Chinese swords of Warring States Era, collection of Shanghai Museum

2,500-Year-Old Sword of Goujian

Long before the First Emperor Qin drove his army from the west in Xi’an to reach the east coast area and united China in 221BC, there were two highly developed kingdoms in the seaboard region, one in Shaoxing (near Hangzhou) and another in Suzhou (near Shanghai).

It was the Spring and Autumn era (770BC-476BC), a brilliant period in Chinese history. In the north, around the Yellow River basin, Confucius probed the human condition and Lao Tzu inquired about the universal truth; in the south down the Yangtze River Delta, Suzhou kingdom Wu drafted a Development Control Plan for the city, the first in the world, and Shaoxing kingdom Yue established a superior metallurgical industry.

Understandably, as two strong powers neighbouring each other while both seeking further expansion, wars broke out, which lasted for decades.

It was for these wars, Sun Tzu in Suzhou, a military consultant to the King of Wu, composed the Art of War, and Goujian, King of Yue in Shaoxing, crafted the best sword in China known as the Sword of Goujian.

After being buried underground for over two millenniums, when the Sword of Goujian was unearthed in the 1960s, it was found in perfect condition as if just made yesterday and sharp enough to cut a hair in two.


Sep 19, 2015

Michael “TIGER WAVE” Gerla
What is the technique for preventing rust?

All Things Chinese
So far it’s not 100% clear.

I have a sword, supposedly the best brand (Dragon Spring) from the same place where this Doujian sword was produced 2,500 years ago, but I was told to keep the sword in the sheath when it is not in use. I’m not sure whether it would start to rust if I just leave it open to the air all the time. I don’t want to take the chance because I love my sword too much :D.

I mean if today’s producers in Zhejiang know how to prevent swords from rusting like their ancestries once achieved, they would have no need to issue the warning.

Michael “TIGER WAVE” Gerla
I also possess an imitation Samurai sword, which requires regular polishing to prevent rusting/tarnishing.

Keeping it within its sheath does not prevent its rusting. However, I am unfamiliar with stainless steel technology and how it might affect that sword’s actual fighting ability.

I do know that traditional Samurai swords did need to be regularly polished.

Rodney K
Superb blade. Even when merely looked at in an enlarged picture it is superb.

As pointed out in Wikipedia, Chinese traditional swords were not cast like the traditional European sword but wrought and further refined by forging and folding techniques. 

Western concepts of rusting may also not apply.

Most European traditional swords, when found, have suffered severe rusting.

I have learned something. Thank you.

All Things Chinese
Thanks a lot for your link.

Most Chinese swords, when unearthed, have also shown some degrees of rusting. But not with the swords from the Kingdom of Yue, especially the ones produced for King Goujian. They just don’t rust. 

The majority of traditional Chinese swords require regular polish but there are some odd ones with the fighting abilities not compromised by time.

Michael “TIGER WAVE” Gerla
Unfortunately we Westerners have a distaste for “Cultural propaganda”, which may refer to ancient objects as having “Mythological properties”.

Perhaps these properties could be verified by Western analysis. I’m sure your government would be quite enthusiastic to reveal its secrets to the world.

All Things Chinese
I’m not representing or even remotely associating with any government, organization or business. I’m not on the mission to convince anyone about anything.

By the way, I believe there are many experts from the West in China right now, including archaeologists, working on assisting Chinese researchers to recover some lost ancient Chinese technologies.

But on the other hand, I do not believe any people should consider themselves above all other peoples and have the mandate to verify other cultures and history.

Rodney K
“Use of chromium oxide as an anti-corrosion protective coating on the bronze jian.

This process originates way back from 700 BC. This invention was long lost for 2,000 years before modern similar processes were developed in 1937 and the 1950s by the Germans and Americans respectively.” – Wikipedia (Chinese Swords)

“In metallurgy, stainless steel, also known as inox steel or inox from French “inoxydable”, is a steel alloy with a minimum of 10.5%[1] chromium content by mass.” – Wikipedia (Stainless Steel)

You can see that, as Wikipedia states, a chromium oxide coating was used on the bronze jian around 700BC to inhibit rust.

Wikipedia also shows that the Europeans reinvented chromium oxide as a rust inhibitor but it was used to make an alloy with steel and thus created stainless steel.

Perhaps the lost technology also helps to create a mythology about China’s past that can be exploited by unscrupulous traders.


John Hanley
I’ve heard of this sword, it’s like made of bronze, and supposedly the person who first unearthed it accidentally cut himself on it because it was so unexpectedly sharp.

