Language: Mandarin Chinese
Source: Period dictionary


Gōng miàn (弓面) literally means "bow face". It covers the "belly side" of a bow, that side facing the archer when in use. Its function is to take the compression of the working limb.

The gōng miàn was usually made of black water buffalo horn. These were also called: shuǐniújiǎomiàn gōng (水牛角面弓) or "water buffalo horn faced bow".

Normal bows would have polished black horn faces, while the more expensive bows would make use of horns of exceptional quality or with rare effects in the horn. Examples of rare and prized horn include white semi-translucent horn, black horn with white streaks, or horn that goes from black to amber color near the tips.

Bows that appear in the Wuti Qingwen Jian of circa 1790:

Yěniújiǎomiàn gōng (野牛角面弓) or "wild buffalo horn faced bow".

Huāshuǐniújiǎomiàn gōng (花水牛角面弓) or "patterned water buffalo horn face bow".

Yěyángjiǎo miàngōng (野羊角面弓) or "wild goat horn faced bow". (Probably ibex.)

A few very rare bows have horn faces that run from knee to knee, made out of one very large piece of horn. These were called tōngmiàngōng (通面弓) or "all face bow".


Black horn face

The horn face of a Qing bow.




Red bellied bow

Red belly

A rare and high quality Qing bow with translucent horn bellies over a red painted core.
Sold by Mandarin Mansion in 2018.



Other terms


Qing bow glossary




Pinyin transliteration

  Bow Gōng
1. Bow grip 弓弝 Gōngbà
2. Sides of bow grip 弓弝膀子 Gōng bà bǎngzi
3. Arrow slipping spot 箭溜子 Jiàn liūzi
4. Bow ear 弓弰 Gōng shāo
5. Tip 弰頭 Shāo tóu
6. String notch 扣子 Kòuzi
7. String bridge 弓墊子 Gōng diànzi
8. Bow knee (lit. "brain") 弓腦 Gōng nǎo
9. Painted birch bark 畫樺皮 Huà huà pí
10. Bow face 弓面 Gōng miàn
11. Bowstring 弓弦 Gōng xián
12. Bowstring knot 弦挌搭 Xián gé dā



All terms are from the Wuti Qingwen Jian (五體清文鑑)or "Five Languages Mirror", a Qing imperial dictionary in Manchu, Mongolian, Uighur, Tibetan and Chinese of circa 1790. Commissioned by and published under the Qianlong emperor.

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With translucent horn bellies glued on red pigment.


An exceedingly rare set with fine mother of pearl inlaid string board


With a golden damascened lock of the Indo-Portuguese type.


Very good example with a finely carved warrior scene.


Probably of Southern origin, with a straight blade and flaring tip.


In the style of northern work of the 16th and 17th centuries