Language: Mandarin Chinese
Source: Classical literature


Jiǎn () is used to describe a type of heavy bar mace with a smooth rod. This rod can be round or angular in cross-section. Square cross-section bar-maces often have a groove on each flat, or hollow-ground facets. Jiǎn are usually made of iron, called tiějiǎn (鐵鐧) or "iron mace".

Much rarer but sometimes encountered are bronze versions called tóngjiǎn (銅鐧) or "bronze mace". The term appears in a Kangxi period 1704 Chinese-Manchu dictionary.

For bamboo-sectioned maces, see tiěbiān (鐵鞭) or "iron whip".

Jiǎn appear in military treatises of the Song and Ming but are not mentioned in a military context anymore during the Qing. They were probably used solely in a civilian role by this time. Many are fairly short, probably used as batons by bodyguards and escorts.


Antique Chinese iron jian mace
A large Chinese tiějiǎn (鐵鐧) or "iron mace".
Sold by Mandarin Mansion in 2017, now in a private collection.

Antique Chinese bronze jian mace
A short Chinese tóngjiǎn (銅鐧) or "bronze mace".
Mandarin Mansion.



In the literature

A mace in the Wujing Zongyao

Tiějiǎn (center) in the Wǔjīng Zǒngyāo compiled between 1040 -1044.

An iron whip (bian) in the Ming wubeizhiA tiějiǎn (left) in the Ming dynasty Wǔbèi Zhì of 1621.
(Clearly the woodblock is a copy of the Song version.)


Chinese two handed maces in the Ming Wubei Yaolue
A two-handed tiějiǎn (left) in the Wǔbèi Yàolǜe of 1638.



Wǔjīng Zǒngyāo (武經總要) or "Complete Essentials for the Military Classics", compiled during the Northern Song dynasty by Zeng Gongliang between 1040-1044.

Tóngwén Guǎnghuì Quánshū (同文廣彙全書) or "Enlarged and complete dictionary" of 1704. A Qing imperial dictionary in Chinese and Manchu, each entry double-checked and approved by the Kangxi emperor.

Wǔbèi Zhì (武備志) or "Treatise of Military Preparedness" compiled by Mao Yuanyi, 1621.

Wǔbèi Yàolǜe (武備要略) or "Important Military Outlines" by Cheng Ziyi, 1638.


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A very rare Chinese saber guard dating from the height of the Qing dynasty.


With markings attributing it to the Tongzhou incident and a Japanese surrender tag.


Of classic shape, with a leaf-shaped blade on a socket, connected by a cast bronze base.


Built around an imported blade, with a human head shaped pommel.


A standard pattern Qing military saber, but with the rare addition of a label in Manchu.


A robust and heavy example, crafted with care.