Chinese Sword Tassel: A Fusion of Art and Function
What’s in this article?
Every region of the world has its own sword culture with specialized and easy-to-recognize trademarks. In China, for the Dao and Jian swords, it is the Chinese sword tassel, a sort of rope or lanyard hanging off the sword’s pommels.
Whether these tassels serve any practical purpose, such as making the sword’s wielder more adept at using it, or if they’re merely ornamental, is up to debate. This article will discuss the tassels seen on traditional Chinese swords and offer insight into their use. We will go over their history, then decide whether or not they’re applicable in real-life combat scenarios.
Why Do Chinese Swords Have Tassels?
The Chinese sword tassel is the most well-known characteristic that sets the Chinese sword apart from any other sword in the world. The Chinese sword tassel is an adaptable accessory that sits at the tip of the hilt/handle or pommel and highlights its quick movements. Some believe that it improves the level of swordsmanship.
These beliefs can be extreme, and although it can be found in Chinese scripts that the tassels bring help when being used, their use might simply be for looks alone. Despite that being the case, here we will present you with the most popular beliefs as to why Chinese swords have tassels on them.
The first acceptable theory for why Chinese swords have tassels is to separate the soldiers into formations or their own armies. Not every warrior had a tassel, but every general or squad leader could. This helped their soldiers easily recognize them and know which regiment was theirs.
Another use is a differentiation of rank. The colors can represent a higher or lower status in the military hierarchy and visualize who is supposed to give and take orders.
Martial Art Training
Some martial arts experts avoid using a sword with a tassel because it throws off the sword’s balance, but other experts welcome the additional challenge it presents to their students. A tassel adds an extra challenge when moving a sword, and the goal is to keep it from coming into contact with the student’s hand or body. Failure to perform proper movements with the tassel will result in the tassel wrapping around their arms.
Another reason Chinese swords have tassels may be because the tassel’s motion might catch the eye and divert attention away from the competition. However, this distracting function is unlikely to be an issue for an experienced practitioner. These folks are trained to be aware of all characteristics of the competitor and their surroundings, especially the enemy’s sword, stance, blade flow, and orientation.
Blinding the Enemy
In specific counters, the tassel can be aimed at the opponent’s eyes, causing irritation if it makes contact. The Tai Chi sword technique known as “Sparrow Carries the Earth(soil)” can also be performed with the tassel pointing directly towards the opponent’s face. Because these methods can only be employed at close range, they can be useful if completed correctly, bringing the opponent within striking distance for a knockout blow.
Blocking a Blade
Putting enough force into the movement and momentum to the tassel attached to a pommel provides enough counterweight to block and move an incoming blade at least slightly. This small block could save a life and be enough for an effective counterattack.
The tassel can be used to swing and attack the opponent directly. If the opponent is unarmed, it can be used as a blinding element, as mentioned above, but if a smaller type of dart or blade is added to the tassel, it could easily penetrate through flesh. This is controversial due to the possibility of damaging oneself, but it could be possible if done by a master martial artist.
Pulling away a Shaft or Disarming
The tassel can be wrapped around the enemies’ spear-like weapon, especially its shaft. This gives the fencer the leverage to deflect and move away from the pole. The tassel, in this case, must be secured around the base of the handle, which would be above the pommel rather than the modern screw-based tang’s weak fastener.
This same tactic could be applied to an enemy’s arm. When dodging an attack, the tassel could easily go around their hand and possibly even disarm the opponent.
Wrapping the Wrist
The Chinese sword tassel can be tied and wrapped around the wielder’s hand. This will offer a much sturdier grip on the handle, lowering the possibility of the sword flying away from the fast movements. While it isn’t common, this type of wrap could cause the sword to be thrown into an extended type of attack and then returned.
A talisman or magical component may aid the user’s psyche, such as a tassel embroidered with a prayer of protection passed down through the family’s generations. These beliefs are meaningful and can have serious consequences in battle. For example, if the user of a weapon adorned with a talisman feels safe while using it, their stress during battle can be minimized.
Some would say that the tassel is only for ornamental purposes. It is widely used by Chinese sword dancers or martial artists with swift and entertaining jumping moves, adding an extra element of agility, swiftness, and expertise.
History of the Chinese Sword Tassel
Prior to the use of the tassel, there was a rope or a lanyard tied around the ring pommels that existed in Chinese history. The earliest traces of art we can find with the lanyard is actually from the Tang Dynasty, as shown above.
In history, the lanyard was a very effective tool to use, mainly as an instrument to tie the sword and its handle around the user’s hand. This was done mainly during and after the Tang period when the cavalry troops were abundant. This method could be effective when used from a mounted position so the sword wouldn’t slip out of control. The tassel could also be wrapped around a metal loop just under the pommel, signifying the leading officer or a part of an army regiment.
There are also arts depicting a lanyard tied around the user’s hands in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. With the rise and popularity of the spectacular Chinese sword dance, the tassel would mainly be used for entertainment.
Is the Chinese Sword Tassel Helpful in Combat?
The Sword tassel is, without a doubt, a very beautiful and interesting part of Chinese sword culture. It is frequently seen throughout history dating back thousands of years. Still, most of the time, it is not used in combat scenarios.
The tassel was a common feature on ceremonial and decorative Chinese swords used by the upper class, scholars, and practitioners of the traditional Chinese sword dance technique. The swords utilized for martial arts instruction and military purposes seldom had tassels, except for higher-ranking officers. A tassel on a spear would be better than on a sword.
The reason for this is that despite its modest weight, a tassel can throw off the sword’s balance, making it more difficult to use. It also might entangle the user’s arm. The major factor in our experience is that the opponent can simply catch the tassel, allowing them to seize control of the sword easily.