Language: Mandarin Chinese
Source: Period dictionary


Gōng xián (弓弦) literally means "bowstring".

Chinese bowstrings were often made of silk. On war and strength bows, deer rawhide was commonly used. On some strength bows, gut strings are seen.

Qing bowstrings were typically very thick, and so often consisted of different segments that could be folded for easier transport and storage.



A late Qing dynasty silk bowstring.




Bowstring knot

Knot in a Qing dynasty bowstring.


Death by bowstring

In the Qing, members of the elite were sometimes sentenced to death by strangulation with a bowstring.* Considered a more noble death than decapitation, because it allowed the body to stay intact. 

This execution method was also practiced in Persia and the Ottoman empire.

*See: Arthur W. Hummel; Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period. Ch'eng Wen Publishing Company, Taipei, 1970. Page 195.


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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Rare extant work of a famous workshop in Chengdu.


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