The Jian is a Chinese sword with a rich history, having been used for more than 2,500 years. It can come in a range of lengths, from 45 to 80 cm, is double-edged, can be one or two handed, and can be flexible or rigid. While not a lightsaber, it is known in Chinese culture as the “Gentleman of Weapons.”
The most common modern Jian is the style used in Tai Chi, as in the first video below. These swords are highly flexible along one axis, to the point they are unsuitable for combat. Most Western audiences will likely recognise the sword from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (the iconic green blade). This is an example of a more robust style; the sword possesses enough give for a beautiful, flowing movement, but the strength to cut, stab, block and deflect. The second clip below includes a stunning fight scene from that movie featuring the Jian.
Tai Chi World Championships
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Reign of Assassins
Why does Ling use a Jian?
Ling is the protagonist in my novel Human Resources. Her sword is an important aspect of her identity. Most soldiers in the companies have embraced technology, and use advanced firearms as their primary weapon. Amongst those who favour blades, modern variants are preferred constructed from composite materials. Yet, Ling still carries a traditional weapon, one she has carried with her through the march of time. When building Ling’s character, it was important her weapon reflected her personality and her heritage: She needed a nimble, elegant weapon; one she could carry with her; something worthy of her status. Something Chinese.
The Jian is an excellent fit for her. Short enough to be carried, light-weight, precise, and with a stunning close-quarters combat style that incorporates the entire body. Her sword in the book is of the style depicted in the second video — short, one-handed, with a blade that dance and give when called to. The artist Rex Smeal created the below image of her sword which you see used in the branding of the novel on this site and across my social media accounts.
You can learn more about Human Resources here.
You can learn more about the Jian on Wikipedia here. There’s an interesting article on the challenges of researching the full history of Chinese swords and some of their crafting techniques here.