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The Sword of Goujian, mysteriously remained intact after more than 2,000 years.



Practitioners of Chinese martial arts are often used to having to do with more or less economic than traditional weapons replicas. With few Euros you can afford a good jian to train but, fortunately for the fingers of the learner, not suitable for cutting. Obviously it is not always so. In the past, certain types of weapons were built by skilled craftsmen, using materials such fine and complex techniques that made them accessible only to certain social classes. For example, owning an excellent sword, millennia ago, it could be a privilege only within the reach of a nobleman and is also for this reason that flourished around these legends and stories that extolled as divine objects.

But how it justified the aura of legend surrounding these weapons? In 1965, during the archaeological excavations in the reservoir of Jingzhou (Hubei, China), it was found in a tomb, a bronze sword, perfectly preserved, attributed by archaeologists to GouJian, king of the state Yue in the Warring States Period (403- 222 ac). The most surprising thing is that after more than 2000 years, as well as being still in perfect conditions gloss, the sword is still able to cut. Surely there must have been a series of fortunate circumstances that allowed the weapon to be preserved so well but this can give us an idea of mastery achieved by the Chinese in building swords already 2000 years ago.

It should be highlighted that, among all the peoples, the Chinese were the last to replace the bronze with steel weapons and the only ones to get to alloys with almost double the amount of tin than the standard (20%). In this way they obtained very hard materials but unfortunately also brittle. To overcome this problem, for the most valuable weapons, the forgers could diversify the amount of tin depending on the needs. If the core of the blade could tend to almost pure copper, the edges are reached at high tin concentrations, with the result of obtaining a sharp but not too fragile sword. The Goujian sword seems the perfect artifact to demonstrate their skill in forging items with bronze, is in fact a sword of rare beauty both in design and technique. On either side of the blade are a kind of “certificate” of property that tells us that the sword has been constructed for the personal use of the Yue King. Besides “certificate of ownership” of the edges of the bar are decorated with rhomboid motifs, purely aesthetic, making it instantly recognizable. Being a valuable weapon, the blade is made with a bronze standard of diversified pond, with the steps above.

The sword was kept in a black wooden box. Sheathed. When scholars pulled her out of its sheath, they gasped. The blade was intact, not even touched by time. She had been buried two thousand years, and was still able to cut a stack of twenty sheets of paper. 55 cm long, entirely in bronze, Goujian weighed 875 grams and was the classic double-edged sword of the Chinese tradition. Hilt a delicate silk. While blue and turquoise crystals decorations drew the two sides of the blade. Not even a rusty wire. The sword had challenged and conquered time. No sign of oxidation. Technically impossible to believe. But the surprises did not stop there. On one of the sides of the sword could be seen written. Arranged in two columns. Eight characters in all, in ancient Chinese language. A variant of Zhuan Shu, a writing ‘seal’ pittogrammica difficult to interpret. Six of the eight characters were immediately deciphered. They said that the sword belonged to the King of Yue, and had been made for personal use. On the other two characters he dropped a shroud of mystery that for years has divided scholars.

It was decided that at least one of the two ‘signs’ would refer to Goujian, the last emperor of the alleged Yue State. And from that moment the sword was named after him. So far the story of the incredible discovery. The studies subsequently focused on the chemical composition of Goujian, which is objectively one of the most mysterious aspects of the sword ‘through time’. Tests show that the blacksmiths of Yue had reached such a knowledge of metallurgy to be able to incorporate stainless alloys in their blades. The swords of Chinese masters had been treated with chemicals resistant to rust, helping them to survive for centuries without any oxidation. But in recent weeks, even as Britain was holding court in the mysterious writing of the Viking Sword exhibited in London, in an exhibition on the Magna Carta, he has returned to talk about Goujian and those two pictograms still shrouded in mystery. In those two characters, according to many, it is hiding a secret: the real name of the last Emperor of the “Period of Spring and Autumn”, a piece of Chinese history (between 770 BC and 454 BC) still cloaked in legends and mysteries.

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