The Ancient Sword Of Goujian

Edratman

Ad Honorem
Feb 2009
6,280
Eastern PA
#11
The Chinese had some wonderful swords but the sword of Goujian is not one of them. The high sulfur content is not a good thing because it increases brittleness. It tells us that the copper smelter was inefficient and not removing enough sulfur from the ore. The sulfur content is probably why it cracked in 1994, which tells us that it was never wielded in battle because it would have cracked the first time it was used.

The existence of trace elements like chrome and molybdenum tells us nothing about their metallurgical capability because those elements were present in the original ore. All they did was realise that some ores produce better swords than others and used those instead; they had no clue about the metallurgical content of those ores.
It only takes a single look at the sword to realize that it was solely intended for ceremonial use. Mechanical properties related to function were never a concern of the sword smiths.
 
Likes: songtsen

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,016
Australia
#12
These days we call them "wall hangers"; decorated pieces of metal with no practical purpose designed to be hung on the wall and look pretty. But you can't tell simply by looking. We have some heavily decorated swords made from functional alloys and clear evidence of battle damage so some of these were meant for combat.
 
Last edited:
Jan 2015
2,843
MD, USA
#13
The sword is the persistent symbol of empires, fantasy, chivalry and knighthood. It's one of the world's most ancient technologies, connected with breakthroughs in metallurgy that would change the world.
The ancient sword of Goujian was found in 1965, this rare and unusual sword was found in a tomb in China. It was belonging to King Goujian who once ruled the ancient kingdom of Shanghai, China and Despite being well over 2,500 years old.
According to the leader of the archaeological team responsible for the excavation, this sword was discovered in a tomb, in a near sealed wooden box next to a skeleton. The team was amazed when the perfectly preserved bronze sword with scabbard was removed from the box. When they pull out, the blade was revealed to be untarnished despite being buried in damp conditions for over two millennia. Archaeologists conducted a test and it showed that the blade could easily cut a stack of twenty pieces of paper. It is an unusual sword.

Principally this sword is made from bronze, the metal also contains other elements that reinforce its structure and strength, such as sulfur, lead, copper and iron, while the razor-sharp edges were made from tin. Archaeologist discovered, untarnished despite spending over 2 millennia in a damp box, it is the higher concentration of copper and sulfur that have given the sword resilience against rusting.
The size of the sword is 55.6 centimeters in length, including an 8.4 centimeters hilt, the blade is 4.6 centimeters in wide at is base and the weight is 875 grams. It also has a decoration of blue crystals and turquoise. The haft of the sword is bound by silk and the pommel is composed of eleven concentric circles.

The sword of Gouijian was loaned as an expedition in Singapore in 1994. But a workman drawing it from the scabbard accidentally banged it against a hard surface. That’s why there’s a small crack in the blade that remains to this day. It is now against the law to remove the sword from the borders of China to avoid similar incidents.
Today, the sword of Goujian is now considered a national treasure of China and a priceless antique sword.
This item seems to have grown itself a fetish cult following. Certainly its state of preservation was remarkable, but otherwise it's just a nice sword, similar to any number of others I've seen from other parts of the world.

Also, I'm hoping there are some translation problems in the text! Bronze IS copper and tin, so mentioning copper as an additive is rather humorous. And no, you don't make "razor-sharp" edges from tin. Iron is a common trace element, and lead could be a trace element or it could have been added, but not for strength! But yeah, the very fact that an "accidental" knock caused a crack is pretty good evidence that this piece would not have done well in combat. There were far better blades around. It's also rather heavy for that length.

Matthew
 
Jan 2015
2,843
MD, USA
#16
Okay, I can probably dig this up with a little Googling, but why the heck does that look like an IRON blade, perfectly logical for 3rd century BC, but they only refer to BRONZE weapons? Were the uber-advanced super-duper Chinese really 500 years behind in metallurgy? Or just making bronze weapons for burial? Or is that item in the photo not really from that tomb?

Also, plenty of bronzes come out of the ground in good condition, in Britain and other places, while others are more corroded. It's certainly all about the soil and environmental conditions, no surprise there.

Matthew
 
Oct 2013
6,078
Planet Nine, Oregon
#17
Okay, I can probably dig this up with a little Googling, but why the heck does that look like an IRON blade, perfectly logical for 3rd century BC, but they only refer to BRONZE weapons? Were the uber-advanced super-duper Chinese really 500 years behind in metallurgy? Or just making bronze weapons for burial? Or is that item in the photo not really from that tomb?

Also, plenty of bronzes come out of the ground in good condition, in Britain and other places, while others are more corroded. It's certainly all about the soil and environmental conditions, no surprise there.

Matthew
I think the bronze swords were meant for combat and some iron ones were there too. The swords are hexagonal in cross section, and quite thick, almost like bars.
Agreed about bronze holding up fine in many condition!
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,822
Sydney
#18
The chinese were quite late adopting Iron weapons , the consensus is that they got it from India with a minority suggesting the steppe corridor

Good bronze , which they had , is equivalent to early iron
only steel has a clear advantage
it is also much easier to work and is perfectly suited for mass production
the real issue is obtaining the raw materials , especially tin
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,016
Australia
#19
I think iron is a lot easier to work than bronze. Iron can be worked hot so you don't have to worry about work-hardening. Iron can be forge-welded, which is useful for a great many applications and tricks.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,822
Sydney
#20
Bronze can be cast at a lower temperature
this is quite convenient for making large amount of standardized weapons
Iron require forging , which is quite a fuel and labor intensive
each item is one of a kind
for information sulfurous bronze is absolutely equivalent to stainless steel

if on has to make fifty thousands halberds quickly , bronze would be more suitable
as long as the materials were available

the barbarians at the Western end of the European landmass switched to iron because they couldn't get bronze
they had plenty of wood for the charcoal , labor for the asking and iron ore is quite common
the widespread change from the bronze age to the iron age correspond to the collapse of the old civilizations
one can supose that the trade network bringing tin from the atlantic seaboard made good quality bronze dificult to make
 

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