Spear shaft material/dimensions

Sword typology and Edge Weapons forms of the Chinese Empire and related cultures with an emphasis on their relationship to Swordsmanship.

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Dan Fleet
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Spear shaft material/dimensions

Post by Dan Fleet » Thu Mar 29, 2007 7:52 pm

Greetings all,

Does anyone have any recommended references for materials/weight/construction of Chinese spear shafts?

Does anyone make/sell modern reproductions?

Thanks.

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Peter Dekker
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Post by Peter Dekker » Fri Mar 30, 2007 1:45 pm

Hi,

I sell Qing replica spears but these are detachable and to be honest, apart from the spearhead they are not very historical in terms of length and shaft construction.

If you like I can provide you with a series of historical lengths of spears according to Qianlong era military regulations. Where the text is very specific on the materials of arrows, it does not mention the type of wood in spears so my guess is that that was allowed to vary according to what might have been available at the time.

Some were lacquered (but haven't translated the exact colors yet) and most were a lot longer than you commonly see them today.

Some people I know recommend ashwood for spear shafts, I got not much experience, and for the tip I think it's best to go for an antique head. The hair around the tip was horse hair dyed red. Horsehair is readily available for violin bows but might be a bit expensive because only the best is reserved for this purpose. Unfortunately for us, not many dealers have spear makers in mind...

(Might one find a cheap source for black horse hair, I'm interested because I need it to make a Qing hat ornament that contains a bunch of horse hair as well.)

-Peter
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Willing is not enough, we must do.


-Bruce Lee

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Antique Chinese Arms & Functional reproductions

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Dan Fleet
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Post by Dan Fleet » Thu Apr 12, 2007 9:50 pm

Hello Peter,

Apologies for not acknowledging your response sooner, thank you very kindly.

I would be interested in whatever information is available (or at least pointers to decent translated-to-English resources, if you know of any).

The horsehair is a good data point as well. I will have to see if any such is available in my area.

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Post by Peter Dekker » Sun Apr 15, 2007 2:13 am

The Tiger Spear Division's Tiger Spear (huqiangying huqiang) was 3 chi and 3 cun overall which translates roughly to about 275 cm long. It's shaft was made of white waxwood.

Right behind it's tip there are two horn bars attached with cord to prevent the spear from penetrating too deep. The spear's tip end is wrapped in lacquered black material (possibly birch bark), and the profile of a winding cord or iron winding van be seen underneath. Period artwork shows men carrying these spears on hunting expeditions and fighting tigers with them.

A fine example of a Tiger Spear is now on display in the Forbidden City, it's length and construction match the regulations pretty accurately. The shaft is very thick, I estimate 5-6 cm, and has no noticeable distal taper.

Qianlong's special jianruiying assault troops had spears called jianruiying changqiang (Jianruiying Long Spear) but these were about 340 cm long and had two round wooden balls attached to the cords at the tip end, instead of the bars on the Tiger Spear. It also had a long steel bar inserted in the side of the spear that was "sharp as a knife" and was probably meant to prevent an opponent from grabbing the spear right behind the spearhead. No wood type is mentioned for this spear, and no examples seem to have survived.

The spears most of us are most familiar with, with a red horsehair tassel, are represented in three kinds in the 1759 Huangchao Liqi Tushi. Lengths are:

456 cm
466 cm
303 cm

(Lengths based on a 1 cun = 3.33 cm conversion but it is notable that most antique rulers I found so far have slightly longer cun, of about 3.5 cm.)

Their construction is relatively simple, a socketed spearhead fits on a cone shaped shaft end that was probably glued in place with fish bladder glue. Some examples show holes where nails might have been used but these are rare. Right under the socket the horsehair was tied sticking forward (towards the spearhead) and was then bent backwards and tied again, giving it the shape you usually see.

Unfortunately, I do not know of any English sources with accurate information on construction and dimensions of spears. All my current information about them came from period artwork, military regulations and actual antiques.

-Peter
Knowing is not enough, we must apply.
Willing is not enough, we must do.


-Bruce Lee

http://www.mandarinmansion.com
Antique Chinese Arms & Functional reproductions

http://www.manchuarchery.org
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Tiger Spear pictures

Post by Peter Dekker » Sun Apr 15, 2007 2:55 am

Pictures of a wonderful (probably 18th century) Tiger Spear. The spearhead has a very nice relief that I think is inspired by designs seen on Indian weapons like katar, much like other Indian design features that gained pupularity under Qianlong's reign like the pistol shaped jade saber hilts and U-turn fullers.

Image

Image

-Peter
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-Bruce Lee

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Antique Chinese Arms & Functional reproductions

http://www.manchuarchery.org
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Post by Dan Fleet » Sun Apr 15, 2007 9:52 am

Peter, this is excellent, thank you very much for this research.

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Post by Peter Dekker » Sun Apr 15, 2007 11:09 am

Hi Dan,

You're most welcome..

