Why did they hang rings on Chinese swords (6 photos)

1 December 2023

The Chinese often inserted iron rings on the blunt side of the blade. Quite massive and heavy. Why did they do this?

It is unlikely for beauty, since the weapon, first of all, must be effective for attack and/or defense. Decorations are only suitable for ceremonial weapons, but we are talking about combat blades here.

In fact, there are several reasons and they are all practical.

1. The rings helped disable the enemy’s sword. If you took a blow from an enemy blade on them, it would dull faster and become useless.

The rings were also placed on the handle. Bright scarves were hung on them, which distracted the enemy's attention.

2. Rings improved balance. If you hold the sword vertically, the rings, under the influence of earth's gravity, slope down. And the center of gravity of the sword shifted slightly towards the palm. And it became easier to control the blade.

3. The weight of the blade increased. This was often needed for training purposes. If you hang a lot of rings, the blade becomes noticeably heavier. By training with a heavy sword, a fencer could then handle lighter weapons much more easily.

Boxers often train using the same scheme with small dumbbells and weights. After such training in regular sparring, the hands begin to literally “fly”.

4. The rings made a sound when they hit each other. It would seem a useless effect and, rather, even a negative one. However, it had meaning for the Chinese and was part of etiquette.

The classic swords that were issued to the Chinese "police" and military were without rings. Swords with rings were most often worn by aristocrats, aesthetes or practicing swordsmen

The sound implied that its owner would not attack on the sly, from around the corner. And he is always ready to fight one on one in a fair duel. And the sound can give away his location if he is hiding.

5. Such a sword was easier to pull out of a piece of wood. Which also made it an effective training weapon when a fighter trained to fencing on dummies or logs.

Looks like a very effective remedy. Why weren’t these rings used by other peoples in the Middle Ages, adopting the experience of the Chinese?

The rings had one significant drawback. Heavy rings reduce the force and speed of the blow. The swordsman has to put more effort into his swing and strike. And this neutralizes all the above advantages. And the sheath is a complete pain.

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