Legendary weapons, arms, and armor are important motifs
in Chinese mythology
as well as Chinese legend, cultural symbology, and fiction. Weapons featured in Chinese mythology, legend, cultural symbology, and fiction include Guanyu
's pole weapon (featured in the 14th century historical novel ''Romance of the Three Kingdoms
''). This non-factually documented weapon has been known as the Green Dragon Crescent Blade
. Other weapons from Chinese mythology, legend, cultural symbology, and fiction include the shield and battleax of the defiant dancer Xingtian
's bow and arrows, given him by Di Jun
, and the many weapons and armor of Chiyou
, who is associated with the elemental power of metal. Chinese mythology, legend, cultural symbology, and fiction features the use of elemental weapons such as ones evoking the powers of wind and rain to influence battle.
Chinese mythology refers to mythology
that has been passed down in oral or written forms from in the geographic area now known as "China
". Chinese mythology includes many varied myths from regional and cultural traditions. Chinese mythology is far from monolithic, not being an integrated system, even among just Han people. Chinese mythology is encountered in the traditions of various classes of people, geographic regions, historical periods including the present, and from various ethnic groups. China is the home of many mythological traditions, including that of Han Chinese
and their Huaxia
predecessors, as well as Tibetan mythology
, Turkic mythology
, Korean mythology
, and many others. However, the study of Chinese mythology tends to focus upon material in Chinese language. Like many mythologies, Chinese mythology has in the past been believed to be, at least in part, a factual recording of history. Along with Chinese folklore
, Chinese mythology forms an important part of Chinese folk religion
(Yang 2005, 4). Many stories regarding characters and events of the distant past have a double tradition: ones which present a more historicized or euhemerized version and ones which present a more mythological version (Yang 2005, 12–13). Many myths involve the creation and cosmology of the universe and its deities and inhabitants. Some mythology involves creation myths, the origin of things, people and culture. Some involve the origin of the Chinese state. Some myths involve a culture hero
who used or made and/or taught people how make or use artifacts.(Yang 2005, 5-10)
One of figures of classical mythology is Xingtian, a defier of Heaven and a dancing wielder of shield and weapon (Birrell 1993, 216–217). Xingtian's name is also transliterated as "Hsing T'ien". Xingtian fought against the warrior-god Huangdi (Birrell 1993, 130). Defiant to the last: even after being beheaded, Xingtian carries on, becoming immortal (Birrell 1993, 181). This, despite having his head chopped off, and having to resort to using his nipples for eyes and his navel for a mouth (Birrell 1993, 216–217). Generally, Xingtian's fighting paraphernalia is depicted as a shield and an ax.
Di Jun and Yi's bow and arrows
The great archer Yi
was given a bow and arrows by Di Jun
, in order to dispel the noxious presence of nine of ten over-heating suns (Birrell 1993, 314). Some scholars identify Di Jun and Di Ku
as variations from a shared original source (Yang 2005, 100).
had or has a demon-slaying sword, according to legend (Eberhard 1986, 281–282).
Guan Yu and his glaive
The mighty warrior, later general, and subsequently deified Guan Yu is particularly associated with his glaive
weapon, known in China as a ''yanyuedao'', "crescent moon blade", or as a ''guandao
''. Guan's blade-weapon is known as the Green Dragon Crescent Moon Sword or as the Frost Fair Blade, from the idea that during a battle in the snow, the blade continuously had blood on it; the blood froze and made a layer of frost on the blade. According to Chapter 1 of the ''Romance of the Three Kingdoms''
, the Green Dragon Crescent Blade was said to weigh 82 catties
. During the Eastern Han Dynasty
and Three Kingdoms
periods, one catty was approximately 220 grams, so 82 catties would have been approximately 18 kilograms (~40 pounds). A weapon weighing about 100 pounds (~45 kilograms), purported to be the Green Dragon Crescent Blade, is on display at the Purple Cloud Temple
in China today. Despite the weight, Guan Yu was said to have ridden alone for a thousands of miles, carrying his weapon, and to have capably wielded it one-handed, according to the somewhat mythologically-based novel ''Romance of the Three Kingdoms''.
