Unusual Weapons: Door God’s Sword: The Jian

The Steel Jian, has a shape resembling a sword, and yet isn’t a straight sword. Its name is JIAN (金+間) which is not a common Chinese word, but the character is sometimes written “Jian ” meaning something simple or brief, or “Iron Jian “, meaning an ancient bronze mirror or, possibly, to “enforce”. The Jian’s history starts surprisingly early; in the Tang dynasty era it was worn by high ranking military officers. According to historical writings, Tang general QinQiong, unusually brave and forceful, was an expert with Double Jian. Because of this folk temples and homes took him as one of the famous Door Gods, the protective spirits of the kitchen (Men Shen). In this way the Jian became the weapon associated with these benevolent spirits.

The Steel Jian

Antique weapons from the author's collection

The Jian and the straight sword resemble each other in appearance, but the Jian has no blade, and its body is segmented. The Steel Jian also resembles the Steel Whip, but the whip’s body has flexible joints. The Jian’s shape resembles  the sections (Kou) you see in bamboo where each section grows into the next. There is a saying about the Jian: “Rain strikes the white sand, like the random strokes of wood chopping”. This explains that the striking method of the Jian is like chopping firewood, and pelting rain drops—very fast and nimble—like a page crowded with calligraphy.


Ancient Kung Fu weapons on plumpub.com

From an old manuscript

plumpub.com Unusual Weapons

Jian, played like double swords

The Jian can be used singly or doubly, but most commonly it is practiced in pairs, as you see demonstrated in this article. Later versions were also made out of wood and in many cases these  took the place of the Steel Jian. The Jian and the Filipino short sticks (MoZhang: Magic Wand) are very similar, but Jian is much lesser known.

The Weapon of the Door Gods

When you first pick up a pair of Jian they seem rather limited. The few pounds they weigh does have some authority, though. Each weapon is about 19 1/4 inches long with a 4 1/2 inch handle. The guard is absolutely flat and round as though a big coin with a 1 3/4 inch diameter had been set there. It is has fourteen linked sections and then a knob at the tip. The spine of the weapon is conical and decreases by about a 1/4  inch in diameter from the largest sections next to the guard to the smallest at the tip.

Jiang's book on Tiger Tail Rods, Clickimage

One might play this weapon like a combination of twin stick and double straight swords. Once the wrist flip is introduced some real power is built up, certainly enough to break a forearm bone on contact. The conical shape seems to help with quick wrist actions and sudden reversals. Not at all a bad weapon though rarely seen nowadays. Perhaps we can spread the merits of this perfectly good method and regenerate the reputation of the Jian.

Resources and References:  (Also, this week we should be offering a new collector’s reprint, Tiger Tail vs. Spear).

Lion Books Wu Lin Magazine

Source material: Wu Lin issue #20 (out of print)

Jiang Rong Jiao's book on the Tiger Tail Rods

Lion Book on the Jian, clickimage

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