Origins of the "naginata-hi"

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Origins of the "naginata-hi"

Post by Peter Dekker » Tue May 05, 2009 11:12 am

In the thread "Swords of the Qianlong Emperor" viewtopic.php?f=15&t=729 there was discussion about the Chinese naginata-inspired peidao blade variation.
Alfanator wrote:The earliest example of 'naginata hi' for J-swords i know is actually on the Kogarasu Maru attributed to Amakuni, a sword that pre-dates the standard J-style (shinogi zukuri) and likely made by a Chinese/Korean smith or a local smith that was trained by contentinential smiths of the 8th century. It may very well have continential origins and took a round trip back after a nice stint in Japan.
A quick web-search came up with this picture:
Image

From the following page:
http://www.sho-shin.com/yam1a.htm

Fascinating how an early naginata appears to have a Chinese styled jian-like tip. The single fuller in the spine of the double-edged section reminds strongly of the feature seen on late 19th century Chinese jian.

The handle has an extreme amount of curve in it, totally opposite to the curve of some Chinese blades. Here an 18th century Chinese peidao blade with naginata inspired blade decor and a downward curving handle:
Image

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Re: Origins of the "naginata-hi"

Post by alfanator » Wed May 06, 2009 8:21 am

This could have been a longer blade that was shortened and the tang reshaped to fit a certian type of mount/fighting style. Most Naginata Hi terminate with a square cut, this one goes into the tang and terminates in a taper. If you file a box cut termination down, it will eventually look like a tapered termination. Just by looking at the pictures, there appears to be several degrees of rust and file mark types which would point to shortening, perhaps more than once in its history. Will need to see it in person to really tell though.

Many J-swords from this period were imported from the continent. There is speculation that the Kogarasu Maru was a transistional sword that lead to the classical J-sword shinogi zukuri shape. Not so sure about that hypothesis...

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Re: Origins of the "naginata-hi"

Post by Peter Dekker » Thu May 07, 2009 4:27 am

Hi,

Thanks for the observations. If longer, the handle would even look more awkward to me, or do you think they may have bent it as well?

Functionally it seems strange to me to have a saber with a double edged tip, but with the handle so out of alignment that it is not suitable for thrusting anymore. This is probably the reason for the downward slanting hilts on Chinese weapons that emerged when they got more of a curvature around 1800. In this period it seems that yanmaodao went out of service, and liuyedao became slightly more curved.

It is interesting to note that more curved liuyedao with slanting handles are also seen on some Ming artwork, so perhaps the style was not so much an innovation as it was a revival.

Yet some would say liuyedao are not suitable for a thrust, not even with the slanting handle. I found an effective way of dealing with this misconception during a lecture I gave on Chinese "cold weapons" by taking out a curved liuyedao with slanting handle, and asking: "Would you mind then, if I poke this into you?" Interestingly, the person who brought up the ineffectiveness in a thrust was not willing to have me poke at him. So it is all relative, in the end: An "unsuitbable" tip will probably still kill you when unprotected.

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Re: Origins of the "naginata-hi"

Post by alfanator » Thu May 07, 2009 6:18 am

It is most certianly shortened and likely reshaped right about where the hole in the tang is. Sure you could thrust with a curved sword, otherwise why spend all that effort to make it pointy :?:

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Re: Origins of the "naginata-hi"

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Wed May 13, 2009 7:10 am

alfanator wrote:... Sure you could thrust with a curved sword, otherwise why ... make it pointy :?:
That's not always the case, thus the differentiation between Yanmaodao (Goose Quill Sabers) that are double edged at the tip & straight enough to thrust with in the same fashion as a jian, & Liuyedao (WIllow Leaf Sabers) that are too curved for a straight thrust. In the case of Liuyedao the tip can be used to poke by using a downward zha cut. Note that the list of basic cuts for the Yang Style Taiji Dao includes zha (downward poke), but not ci (thrust).

Then of course there is the piandao (slicing saber) that is too curved to use the tip for either a ci or zha...

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Re: Origins of the "naginata-hi"

Post by alfanator » Wed May 13, 2009 7:31 am

You are correct. I have a couple of Persian swords that would certianly not thrust and yet have pointy tips.

