Green Dragon Jian | Mandarin Mansion

Green Dragon Jian

In the 19th century, the Chinese suffered a series of humiliating defeats at the hands of modern Western firearms. It painfully showed those that lived the martial life how traditional ways of warfare were finally made obsolete by technology.

Many martial artists relied on teaching for a living. They thought their proven methods to people who needed to learn how to fight. Some really good instructors ended up training local militia or even the imperial army. In the wake of these defeats, they started to realize that their livelihood was in danger, and they had to devise new ways in which their could apply their skills.

A group of these started to teach the wealthy Chinese upper class in softer, gentler and more flowing forms of martial arts. It is around this time that the focus shifted towards health and wellbeing, and less on battlefield combat. Yang Chengfu was one of these people who helped turn taijiquan, with roots in battlefield fighting systems, into the popular health practice it is today.

Not coincidentally, it is from this period onwards that we are starting to see the first steel training swords. These are characterized by having the looks of fighting swords, but their blades are not hardened for combat. A major difference with -and advantage over- today's training swords is that these examples were still closer in construction and design to their actual fighting counterparts.


Overall length: 94.4 cm / 37.2 inch
Blade length: 76 cm / 29.9 inch
Thickness: forte 4 mm, middle 3 mm, near tip 2.5 mm
Blade width: forte 32 mm
Weight without scabbard: 804 grams

Presented is a large Chinese straightsword of the early republican period.
The double edged blade with ricasso, on which we see the sword's name on one side and a natural scene on the other. The sword is named 青龍劍 which does not lend itself for easy translation. Most people would go for “Green Dragon Jian”. However, the word qing (青) is not so much a color as it is a way to describe something that looks vibrant and alive. when a sheep is qing it is black. When grass is qing, it is the lush green color of young grass. When the sky is qing, it is deep blue. When silk is qing, it’s deep black with a shiny luster. A qing dragon? Who is to say which color this mythical creature takes, but we do know it’s not a dull color! The other side of the ricasso shows a natural scene with birds and cypress trees, themes associated with longevity.

The steel is not hardened, and too soft for combat. Despite this the sword does seem to have endured a series of hits, perhaps in training. Beijing was a dangerous place in the early 20th century, so it is not unthinkable that someone actually had to defend him or herself with this sword in one instance. In any case, damage can be seen on the edge but only in the form of some nicks, no cracks.

The hilt is pretty well-made: It has a substantial brass guard cast from two pieces, expertly brazed together. Its handle covered with ray skin rawhide, this incredibly durable material provides an excellent grip. Some minor play in the handle. Guard is tight. It comes with its original scabbard with brass mounts, decorated with stylized cloud cutouts. The scabbard is wrapped with metal wire, largely intact.

Overall a nice example of an antique republican training jian, from the formative years of traditional Chinese martial arts as we know them today.



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