trade with foreign countries was very important to China!

There are a few other things we know about these licenses. Most of the writing on licenses was not done by hand but was printed with special stamps. Only a few letters would be handwritten with a brush. Another thing we know is that either some of the letters or some of the numbers were written in red. The genuine, Ming trading licenses were undoubtedly quite a sight to see!

From http://www.kyohaku.g...ki/nichimin.htm

Also, a good article about how the tachi sword (which was more important than the katana until the late Muromachi period) changed from straight to curved, and finally became a mere ceremonial object: http://www.kyohaku.g...nkou/katana.htm
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#14 Yang Zongbao

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Posted 22 January 2006 - 12:11 PM

I wouldn't say that the Katana was simply a smaller version of a Zhanmadao- the usage is quite different...whereas I wouldn't take a charging horse with a Katana, I'd certainly feel more up to it with a ZMD.

Imagine...once you take away the bulk of a Zhanmadao to have a relatively thinner blade...it doesn't really function as a ZMD anymore, right?

Plus, I think the Katana and Tachi were more related to the Tang style sabers than a Song Zhan Ma Dao. Functionally, they differed, with the Katana as an antipersonnel and Dueling sidearm, and the Zhan Ma Dao certainly a heavy duty military weapon...the roots of the Katana didn't start as an anticavalry weapon. By the time the ZMD was developed, the Japanese blades had really developed enough in their own way to be considered uniquely different from the Tang blades they developed from, even if the techniques for making them, and the cross sections were the same.
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#15 浪淘音

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Posted 22 January 2006 - 12:58 PM

I wouldn't say that the Katana was simply a smaller version of a Zhanmadao- the usage is quite different...whereas I wouldn't take a charging horse with a Katana, I'd certainly feel more up to it with a ZMD.

Imagine...once you take away the bulk of a Zhanmadao to have a relatively thinner blade...it doesn't really function as a ZMD anymore, right?

Plus, I think the Katana and Tachi were more related to the Tang style sabers than a Song Zhan Ma Dao. Functionally, they differed, with the Katana as an antipersonnel and Dueling sidearm, and the Zhan Ma Dao certainly a heavy duty military weapon...the roots of the Katana didn't start as an anticavalry weapon. By the time the ZMD was developed, the Japanese blades had really developed enough in their own way to be considered uniquely different from the Tang blades they developed from, even if the techniques for making them, and the cross sections were the same.


the Zhan Ma Dao also has rigid cross sections which i'm pretty sure no japanese swords have for some reason

i made the comparison due to the fact that both blades are curved unlike straight bladed Tang sabers

Edited by 浪淘音, 22 January 2006 - 12:59 PM.





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