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Antique Chinese Warring States Sword

(475 - 221 BC)


Early Chinese bronze swords from the Warring States Period (475 - 221 BC) were made with  high precision and often used advanced metallurgy. This 45 cm. long sword is of typical design and probably comes from the State of Chu. Many of these swords were coated with anti-corrosion protective layers, rumored to consist of a form of copper sulfide. 

Much of the sword's
blade has a copper/golden color presumably from its anti-corrosion treatment. The yellowish color appears to be superficial, which has worn or broken down in the darker areas. The dark gray areas resemble the color of copper sulfides (chalcocite), which can range from dark gray to black.


The tin rich alloys sometimes used for blades and anti-corrosive treatments can preserve a sword's sharpness for millennia. Swords that did not suffer heavy corrosion in the ground can be as sharp as a modern razor. This sword is very sharp and requires some care in handling.



The images below show the sword edge on, left,  and broadside, right. In spite of their wide blades, these swords are relatively thin and well tapered making them light and well balanced. This sword weighs about 500 grams. The majority of the blades from the period also have a waist where the taper becomes more pronounced. This abrupt change in tapper can be seen in the right image a little less than half way from the tip to the hilt.







Images showing the area where the blade joins the hilt.







It's difficult to photograph the finish on the surface of a sword's blade. Swords without thick patina or swords smooth uniform patinas often appear to have had  almost mirror like surfaces. This can be seen by pointing the sword away from the eye and sighting down the blade towards a bright light. The image below is a best attempt to do this with a camera. In addition to the polished look, the surface of many swords show a slight undulation along the blade's length, presumably from the polishing process.



An enlargement of the blade near the tip shows the mottled look of the yellow and black areas. Such unevenness could occur from anti-corrosion treatments where the blade is dipped in a liquid or powder and possibly  re-heated. The unevenness is due to the concentration and/or depth of the anti-corrosion treatment, and only appears after very long aging.


Many ancient bronze artifacts have green patinas of one sort or another as do many swords. However, a significant number of swords have survived without this typical green corrosion. Many of the swords that have not corroded have the same golden, gray/black appearance and spotty wear patterns. 

The five swords below are from the book "Ba Shu Bronze Ware", which was compiled by the Provincial Museum of Sichuan. The sword on the left has turned completly black while the others have what appears to be a superficial protective layers. The sword on the right has the same blade design as the sword above.




General Info  Wiki Warring States Period
State of Chu sword. http://chineseswords2.freewebspace.com/custom2.html
Some good examples from SwordForum http://forums.swordforum.com/showthread.php?t=78360&highlight=chinese