Lawrence Kedz
Bronze is made of copper & tin (me thinks)? Would it be possible to make a sword of this caliber & repute with these metals?

P.S., I’ve gotta check it out, too curious & impatient!

All Things Chinese
Reportedly, the bronze alloy for this sword is found to contain 15% to 18% of tin, which is quite close to modern alloy and has enabled the weapon to be sharp while strong.


Sword of Goujian. An epic legend. Like tales of King Arthur, this could be a great movie. Which would be a great medium to spread Chinese culture if done right.

All Things Chinese
IF DONE RIGHT … that is the key.

A water gate on the city wall of Shaoxing in the 1920s, Zhejiang Province.


April 20, 2020

This is one of the times you look at a photo of the past and just wished you could be there for just one moment.

I agree with that.

All Things Chinese
But I prefer to live in the 21st century.

Well after the boat ride I’d jump to the 22nd century where things would be even better and we would be past the 12-year bad cycle.

All Things Chinese
You only need to jump 20 years to see a wonderful new world. 😊 But I love to go through this chaotic, challenging and awe-inspiring transitional period.

Climbing to the mountaintop on foot would give you a very different experience than being carried onto the peak by a sedan or cable car.

Well, I guess it is fortunate “by foot” is the only means given to me. No problem, ready for the challenge. March On (前进) I believe is the correct slogan.

All Things Chinese
March on, alone, one by one (for social distancing) 😂

2,500-Year-Old Swords, once used by King Wu of Suzhou Kingdom. Collection of Anhui Museum

A watergate on the 2,500-year-old city wall today in Suzhou, Jiangsu province

A 2,300-Year-Old Warring States Sword

The hidden burial site in Henan Province was first discovered by a group of tomb raiders; following the hold left on the ground by the tomb raiders, archaeologists discovered a group of ancient tombs, of which one dates back to the Warring States era (475BC – 221BC), where an intact wooden casket was found; by the casket, there is a sword kept in a sheath.

When the researchers drew the sword, the blade still sparkled with glare after more than 2,300 years.

2,200-Year-Old Sword Made During First Emperor Qin’s Era

These swords were produced during the time when the First Emperor of Qin built the Great Wall & created terracotta armies.

1,500-Year-Old Swords from the Sui Dynasty


2,000-Year-Old Swords from the West Han Dynasty

This 2,000-year-old sword was unearthed from a tomb in Changsha, the capital city of Hunan province.

Despite being buried under the earth for 2 millenniums, the sword shows no sign of rust.


Sep 18, 2015

Rodney K
Do you know why they don’t rust?
Is the metal that is used for these swords, an alloy, even more, rust-resistant than stainless steel?

All Things Chinese
It is said there are some special ingredients added in the metal which is beyond today’s technology. In fact, there are many ancient Chinese technologies that are beyond today’s knowledge, such as bronze men used for acupuncture practice.

SC Yeong
Just don’t be so dogmatic, and you will see progress.

All Things Chinese
Progress is of course made, but not on all fronts and not at all the time. Chinese civilization went backward several times.

May 24, 2015

Niels Franciscus Kjær. JW
Asien og Damaskus sværdet har været kendt længe før vikinge sværdet som var dårlig lavet fordi de var kopier af Ulfbecht sværdet fra Rhinem?

All Things Chinese
Haha, could be, but I’m not sure.

Niels Franciscus Kjær
Og kender til bessermerprossen 1855. Og Simens. Men i Europa var det Ulfbecht stålet som var det bedste i vikingetiden. Men man kendte til bedre kvalitet som Damascener stålet som kom igennem russiske floder. Fund af daggert med guldhæfte fra Anatolien 2200 samt økse fra Ugarit. Dateret jernet blev udviklet først i Asien. JEG HAR holdt foredrag om emnet. Stålet tilblivelse. Og de forskellige metoder. Men tak for billeder fra jer.

All Things Chinese
Great information from a true expert in the field, thanks so much for sharing.

Niels Franciscus Kjær
Jeg var klar over det var et bronzesværd, men for nogle år siden besøgte jeg en ingeniør nede i Odense, som viste mig andre sværd fra Asien og vi snakkede meget om stålproduktion, han var ansat på Lindø værft.. Damaskus stål var den bedst i lang tid før oldtiden med vikingerne.. Jeg har også læst om du har fundet bælg i Tunis fra Khartagos tid mod romerne ca. 70 – 200 år f.Kr. som viser lille Bessmer produktion før den tid. Men hvis du ser nogle sider, der sælger ægte Ulfbecht-sværd, der opstår med stor salgstale. Er det fidus. Fordi vikingerne angreb Frankrigs kyster, og der var forbud mod at sælge almindelige sværd til vikingerne, gik deres dårlige kopisværd ofte i stykker på grund af luft og slagger. og de måtte i stedet bruge økserne samt den lange bue. . Vi var i stand til at tjekke al verdens stål, mens vi var i Norge på laboratoriet. fra Sulitelma-gruber, til Stråsa-miner fra Bergsladen i Sverige etc. Og især kvaliteten. og der var meget snavs i handlen rundt omkring. Jeg vil lige bemærke Men jeg har været opmærksom på de skibe du viste billeder i næsten 7 år. tak for at vise kinesiske ting. Hej Niels Især kunst og skibe, natur langs Kina mm. Det er godt, at der følger lidt alsidigt med.

