The Magnificent Chu Jian is one of the most beautiful swords I have seen, both in and out of the scabbard. With a sleek black adorning the cord wrapping of the handle and lacquer of the scabbard, bursts of vermillion and yellow with the Chu dynasty phoenix motif, and beautiful brass fittings that bear inscriptions of anamorphic designs and even bird-worm seal script bearing the word ‘shi’ or scholar warrior. The pommel may seem simple at first glance, a disc shape with several concentric rings. However, the rings were of the most difficult design to forge by hand and it is still a mystery how some swords had perfect such circles upon their pommels. The amount of rings were indicative to the sword bearer’s status or wealth and a sword with as many rings as the Magnificent Chu Jian would be in only the most esteemed hands.
It is a truly beautiful sight to behold. Once the blade is revealed, another level of beauty presents itself in blade shape and geometry. The blade profile is reminiscent of the bronze age swords of the preceding dynasties, a commanding width as it emerges from the guard, tapering only slightly for the first two thirds of the blade, then an elegant sweeping curve inward for the final third until it meets at an aggressively direct point at the tip of the sword. The blade is considered an 8 sided blade with 2 major scalloping grooves running side by side for the length of the blade, with a separate bevel for the edge of the sword. A beautiful sight, with a design that couples form and function, the grooves reduce weight to allow the sword to be agile and nimble, yet with a crest on either side of the groove that gives a robustness and thickness to the blade, providing structure where it counts. Like large waves carrying ripples in the tide, the blade is a forged pattern weld, with a beautiful damascus-like appearance.
I could stand to write more lofty prose about the beauty of this blade, but sword appreciation like this is nothing new, and instead of digital blog posts or video reviews, swords were often topics of poetry. There is one such poem, a Chinese classic, where the author gets drunk and admires his sword in candlelight, reminiscing of days in battle and how the years have past since those days with sword in hand. I felt as if I could relate to the sword appreciation, and although there are more days ahead of me than behind (I hope), as we roll into our 3rd year of the Pandemic, it is easy to look back on those pre-covid days as a different era. So here is my video of the sword, with the musical version of the poem “In the dim of the candlelight, I admire my sword…”
The sword moves really well, and you can really feel it’s urge to thrust once you put it into motion. It does have some moving weight that might feel a bit heavy to some people upon their first time using it. However, I feel that it is a common part of moving from the superlight swords that are widely available from martial arts suppliers. Once you can get used to the moving weight, the Magnificent Chu Jian really takes flight. Here’s a video I made with more history, and what to expect with the sword.
Finally, I have had a chance to do some cutting with the sword, and this is where I found my only challenge with the blade. Now I have to make a quick disclaimer here: I am not a professional or an authority when it comes to cutting. I don’t even have tatami rolls. So take it as you want, but what I found to be interesting with this blade was I had to change my technique and snap the wrist just before contact to ensure successful cutting. If I did not add the last second snap, it was highly probable that I would just bounce the water bottle away which leads me to believe it had to do with the thicker edge bevel requiring more speed upon impact to initiate the cut.
Once I made the change, I found instant success and every cut after snapped right through.
You can also see how effortlessly this sword pierces when thrust forward. It really has a knack for that, and I would expect the robustness of the thick crests and deep grooves to allow it to really sink into one’s enemy on the battlefield.
In the end, I find this sword to earn its name, it is truly a magnificent jian and the fact that we can hold such a sword in our own hands after more than two thousand years is a testament to the amazing engineering and forging of days long gone, and the incredible amount of researching, testing, forging, refining and re-forging that LK Chen and team went through to make it available to us.
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