Swords are the real hero in Chinese Kung Fu novels. Countless fantastic stories of underground gang in Chinese ancient societies are the narratives of sacred thrones with a deadly weapon, sword.
Sword is regarded as the master of cold weapons in ancient China. And the person who was sword casting in 514 BC was called Master Oh Yeah. Oh was so famous with his gorgeous masterpieces that the King of Chu asked him to cast a sword which must be equipped with noble qualities. Master Oh undertook the task and treated it seriously. The first thing he did was to look for a nice place for his casting work. After travelling through the state, Oh settled down at Long Quan (means “Dragon Spring”). The quiet village is deeply hidden in a forest and neighbored by a big lake. In Oh’s working site, there are seven wells arranged like Big Dipper. The well water tasted cold and sweet, which was the perfect water resource for sword casting. With the exceptionally good conditions, Master Oh Yeah ultimately made three fantastic swords called Long Yuan (means “Dragon Abyss”), Tai E (means “Great Mountains”), and Gong Bu (means “Exquisite Textile”). All of them had extremely high fame in future generations.
The real town of Long Quan is located in the southwest of Zhe Jiang Province. As the story describes, Long Quan indeed has natural advantages of sword casting since this is an area abundant in water and forest resources. The peak of the highest mountain in Zhe Jiang is located inside Long Quan. The mountain is covered by forest, which provides fuel for the job. Besides, there is a river named Oh rises in Long Quan. The river has a rich amount of iron sand that is an excellent raw material for swords. Furthermore, with some unique quality, the water from the Big Dipper wells can make swords extraordinarily sharp and hard to be broken. In addition, the grinding stone is also locally produced. There is a stone mine in Mt. Long Quan.
In contrast to the female-like beauty of South China, Long Quan attracts knights and warriors with great mountains and rapid current of River Oh in ancient times. Cast in such a manly natural environment, Long Quan swords are undoubtedly born with power.
The story of Master Oh Yeah’s sword casting was continued. A man named Hu Feng brought the three swords to the King of Chu. The King asked the derivation of the sword names. Hu explained that each name describes the shape, decorative pattern, and brilliance of the sword. The shape of Sword Long Yuan looks like holder is standing by a cliff and looking down to the bottom. Sword Gong Bu feels like unbroken silk. And Sword Tai E is said that the soul of sword had existed in nature prior to the sword was given birth.
The working sites of Master Oh Yeah have also got their names because of these famous swords. There is a nearby lake called Sword Pool. The village was initially named with the sword name, Long Yuan, but then changed into Long Quan in 618 AC because the word “Yuan” was in the name of in-office emperor Tang Gaozu and it was asked to be avoided in civil names as regard for the state leader.
Master Oh Yeah then became the patron saint of sword casting industry for thousands of years. In memory of Master Oh, people built a temple by the north of Lake Sword Pool in Long Quan.
With the influence of Master Oh, Long Quan remains a unique job position– Sword smith. There are many sword casting businesses that have been ran for over a thousand years in Long Quan. Therefore, Long Quan has been already the symbol of high-quality swords in China.
There are 26 steps to produce a Long Quan sword. A first-class sword is strictly examined from the perspectives of sharpness, flexibility, brilliance, and decorative patterns. Ancient swords have some categories. By size, there are giant, long, short, and tiny swords, among which, long sword is a status symbol. By use, there are two kinds of swords: one is for decoration while the other is for battle.
In terms of folk art, there are two performances related to sword, fencing and sword dance. Based on these uses, Long Quan swords basically have three types. The first kind is called hard sword, famous for its firmness. It was used for battle in the time of the ancient China while today it becomes a luxurious decoration. The second type is soft sword which has 360-degree-bend flexibility and can be perfectly restored. The last one is performance sword which is for traditional Kung Fu practice.
Although Long Quan swords have generated economic revenue in the modern society, the spirit of swords always exists. Not only knights and warriors worship swords but also literati encourage their ambitions of making a difference in the world through owning a first-class sword, especially Long Quan sword. It is said that it takes several years to cast a high-quality Long Quan sword. Even though the sword barely gets attention, its brilliance and might can be definitely noticed in quiet nights. Swords in Chinese culture are considered as the combination of power, responsibility, and aesthetics.
Poem and swords are two symbols of Chinese culture. No matter being unrecognized or getting puffed up, scholars in the ancient China compared their wish and dream with swords. For instance, there is a famous poem in Chinese poem history, “casting the sword for ten years/ haven’t got a good match/ Today I show it to you/ Go find an evil and let me handle it!”
Long Quan swords have been beyond the practical function in the age of cold weapon and become an essential spiritual symbol of Chinese culture. Long Quan, in the deep forest of South China, mixes two extremes of beauty together with sharp swords and graceful landscape and has successfully developed an oriental sword culture.