Language: Mandarin Chinese
Source: Classical literature

Description

Bàojiàn (骲箭) is the Chinese name for a class of arrows with a bulging, non-ferrous head. The class includes both whistle arrows and solid blunts.1

 

Baojian

bàojiàn of the Chinese Republican period.
Sold by Mandarin Mansion in 2020.

 

Use

Whistle arrows are often thought to have been used by commanders to let their troops know which direction to shoot at. And although such use is described in ancient Chinese texts, their use as such was rendered all but impossible by the rise of firearms.2 The deafening sound of musket volley-fire was described by Manchu soldier Dzengseo as the crackling sound of frying beans.3 Such noise would make it impossible to hear a feeble flying whistle.

They could still be used for signaling, just not in the heat of battle, and so during the Qing dynasty certain guards and vanguard units would still carry them.4 Looking at Qing records, countless varieties were still made in the 18th century, but almost all are described as being for hunting and/or sports.

The shriek of the whistle made the animal behave in a predictable manner, usually startling it, making it easier to hit. Blunt whistles were used for shooting pelt animals and keeping their pelts intact, while sharp ones took out other animals.5 In sports, the whistle would add spectacle to the event. Whistling blunts would be used to shoot the special Manchu and Mongol tunken target, called  () in Chinese.6

The non-whistling bàojiàn were used for sports, practice, and hunting smaller animals so that their pelt would stay intact.7

 

Types of bàojiàn

The Huangchao liqi tushi (皇朝禮器圖式) woodblock edition of 1766 documents no less than 15 types of bàojiàn that were in use at the time, a large number of which at court. The variety among antique arrows indicates that there were many more.

Here is a list of the types mentioned:

Huángdì dàyuè bàojiàn (皇帝大閲骲箭) or "The Emperor's Grand Review whistle arrow"
A fine ceremonial arrow with painted bone head, carried during the tri-annual Grand Review of the Troops.

Huángdì dàlǐ suíshì bàojiàn (皇帝大禮隨侍骲箭) or "Imperial Grand Ceremony attendant whistle arrow"
A fine ceremonial arrow carried by the imperial guard during grand ceremonies.

Huángdì jílǐ suíshì bàojiàn (皇帝吉禮隨侍骲箭) or "Imperial Grand Ceremony attendant whistle arrow"
A fine ceremonial arrow carried by the imperial guard during auspicious ceremonies.

Huángdì suíshì bàojiàn (皇帝隨侍骲箭) or "Imperial guard whistle arrow"
A fine whitle arrow carried by the imperial guard when escorting the emperor.

Huángdì yùyòng shè bàojiàn (皇帝御用射鵠骲箭) or "Target shooting whistle arrow for imperial use"
An arrow with which the emperor shot the tunken target.

Huángdì yùyòng mǎ shè bàojiàn yī (皇帝御用馬射骲箭一) or "Horse archery whistle arrow for imperial use 1"
A blunt target shooting whistle arrow, for use from horseback.

Huángdì yùyòng mǎ shè bàojiàn èr (皇帝御用馬射骲箭二) or "Horse archery whistle arrow for imperial use 2"
A sharp target shooting whistle arrow, for use from horseback.

Huángdì yùyòng mǎ shè bàojiàn sān (皇帝御用馬射骲箭三) or "Horse archery whistle arrow for imperial use 3"
A sharp target shooting whistle arrow, for use from horseback.

Jiān bàojiàn (尖骲箭) or "Sharp whistle arrow"
With a head made of bone and horn, used for hunting hare. Pierces.

Fāng bàojiàn (方骲箭) or "Square whistle arrow"
With a large, flat wooden head. Used for hunting hare on rocky terrain by blunt force. Also for horse archery practice.
In Manchu: Mongo yoro or "Mongolian arrow".

Shè hǔ bàojiàn (射虎骲箭) or "Tiger shooting whistle arrow"
A large whistle arrow that was used for making recumbent tigers rise to their feet.

Qí bàojiàn (齊骲箭) or "Flat whistle arrow"
A whistle arrow with deep grooves and flattened top, for shooting hare.

Shíxīn bàojiàn (實心骲箭) or "Solid core blunt arrow"
A solid blunt for shooting small flying birds and quail.
 


 

 

Notes
1. For further reading, see my article at www.manchuarchery.org: Whistling arrows and whistle arrows.
2. Sima Qian; Records of the Grand Historian. Finished circa 94 B.C.
3. Nicola Di Cosmo; The Diary of a Manchu Soldier in Seventeenth-Century China: "My Service in the Army", by Dzengseo, Routledge Studies in the Early History of Asia. 2006.
4. Qinding junqi zeli (欽定軍器則例) or "Imperially Commissioned Regulations and Precedents on Military Equipment". Qianlong period edition.
5. Yun Lu (允祿), et al, editors; Huangchao liqi tushi (皇朝禮器圖式) or "Illustrated Ceremonial Paraphernalia for our Dynasty", 1766 woodblock print edition, based on a 1759 manuscript. Chapter 14.
6. See my article about this target at www.manchuarchery.org: The five-tiered-target.
7. Yun Lu (允祿), et al, editors; Huangchao liqi tushi (皇朝禮器圖式) or "Illustrated Ceremonial Paraphernalia for our Dynasty", 1766 woodblock print edition, based on a 1759 manuscript. Chapter 14.
8. Ibid.

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Dating from the revival period of Chinese archery in the 1930s.

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Used in a target archery sport that was originally practiced in the Keraton.

€1200,-

With snake skin nock. Probably made by Ju Yuan Hao in the 1950s.

€200,-

Presented by the local Dai nobility to a British customs officer in 1936.

€2000,-

With designs of four dragons in scrollwork around a "wish-granting-jewel"

€3500,-

A rather well-made example of its type.

€1500,-