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Re: Origins of the "naginata-hi"

Post by johan » Sun Jun 13, 2010 8:18 am

The Kogarasu maru is actually the name given to the sword , but its actual geometric name is Moroha Kissaki Zukuri (double edge tip ). Katana that had been made out from naginata is called Nagamaki Naoshi and at times in history, Japanese swordsmiths did forged katanas that purposely resemble nagamaki naoshi.
According to what I read in the internet and sword forums, the Moroha kissaki zukuri is the transition between Ken ( Double edge Chinese Jian ) and straight Dao ( Tang Dao or Han style Dao or Handachi ) to single edge curve tachi which later lead to Uchigatana and followed by now what we now as Shinogi zukuri katana. That was way back then during Heian period in Japan, and Tang Dynasty era in China where in those days, the Japanese were very much inspired by the Chinese culture.

However that is something I have been asking in my mind, why Amakuni bothered to make "transition period " sword ? In those days, the Ken and straight Dao were already there, if the forging know how then was already capable of making clay tempered sword, shouldn't the smith just go straight away made the the single edge curve tachi? Why made the detour to make a double edge tip curve tachi before proceeding into the a complete single edge curve tachi?

Personally I believed the Moroha Kissaki was a separate class altogether , made for purposes unknown. Do you think there was a possibility that before that there was already a double edge curve sword in China either in bronze or steel ? I am wondering if there was any surviving piece from Tang era or earlier dynasty, of curve double edge bronze sword which later brought to Japan, which later inspired Amakuni to make Kissaki Moroha zukuri ?

As for the Chinese Peidao on the photo, this is the first time I saw the Chinese version of the "naginata naoshi". I could not find that in the book by Alex Huangfu " The Iron and Steel Sword of China "
One of the naginata naoshi version is called Unokubi Zukuri or Cormorant neck. I had attached a photo of the modern reproduction of functional katana made by hanwei as a reference.
However , was the Chinese version actually cut out from Chinese Naginata or actually made to look like a Chinese Naginata ?
Attachments
img1047.jpg
A modern repro of unokubi zukuri
img1047.jpg (173.7 KiB) Viewed 6065 times
Paul_Chen_Hanwei_Raptor_Katana_Moroha_Zukuri.jpg
A modern repro of Moroha Kissaki Zukuri
Paul_Chen_Hanwei_Raptor_Katana_Moroha_Zukuri.jpg (57.15 KiB) Viewed 6065 times

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Re: Origins of the "naginata-hi"

Post by Peter Dekker » Mon Sep 06, 2010 10:07 am

Hi,

This is a very interesting discussion...
johan wrote:Personally I believed the Moroha Kissaki was a separate class altogether , made for purposes unknown. Do you think there was a possibility that before that there was already a double edge curve sword in China either in bronze or steel ?
Possibly. I haven't seen one myself but on the whole we really don't have enough reference material of this period to rule it out. The best known examples are a little over a handful of Tang swords and some Sui swords that were all straight bladed single edged weapons. There is however one Tang sword that stands out in that it has an edge that goes over the tip and covers a bit of the back side as well. By far not as long as on the blades discussed, but there is some resemblance.

johan wrote:I am wondering if there was any surviving piece from Tang era or earlier dynasty, of curve double edge bronze sword which later brought to Japan, which later inspired Amakuni to make Kissaki Moroha zukuri ?
It could be. I believe that the Tang sword I mention above did in fact make it to Japan and is now in a Japanese museum.

johan wrote:As for the Chinese Peidao on the photo, this is the first time I saw the Chinese version of the "naginata naoshi". I could not find that in the book by Alex Huangfu " The Iron and Steel Sword of China "
The variety of Chinese swords is really rather broad, I haven't seen a single source that comes anywhere near covering them all.

johan wrote:However , was the Chinese version actually cut out from Chinese Naginata or actually made to look like a Chinese Naginata ?
All those Chinese versions I have seen appear to have been made as peidao (sabers) to begin with. They also handle pretty much like their brothers and sisters with different blade configurations, so by this time (18th century) it was more of a decorative pattern than a functional one. But it may have been different before. Backedges on all examples I've seen were not sharp.

There is a Chinese version of naginata but their blades are generally much shorter than saber blades and those I have seen did not have the hallmark fuller / bevel configuration of their Japanese counterparts.

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


-Bruce Lee

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Antique Chinese Arms & Functional reproductions

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