Magical weapons in ''Journey to the West''
Various weapons appear in ''Journey to the West
'', some of interest as part of a mythological legacy.
Ruyi Jingu Bang
Ruyi Jingu Bang is a name for the magic staff of Sun Wukong
Fly whisks appear as weapons of immense magical potency, especially wielded by Daoists.
Use in notable battles
Battles of Banquan and Zhuolu
The early mythological battles of China were the battles of Banquan and of Zhuolu. Of the two, the conflict at Zhoulu is the more mythologically replete: both offensive and defensive weapons are described, along with countermeasures. Also, a third battle was held to have been fought between Huangdi and Yandi, as part of the series match-up (Birrell 1993, 132, citing ''Ta Tai Li chi, Wu ti te'', SPTK 7.1b)
The Battle of Banquan () is the first battle in Chinese history
is recorded by Sima Qian
's in the ''Records of the Grand Historian
'', a major source of both historical and mythological material. It was fought by ''Huangdi'', the Yellow Emperor
, and ''Yandi'', the Flame Emperor
According to the Chinese mythological account ''Classic of Mountains and Seas
'', Chiyou, various allies fought against Huangdi at the plain of Zhuolu. Both sides used magical means, but Chi You had the advantage of forged swords and halberds. Using his powers, Chiyou covered the battlefield in thick fog. The Yellow Emperor's troops found their way through the mist with the help of a magical south-pointing chariot
. Huangdi used Nüba
(also known as Ba or Han Ba), a drought deity, to harm Chiyou's troops by application of weather control as a weapon. Yinglong
, the winged dragon, finally defeated Chiyou (Sima Qian
, "Wǔdì Běnjì", ''Records of the Grand Historian
Yandi is also known as the Flame Emperor or the Red Emperor. He fought a war with Huangdi which was decided in the Battle of Banquan
. The fire with which Yandi is associated seems to have been put to agricultural purposes along the lines of slash-and-burn
farming techniques (Wu 1982, 56). In mythology, Yandi uses fire as an elemental weapon, in opposition to the use by Huangdi of water as an elemental weapon (Birrell 1993, 131).
The mythological Chiyou
was supposed to have invented weapons and war, Chiyou's legendary war with Huangdi
included enhancing the technology to use of artificial mists and possibly the use of the compass as a countermeasure by Huangdi, and evoking the powers of wind and rain to influence battle (Christie 1968, 90–91). Chiyou is especially associated with the element of metal, using it to form arms and armor (Birrell, 296, and so on).
Huangdi is also known as the Yellow Emperor, Yellow Thearch, or Xuanyuan, among other names. Well known as a culture hero
in Chinese culture, part of the mythology surrounding him involves his martial prowess and the use of mythological arms and apparatus of war. One example is the south-pointing chariot
. Another example is the use of water as an elemental weapon (for example, see Birrell 2003, 130–137).
Made by notable smiths
The makers and origins of weapons and armor is often mythologically important. Examples include the swords and spears originating from Wu (state)
, such as the sword used to slice open Gun
to release his son Yu
, or the legendary swords of Gan Jiang and Mo Ye
(Birrell 1993, 222). The mythological materials quoted by Birrell from various sources illustrate the dangers associated in mythology with mythological weapons, both their manufacture and their acquisition.
Ou Yezi was a famous swordsmith, according to Chinese mythology (see Birrell ''loc. cit.'' below, and so on).
Ganjiang and Moxie
Also known as Kan Chiang and Mo Yeh, Gan Jiang and Mo Xie were a husband and wife pair and eponymous makers of paired swords, with Gan Jiang having studied under Master Smith Ou Yezi
, according at least to the ''Spring and Autumn Annals of Wu and Yue
'' (Birrell 1993, 221-227 and 303). Gan-jiang was the male, Mo-xie female. They were sometimes said to have been forged from the liver and kidneys of a metal-eating hare
residing in the Kunlun Mountains
(Eberhard 1986, 282).
