In March it was the Dragon Boar Killing Spear that was featured as Forge Directs Blade of the Month. And in April, it is another perennial favorite – and one of the most affordable entry level Master Smith money can buy – the Classic Peony Jian. (click any of the images for a larger, high resolution picture of the sword)
Some Background on Classic DanJian (one handed Jian)
Weight wise, most antique Jian like the one the Classic Peony is based on weighed between 1.76lbs to 2.42lbs (800 to 1100 grams) though some like this antique (3,500GBP) had slightly shorter blades and weighed a mere 732grams (1.61lbs) though this was relatively rare. Indeed, many people tend to think that functional Jian should be as light as the ultra flexible Wushu Training Swords such as shown in the video below.
This idea that antique Jian are super lightweight is compounded by the fact that many antique blades are weighed WITHOUT the fittings. But to get the complete picture most later period Jian that surviving martial arts such as Taiji,Wudang, Shaolin, etc still use – the so called Danjian 单劍 –weigh and balance about the same as a Viking sword, that is to say, approximately 2-3lbs and balanced at 5.5″ with fittings.
Indeed, it even had similar dimensions with an blade around 30″ long and a 6″ long handle – though that is of course where all similarities end as the Viking sword has a broad, flat cutting blade while the Jian has a raised central ridge to reinforce the thrusting point (though was no slouch in the cutting department either).
The ideal point of balance for a Jian with a 30″ does vary, some suggest they should be balanced at the guard, two fingers width from the guard, at the pommel (impossible) or even up to almost half the way up the blade. But again, the Viking sword analogy holds true. with most antiques balanced around 5.5″ from the hand guard.
The reason we bring all this up is because there really is a lot of misinformation out there about what the correct or ideal weight and balance of a functional Jian should be (for example at the other end of the spectrum this post on quora.com someone states with authority Jian should weigh ‘between 3 to 7lbs’!!).
Our Classic Peony
The Classic Peony Jian is based on an antique Qing Dynasty design with a beautifully folded blade typical of the period.
The fittings of the Classic Peony are dark brass with polished highlights detailing the Peony theme throughout (once exclusively the domain of the Emperor, the Peony came to represent good fortune, wealth, honor and success) and it comes complete with a matching black ebony wood scabbard.
Blade wise, it is approx 29.5″ from guard to tip with a slightly longer 7.1″ Ebony wood handle to accommodate those with larger hands.
Weighing in at 2.86lbs (1.3kg) it is on the heavier side for a Jian, though still within the ideal weight of 2-3lbs, and is balanced at 3.93″ from the guard, resulting in a Jian that is forceful and strong, yet balanced close enough to the guard to allow easy transition from one movement to the next.
With a relatively common blade style requiring only expert folding technique, the blades are simple for the Master Smith to make – taking much less time and with a lower error rate than the more challenging blades in the collection (Wind Steel, Differential Hardening, Pattern welding, etc). Once forged and shaped, the blades are completed by the smiths team of workers – thus the rather shockingly low price point of $599.99 SHIPPED.
But as Forge Direct Blade of the Month, you can pick it up with a whopping 25% discount – down to only $449.99 all month long!
If you are a practitioner of Taiji or a traditional Chinese martial art and want a blade based on an antique that handles close to the how the original should (and much closer than the vast majority of replicas out there) THIS would have to be your best bet.
“The Peony Jian may be the Forge Direct entry level Jian, but nobody would ever guess it isn’t the best. If you tell your friends it is the best, then they will believe it is the best. I love mine. ”
Richard R. Rose