Present location: Hubei Provincial Museum, Hubei Province, China
The Sword of Goujian is an archaeological artifact of the Spring and Autumn Period (771 to 403 BCE) found in 1965 in Hubei, China. Renowned for its sharpness and resistance to tarnish, this historical artifact of ancient China is currently in the possession of the Hubei Provincial Museum.
In 1965, while an archaeological survey was being performed along the second main aqueduct of the Zhang River Reservoir in Jingzhou, Hubei, more than fifty ancient tombs of the Chu State were found in Jiangling County. The dig started in the middle of October 1965 and ended in January 1966.
More than 2,000 artifacts were recovered from the sites, including a bronze sword. In December 1965, 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) from the ruins of Jinan, an ancient capital of Chu, a casket was discovered at Wangshan site #1. Inside, an ornate bronze sword was found with a human skeleton.
The sword was found sheathed in a wooden scabbard finished in black lacquer. The scabbard had an almost air-tight fit with the sword body. Unsheathing the sword revealed an untarnished blade, despite the tomb being soaked in underground water for over 2,000 years.
On one side of the blade, two columns of text are visible. Eight characters are written in an ancient script. The script was found to be Bird-worm seal script (literally “birds and worms characters” owing to the intricate decorations of the defining strokes), a variant of seal script. Initial analysis of the text deciphered six of the characters, “King of Yue” and “made this sword for [his] personal use”.
The remaining two characters were likely the name of this King of Yue. From its origin in 510 BCE to its demise at the hands of Chu in 334 BCE, nine kings ruled Yue, including Goujian, Lu Cheng, Bu Shou, Zhu Gou, and others. The identity of this king sparked debate among archeologists and Chinese language scholars.
The discussion was carried out mostly in letters, and it involved famous scholars such as Guo Moruo. After more than two months, the experts started to form a consensus that the original owner of the sword was Goujian, the King of Yue made famous by his perseverance in time of hardship. So the entirety of the text reads “[Belonging to] King Goujian of Yue, made for [his] personal use”.
The sword of Goujian is 55.6 centimetres (21.9 in) in length, including a 8.4 centimetres (3.3 in) hilt; the blade is 4.6 centimetres (1.8 in) wide at its base. The sword weighs 875 grams (30.9 oz). In addition to the repeating dark rhombi pattern on both sides of the blade, there are decorations of blue crystals and turquoise. The grip of the sword is bound by silk, while the pommel is composed of eleven concentric circles.
The Sword of Goujian still has a sharp blade and shows no signs of tarnish. To understand why, scientists at Fudan University and CAS used modern equipment to determine the chemical composition of the sword, as shown in the table below.
The body of the blade is mainly made of copper, making it more pliant and less likely to shatter; the edges have more tin content, making them harder and capable of retaining a sharper edge; the sulfur decreases the chance of tarnish in the patterns. It is likely that the chemical composition, along with the almost air-tight scabbard, led to the exceptional state of preservation.
Measurements: overall length: 91 cm. Blade lenght: 53 cm
Attributed to Bishu Osafune Sukesada, Momoyama Period
The blade is a shinogi-zukuri (the most general style for tachi/katana and wakizashi) and it has gunome of nie and nioi with ashi and also has a slight itame (wood grained) hada. The suriage nakago (tang of a shorter blade) comes with one mekugi-ana signed Bishu Osafune Suke (sada), black lacquer saya with aogai karakusa.
The iron tsuba has a kemari and willow signed Shoami Kanenori while the fuchi-kashira (set of hilt collar and butt cap) is a shakudo (a billon of gold and copper - typically 4-10% gold, 96-90% copper - which can be treated to form an indigo/black patina resembling lacquer) with gilt of chrysanthemum and butterflies.
Wonderfully balanced and made to be used as a fighting Kukri as well as for use in animal decapitation, the weapon has a long walnut wooden grip for two handed use making it perfect for these applications. The forward leaning blade has two spine fullers and a shallow cho notch at the base of the blade.
And here comes the fun part…
According to “Spiral” of [ JRS ] this type of kukri, the “hanshee”, is a mispronouncedversion of the “hansiya” term, the ladies sickle used for cutting crops. When the term was introduced to the west it also entered the kukri folklore and it was started to be used by all the main western collectors.
The so called Hanshee is referred to in Nepal as a hand-and-a-half sirupate or double-hand sirupate, depending on the length of handle. In Nepali these are called “Hatrayadha Sirupate” and “Doharohat Sirupate”. Further qualifying of these kukries are given by the angled, straight, crescent or curved blade. The Nepalis normally say “Lamebendh Sirupate” (long handle sirupate) just to keep it simple.
The many divisions and names used in the west such as Budhume (big belly) and long leaf are unknown in Nepal other than when they have learnt it from westerners. “Bigbelly” in Nepali is actually ”thulebhunri” and “long leaf” would be “lamepate” not “langopate” although either of those names are not terms they use. Furthermore, a broad bladed kukri is a “Chaura Dhar” or “Chaurapat” (broad leaf) kukri.
So sadly, the many divisions used in the west are mere fantasies as far as any historical accuracy goes. The so called “Hanshee” is taken by many collector to be a very early, meaning pre-1820 model, but this weapon was still being made in 1920 featuring ivory handles. Horn handled “kothimara hanshee” were given and used by leading members of the ruling jats of Nepal, kings, premiers, etc.