Famous swords of Chinese legend or mythology
Various famous swords may be encountered Chinese legend or mythology. Some of these swords also appear in literary fiction; or, various other media, including comics and video games. There are two main types of sword: ''jian'' and ''dao''. Swords with estimated or presumed magical powers (or, that were especially well-made) were often designated by the epithet "treasure" (寶), as is the case with "treasure ''jian''" (寶劍) and "treasure'' dao'' (寶刀)". Famous sword smiths documented in mythology include Ou Yezi
and the husband and wife pair Gan Jiang and Mo Xie.
''Jian'' swords have blades with two edges, longer than what would be considered to be a dagger. Translations into English are mostly provisional. In Chinese mythology, in various sources, associated with much related mythological material, various swords are said to have been forged by Gan Jiang (who studied under Ou Yezi
) and Mo Xie (also transliterated as "Kan Chiang" and "Mo Yeh"), who were a husband and wife pair and eponymous makers of paired swords (Birrell 1993, 221-224 and 303). Gan-jiang was the male, Mo-xie female (eponymously both swords and smiths). The Gan-jiang and Mo-xie swords were sometimes said to have been forged from the liver and kidneys of a metal-eating hare
residing in the Kunlun Mountains
(Eberhard 1986, 281–282, ''sub'' "Sword"). Note that just because these swords may be encountered in mythology does not mean that they never existed historically.
Some of the weapons most commonly wielded against demons were made of peach-wood, such as the either actually made or made according to mythology peach-wood bows actually (or mythologically) wielded to shoot down mythological, superstitiously, or religiously conceived or believed demons (Eberhard 1986, 228).
Birrell (1993, 103) cites the following:
"Club" is the large stick that he [[Feng_Meng,_that_is_.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="Feng_Meng.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="[[Feng_Meng,_that_is_">Feng_Meng.html"_style="text-decoration:_none;"class="mw-redirect"_title="[[Feng_Meng">[[Feng_Meng,_that_is_made_of_peach_wood_to_batter_[[Ho_Yi.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="Feng Meng">[[Feng Meng, that is ">Feng_Meng.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="[[Feng Meng">[[Feng Meng, that is made of peach wood to batter [[Ho Yi">Yi to death with. From that time on demons are terrified of peach-wood. (Hsu Shen's commentary on ''Huai-Nan Tzu, Ch'in yen'', SPPY 14.1b)
There are many sources for information on arms and armor in Chinese mythology. These sources range from literature to oral sources and from classical times to modern times. Mythological gems may be embedded in the matrix of histories, such as [[Sima Qian's ''[[Records of the Grand Historian'' or located somewhere in the mythological landscapes of the ''[[Classic of Mountains and Seas''. Besides the Chinese sources and their translations, a mythological studies oriented literature in English has been an actively growing field.
*:Category:Weapons of China
*Chinese martial arts
'': general article about double-edged straight sword used during the last 2,500 years in China.
*List of Chinese wars and battles
*List of magical weapons
*Green Dragon Crescent Blade
*''Hymn to the Fallen'' (Jiu Ge)
*Mr. He's jade
'': a video game series.
(1993). ''Chinese Mythology''. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins).
*Christie, Anthony (1968). ''Chinese Mythology''. Feltham: Hamlyn Publishing.
(2003 986 (German version 1983)
, ''A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols: Hidden Symbols in Chinese Life and Thought''. London, New York: Routledge.
, "Wǔdì Běnjì", ''Records of the Grand Historian
*Wu, K. C.
(1982). ''The Chinese Heritage''. New York: Crown Publishers. .
*Yang, Lihui and Deming An, with Jessica Anderson Turner (2005). ''Handbook of Chinese Mythology''. New York: Oxford University Press.
*''Classic of Mountains and Seas
*Strassberg, Richard E., editor, translator, and comments. 2002 018
''A Chinese Bestiary: Strange Creatures from the GUIDEWAYS THROUGH MOUNTAINS AND SEAS''. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
''et al.'', David Hawkes
, translator and introduction (2011 985
. ''The Songs of the South: An Ancient Chinese Anthology of Poems by Qu Yuan and Other Poets''. London: Penguin Books. .
Category:Weapons of China