The 9 rings were meant for catching the tips of swords and spears. The Chinese back in the day also loved weapons that 'rattled' which is why chains had an extra link in them (3 section staff, chain whips, etc).
The 'flag' tied onto the handle was there for a few different reasons.
It served to wipe blood from the user's hand.
It was also wrapped around the hand before the person would grab the weapon. Remember that it was probably pretty easy t drop a weapon in the heat of a battle.
From wrapping the flag in his hand, my old master could also 'throw' the broadsword and pull it back and catch it ! One of the more impressive things I have seen.
Regarding 'who' used swords, it was in the Ming Dynasty that jian started to become obselete on the battle ground (dao were easier to use more effectively) and jian became favoured by martial artists or worn as an accessory.
Tashigae, can't say I agree with you about how Chinese swords were always made quickly and poorly; Japan actually learned their metallurgy from the Chinese orginally and Chinese metallurgy itself was highly sophisticated. It was during the peaceful periods in Japan were there swords became the most sophisticated (i.e. polished to high degree, intricate fittings). Japan mass made HEAPS of stainless steel katana for their soldiers during WW II.
Traditional Chinese swords could and were:
-water quenched (more difficult but produced better results than oil quenched blades)
-folded for resilience
-edge hardened using clay. I know that the Japanese use clay in their differential heat treatment but the Chinese used it differently. A clay mixture would include things such as grass, hair, nail clippings, etc (these were like 'secret' recipes of the sword makers) to feed carbon into the blade.
Chinese also made 'inserted blades' (jia gang) which were composed of a body of lower carbon steel with a high carbon steel blade inserted. Low carbon had great flexibility but could not hold an edge; high carbon made a great, tough edge but would break (think kitchen knife). Properly forged together, you would have a great, toughened and sharp edge on a blade that would flex and save it from breaking or snapping.
The tassel on a jian was originally not as long as today, if I recall the string between the handle and the tassle was meant to be as long as a fist to save it from tangling in a swordfight. All notions aside about being skillful enough to avoid any tangling, the essence of a sword fight is to strike quickly and accurately, not avoid being tangled in your own decoration ! Not all people used a tassle, I have a loop of braided cord on mine.
Spot on about sashes though, they are great for back support. In shuai jiao (Chinese grappling/throwing), controversially argued to be the predecessor of jiu-jitsu, judo and aikido, a belt similar to the Japanese one is worn and was meant to protect the lower back as well.
Edited by northstar (10/07/07 11:46 AM)