Long Quan Sword: The first Iron Sword
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The Long Quan sword, also known as Longquan or Lóngquán, is undoubtedly the most well-known sword in China. History says that Ou Yezi, the great master of making swords, made it about 2,600 years ago. It is said that it is the first iron sword.
In this article, we will be discussing everything that you need to know about this ancient Chinese sword. We’ll state its obvious characteristics and how it was and still is being used today. Then we will go over the ancient construction method and its history.
Characteristics of the Long Quan Sword
The Long Quan sword has four distinct characteristics that Chinese swordsmiths describe as “simple, elegant, chilling, and with a specific hard softness.” Chilling may refer to chilling your blood, while hard softness could mean deadly and agile in movement. It looks remarkably like the normal Chinese Jian sword.
Length & Size
The overall length of the Long Quan sword can be from 2.6 to 3.2 feet / 80 cm to 1 m long. This makes it a perfect size for use not just as a one-handed sword but also as a two-handed sword. Therefore, it is an ideal weapon to use in various scenarios.
The weight of the Long Quan when it is not inside the sheath is 1.7 to 1.9 lbs / 800 to 900 grams. It is a very light sword that will allow you to use it with traditional Chinese attacking moves (jumping, crouching, and so on).
The blade of the Long Quan sword is double-edged and has a very sharp point. The blade starts from the guard and ends at the tip of the sword. The neck of it is slightly bigger, and at the end, it narrows down into a sharp edge.
The point of balance for this blade is just next to the guard. The blade length is usually 2.3 to 2.6 feet / 70 to 80 cm long and is made from iron/steel.
After the blade of the sword is created, then comes the important process of carving. This is when the traditional symbols of China are added and engraved on it. Usually, the Long Quan sword contains the symbol of Long Quan town, representing its authenticity and real origin.
The guard can be shaped in different types of forms. Sometimes it can be a bat, cloud, dragon, or any of the traditional Chinese symbols. However, it is usually in a circular shape and offers good protection to the user’s hand.
The handle of the Long Quan sword is 0.3 to 0.6 feet / 10 to 18 cm long. It is made from dense hardwood material and offers a sturdy grip. The pommel can also be used as a two-handed weapon.
The scabbard is usually made from hardwood and is the same proportion as the blade, maybe slightly bigger. The overall length of the sheathed Long Quan is 2.9 to 3.2 feet / 90 cm to 1 meter long.
There are a lot of fittings on the Long Quan sword. The scabbard is often split into several parts because of the number of fittings. The scabbard’s beginning and end have a metal material with many smaller scabbard bands in between.
Usages of the Long Quan Sword
The Long Quan straight sword is great for everyday practice, LARP competitions, cosplay, and shows. It is also very popular in movies and anime.
The Long Quan sword is the oldest iron sword in Chinese history which is why it has many usages. Even ancient paintings show that the Long Quan was used in ancient battles and placed in tombs after the death of royal soldiers. However, the sword was used as a last resort as long spears were used more often.
A 45-angle is best when used for striking. This is the most practical causing the most damage. It is a double-edged sword that can be used for slashing and thrusting. It can be used both as both a one and two-handed weapon.
The Long Quan played a very big role in China’s martial arts, just like the Katana sword in Japan. It plays a significant role in the nationalism in China. That is why it is one of the four main weapons used in Kung Fu and Tai Chi.
The Long Quan sword is a very good beginner-friendly sword. If you plan to start wielding an ancient Chinese sword filled with history and tradition, this is one of the best to begin with.
You will be using a powerful tool that has been used for more than 2000 years! It is both light and very agile and will allow you to do various types of strikes. You can use it one-handed, but we recommend starting by holding the handle with both hands.
Construction of the Long Quan Sword
First, the iron must be washed before it even gets to the construction part. It is carried around with the traditional Chinese carrying pole. The iron needed for a quality Long Quan should be 70% and more pure iron.
The iron is then melted in a furnace, and the compound folding forging process begins. This is when the heated iron is folded over and over again for the iron sword to get its shape and length. It is made similarly to how the later Japanese samurai swords were made.
Each blade is made by forge-folding thin layers of mild steel over a high-carbon edge plate. When placed in direct light, users can see how the heat treatment on the blade can make clouds of crystals that look almost like Damascus steel, which looks very beautiful.
Then, the sword is heated inside the fire again to get its hardness. After this process is complete, it is placed in very cold water to quench it. Finally comes the grinding of the sword to make it sharp and usable for action.
History of the Long Quan Sword
The Long Quan sword, named after the city of Longquan in East China’s Zhejiang province where it was made, was an important part of the development of weapons in China and around the world.
During the spring and autumn period in ancient China (770-476 BC), Ou Yezi, a master swordsmith from the State of Yue, is said to have made three valuable swords called Long Quan, Tai’e, and Gongbu at the foot of Qinxi Mountain in Longquan.
Since then, his way of making swords has been passed down from maker to maker for the past 2,500 years.
To make a Long Quan sword, there were a total of 28 different steps that had to be done accurately. That is why in history, this town and the swordsmiths that made the Long Quan played a large role in the history of China.
Both the blade and the scabbard are made with beautiful craftsmanship that took years to learn. A Long Quan sword is of high quality and has a lot of ornamental value. This is because it is perfectly sharp, has a cold glitter, has the right amount of metal in the blade, and contains detailed metal carvings.
In 520 BCE, the army of the Qin state defeated the army of the Hua state by charging on foot with swords instead of their usual halberds. This was one of the first battles where the Long Quan sword played a large part in the victory.
Sometimes this sword is called Jian, the word for the Chinese sword. However, there is a slight difference between the two that can be found only in the name. The Long Quan is the ancient version directly derived from the Longquan town.
Emperor Gaozu, who started the Tang dynasty, made it illegal to use the character Yun because it was part of his own name. So this is how this sword became known as Long Quan.
Yun means a deep pool, but it also means “deep” or “profound.” Before this happened, swords from Lóngquán were also called “deep well swords” or simply yun jiàn.
Long Quan Sword’s Town
The art of making swords in Longquan dates back a few thousand years. A long time ago, skilled swordsmiths and other craftspeople made blades of such high quality that they spread to other parts of China and even Japan and Korea.
In Longquan, there are more than 4,000 people who make swords. Together, they make up to 20 different kinds of swords that are shipped to countries and regions all over the world.
This town proudly holds this tradition to this day. It is known as the best location to get any type of sword in China. Many people there will say that having a sword is a necessity, and it proudly represents a Chinese national symbol.
The techniques for making Long Quan swords were added to China’s list of national intangible cultural heritages on May 20, 2006, and Longquan town as its heart and core.
In Chinese culture, the Long Quan has a lot of meaning. It is a sign of supreme power and the glory that generals strive for. It is also the weapon of warriors and a symbol of the world of adventure that wandering knights long for. It is the legacy that Chinese smiths have kept safe for thousands of years.