Throughout the 5000-year history of China, chinese martial arts have developed a range of various techniques and weaponry for combat. Along with different hand-to-hand styles, there are many forms that incorporate the use of an ancient weapon that requires a level of mastery to proficiently use in battle.

The Four Major Weapons of Chinese Martial Arts

weapons chinese martial arts

While Chinese martial artists have narrowed down the list of martial art weapons for wushu to 18, among that list here are four primary weapons that have collectively come to be known as ‘The Courage of All Soldiers.’ These four include the broadsword, the spear, the staff, and straight sword:

  1. The King: The qiang (or Chinese spear) is a commonly used weapon in Chinese battlefield and is known as “The King of all Weapons.” While there have been many variations of the weapon, the qiang usually has a feature of having a pointed tip in the shape of a leaf and can be anywhere from 9 to 18 feet long. Qiangs that were equipped with a red horse-haired tassel right below the blade typically served three purposes. For one, it illustrated the owner to have an elite troop status. Secondly, it prevented blood from drizzling down all the way to the wooden handle (which would cause the spear to be slippery). Lastly, when used in battle, the swift swaying movement of the red hairs when using the spear would throw off the opponent’ visions, sometimes blurring it. This would prevent them from grabbing a hold of the spear.
  2. The General: Among the four major weapons, the Dao (or broad-sword) is a single edged Chinese blade that holds the moniker, “The General of all Weapons.” This weapon was used to slice and slash opponents, and were originally made of iron or steel. While the term Chinese word ‘dao’ may refer to any knife in general, the Dao usually was associated with the sword with a single-edged, moderately curved blade. The hilt of the sword was typically curved in a reverse direction to provide greater handling for the user. If the handle was made of wood, Chinese martial artists would wrap cord around it. Many Daos were also equipped with tassels at the base of the handle.
  3. The Gentleman: The jian (or Chinese straight sword) is one of the Chinese martial arts most popular weapons. Associated with the scholar class, its sleek sophisticated appearance gave it the nickname, “The Gentlemen of all Weapons.” First noted in records during the 7th century BCE, the jian has been closely associated as t’ai chi swords, since many Tai Chi practitioners use these weapons in their training. These blades typically have a wing-like short guard right above the hilt, with the handle sometimes being long enough to be handled with two hands, rather than one. Near the end of the handle, the jian is equipped with a pommel to improve balance and prevent a user’s hands from slipping through the end. Usually made from bronze, jian blades are generally straight, flattened, and double-edged with a more diamond shape.
  4. The Grandfather: The gun (or Chinese staff) is a long rod or stick that has received the nickname, ‘The Grandfather of all Weapons.’ Constructed from hard, durable material such as wax wood, red oak, graphite, or rattan, most gun are made with one thick at the end serving as the base and a thinner end near the tip (to distinguish from tip to base). They are typically created to be as tall as the user. Sun Wukong, a mythological figure in Chinese culture is most famously known to handle a gun as his primary weapon.

The Eighteen Arms (Weapons) of Chinese Martial Arts

weapons chinese martial arts

Amongst the myriad of weapons in Chinese history, there are mainly eighteen ancient weapons that many Chinese martial artists of Wushu believed were primarily most notable in battle. This list of weapons was known as ‘The Eighteen Arms of Wushu.’ This list of the most prominent weapons was first recorded to be mentioned in the Southern Song Dynasty during 1127-1279). Although over the decades, there are different versions, the weapons can typically be considered as the following:

  1. Jiang (spear)
  2. Ji (crescent-moon spear)
  3. Gun (staff)
  4. Yue (battle-axe)
  5. Da-pa (big trident)
  6. Da-dao (halberd)
  7. Chan (spade)
  8. Mao (lance)
  9. Sheng-biao (roped spear)
  10. Dao (scimitar)
  11. Jian (sword)
  12. Fu (hand-axe)
  13. Guo (hook-sword)
  14. Jian (rod)
  15. Bian (soft-whip)
  16. Guai (clutch)
  17. Chui (round hammer)
  18. Bi-shou (dagger)
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