All Things Chinese
What a fascinating account! And convincing.

BTW, the sword found in Henan was not the best in Ancient China. The top-quality steel products were made in areas around Hangzhou, in Zhejiang Province next to Shanghai.

Goujian Sword unearthed from Zhejiang was produced during Spring and Autumn time (770BC-476BC) before the era of Damascus steel and still can cut hair today.  

Niels Franciscus Kjær
Tak for dit gode svar.

All Things Chinese
Now I’m sort of wondering: If France did not impose a ban on selling swords to Vikings, therefore Vikings did not have to produce lousy copycat swords, what would be the chance for Anglo-Saxons to rule England? ; )

Niels Franciscus Kjær
Holland og Belgiens kyster hed tidligere Frankrieg kyster.  (Det var ikke Frankrig som stat i dag)  Sverige blev også styret af deres konger af vikinger. Derfor standses import af sværd også den vej fra fra de Russike floder fra Asien, og der blev ballade mellem Norge og Danmark i vikingetiden. fordi man lavede mange toldregler for varer over Århus som hed ARGUS. Jeg har hold foredrag om de indviklede toldregler Danmark indførte samt senere Øresundstold. Man solgte smykker fisk keramiske tin. Men Tyske købmænd overtog handelen til Norge, Derfor har Bergen 900 års jubilæum i  ca 1970. Med Hansa bryggen. Mens København kun er ca. 800 år gammel. toldregler og handel har skabt uro i Skandinavien længe.  Men de gode holbare sværd var der kun meget få der forstod at lave nede ved Rhinen. Det kunne tage 5-7 dage at lave dem på en helt specielt måde, som kun denne smed kendte til. hilsen niels   lidt tillæg Om Sakserne. Nej der var en barrier eller kløft mellem Skandinavien og en religionskrig som netop stoppede ved Hamborg området syd for den Danske grænse. og England betalte de danske vikinger penge (tribut) for ikke at blive ved med at plyndre dem. perioden var fra 1100 – til 800  kun ca 300 åri vor tid indtil l De tyske købmænd overtog markedet.indtil Danmark fik Magrethe Unionen eller (Kalmar Unionen).

All Things Chinese
Oh my blunder, messed up Frankrieg with Frankish : (.

Niels Franciscus Kjær
Jeg sætter pris på vi får lidt kultur fra Kinas skibe, floder keramik, malerier og udsmykning, jeg har fulgt med i udbygningen af de tre slugter i Den Gule flod eller Yangsikiang ?   måske stavet forkert??   , da Kina har været lukket land for mange i en del år. tak fordi du kom med i min cirkel. hej Niels.

All Things Chinese
It’s the Yangtze River, the longest river in China, initiated from Himalaya running through Sichuan basin (where Three Gorges are, or should say were) and finally going into the sea via Shanghai. I feel sorry the Gorges are no longer visible now, I just wish they are still well under the water. But even so, the Yangtze River between Chongqing and Nanjing is worth cruising.

A Decade-Old Hand-Crafted Swords

Dragon Well Sward (Longquan Sword 龙泉剑) was originally produced in Zhejiang province and is regarded as the top brand among all Chinese swords. Nowadays on the Chinese market, most swords on sale would be labelled as Longquan swords, but few are genuine.

Mr Jia Kuaijin is a fan of the kungfu sword thus a Longquan sword lover. At the age of 28, his passion for swords led him to resign from a state-run company and resettle in a small village in Henan to devote his time to producing authentic Longquan swords in a classical Chinese way.

In the next decade or so, he wore traditional Chinese clothing with an old-fashioned Chinese male hairdo, established a workshop in his courtyard house that stands alone between crop fields and woods, and handcrafted dozens of high-quality Longquan swords which can easily cut a 3mm thick steel board in two or shave body hair.

His swords have become hot sought commodities and a museum in Zhengzhou has a room just to display his work.

You are welcome to share your thoughts here