I'm in a long term project translating large parts of the Huangchao Liqi Tushi with help of Philip Tom's proof reading and my Taiwanese friend Yiming's help in classical Chinese on certain parts that prove beyond the scope of my dictionaries.

It contains pretty detailed descriptions and woodblock prints of many weapons but with so many items to do, it might take a while for me to really get the info on all these spears. Even after translating the interpretation often needs adjustment upon seeing more actual pieces.

If there is anything particular you're interested in, I can give that spear priority and will work on providing the "whole story" on it.

-Peter
Knowing is not enough, we must apply.
Willing is not enough, we must do.


-Bruce Lee

http://www.mandarinmansion.com
Antique Chinese Arms & Functional reproductions

http://www.manchuarchery.org
Fe Doro - Manchu Archery

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Post by Dan Pasek » Tue Apr 17, 2007 11:14 am

Peter Dekker wrote: Some examples show holes where nails might have been used but these are rare.

-Peter
Peter,

The rarity of this feature may prevent an answer to my question, but do you have any idea when the hole in the socket of the spearhead began being used?

DP

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Post by Peter Dekker » Tue Apr 17, 2007 11:34 am

Hi,

You're right, they are rare enough to make an estimation on that difficult, if not unreliable at least by me at this stage.

The ones I've seen were all 19th century spearheads but that might not say too much since practically all spearheads I've seen in general were from that age. The few older examples I saw did not have the feature but we can't rule out the chance factor on such a small number.

What the holes have in common is that they were all at the very end of the socket (away from the tip), pretty small, and only one per spearhead.

From this we might conclude that the feature was probably complimentary rather than a primary way of securing the head to the shaft.

-Peter
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Willing is not enough, we must do.


-Bruce Lee

http://www.mandarinmansion.com
Antique Chinese Arms & Functional reproductions

http://www.manchuarchery.org
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Post by Dan Fleet » Tue Apr 17, 2007 12:26 pm

Peter Dekker wrote:If there is anything particular you're interested in, I can give that spear priority and will work on providing the "whole story" on it.
Hi Peter.

There's no specific spear. Students of my teacher are purchasing a spearhead as a gift, and I thought I'd see if there was any reasonable way to get a historically accurate pole to attach it to.

I am not necessarily surprised that there aren't standard woods, as I would suspect there's probably more than one type that is suitable, although I am surprised there isn't consistent lengths. But I am ignorant of how the Chinese would use spears in military action to know if widely varying lengths would interfere with unit movement.

In other words, I'm an absolute newbie :)

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Post by Peter Dekker » Sun Apr 22, 2007 10:27 pm

The wide range of spear lengths has surprised me as well and I also think it should have to do with intended use.

-Peter
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Willing is not enough, we must do.


-Bruce Lee

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Antique Chinese Arms & Functional reproductions

http://www.manchuarchery.org
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Spear tassels

Post by Peter Dekker » Sun May 27, 2007 2:36 am

Horse hair spear tassels.

Hi, I recently found two old spear tassels that were in good condition. The materials are dyed horse hair, and cotton and hemp cord. The hair is tied on the hemp cord with the thinner cotton cord. Here some pictures of the construction of one of these:

Image
Image
Image

I hope it will be helpful for those that want to recreate a spear tassel. Note that it is tied around the shaft with the hair pointing forward towards the tip, and then folded backwards and fastened. This way you can't see the part where the hair is tied to the cord.

-Peter
Knowing is not enough, we must apply.
Willing is not enough, we must do.


-Bruce Lee

http://www.mandarinmansion.com
Antique Chinese Arms & Functional reproductions

http://www.manchuarchery.org
Fe Doro - Manchu Archery

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Post by Dan Fleet » Mon May 28, 2007 8:35 am

Thanks Peter.

My teacher was presented with his gift this weekend and was most appreciative. One of the disciples mounted (in a temporary fashion: i.e. no glue or nails as yet, simple friction fit) the spearhead on a pole taken from his back yard woodlot.

I've sent him a reference to this thread.

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Post by HomoCaballus » Mon Feb 04, 2008 3:37 pm

This topic is not active so my appologies for digging it up.

The reason is that there is an obvious source for horse hair: the slaughterhouse. No problem at all to get a tail. Do make sure you get one of a gelding, stay clear of mares hair: those urinate on their tail which makes the hair far more brittle.

Another source is a good saddle maker.
I live fairly close to a wholesale warehouse where they stock bundles ready for application in four ' colours' and can ask them for the price if you want.

petrus

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Post by Peter Dekker » Mon Feb 11, 2008 5:47 pm

Do make sure you get one of a gelding, stay clear of mares hair: those urinate on their tail which makes the hair far more brittle.
Very useful information! Thanks a lot.

-Peter
Knowing is not enough, we must apply.
Willing is not enough, we must do.


-Bruce Lee

http://www.mandarinmansion.com
Antique Chinese Arms & Functional reproductions

http://www.manchuarchery.org
Fe Doro - Manchu Archery

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