Swords - The Sword of Goujian

Regarded as a state treasure. the Sword of Goujian was unearthed in September 1965 in Jiangling County. Hubei Province. The sword is as legendary to the Chinese people as King Arthur`s sword in the West. Having been buried for more than 2.000 years. upon discovery. the sword was very sharp and not rusty. What`s more. it contains some rhombic etchings and 11 concentric circles located only 0.2 millimeters apart at the tip of the handle. It seems almost impossible that such a marvel of supreme craftsmanship could have been constructed so long ago.

According to Tan Weisi. leader of the archeological team responsible for the excavation. the treasure was found in a tomb of the Warring States Period (770-467BC). The team found a black wooden box on the left side of the skeleton. which housed a bronze sword with a scabbard. Everyone was shocked when an archeologist finally pulled out the sword. which was extraordinarily beautiful and shiny. When one of the team members attempted to touch the blade. his fingers began to bleed immediately upon contact.

The sword is 55.7 centimeters long with a 4.6-centimeter-wide blade and 8.4-centimeter-long handle. Each side of the blade is decorated with turquoises. On the blade near the handle. there are eight seal characters that translate to: ``The Sword belongs to the Goujian. the King of Yue State``.

Goujian was a famous emperor in Chinese history who reigned over the Yue State during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476BC). Although his kingdom was defeated by the State of Wu. Goujian led his army to victory 10 years later following the humiliation of sleeping on thorny firewood and eating the bile from a gallbladder every day. His story became very widespread in China. and some even say that the sword is the very weapon that restored a defeated state.

Besides its historic value. many scholars are also interested in why the sword has remained rust-free in a humid environment for more than 2.000 years. and how the delicate decorations were carved into the sword.

Scientific research shows that the sword is mainly a bronze alloy composed of cuprum. stannum and a small quantity of aluminum. iron. nickel and sulfur. and the flower pattern was probably a result of sulfuration. The proportion of cuprum and stannum also varies in different parts of the sword. The main body of the sword consists of more cuprum. which strengthens its tenacity; its edges are richer in stannum. which makes the sword very sharp.

In the 1990s. other research has revealed a high proportion of sulfur around the flower pattern and sulfide cuprum. which is rustproof. On the blade`s surface scientists have also found traces of a chemical treatment used to prevent rust.

The sword of Goujian is one of the most exquisite examples of early metallurgy in China. Even today. the sword would be very difficult to replicate.