Language: Mandarin Chinese
Source: Classical literature
Méizhēnjiàn (梅针箭) literally means "plum needle arrow". It is the name of a specific type of military arrow of the Qing dynasty.1
Méizhēnjiàn have tanged arrowheads with a bladed double-edged point on a long, narrow neck. The edges are sharp and they are usually polished in a facetted shape. The shape derives off bone hunting arrowheads that were used in Manchuria for thick-skinned game.2
Some antique plum needle arrowheads from the author's collection.
Found by farmers in fields around Beijing, who brought them to Panjiayuan Flea Market in weekends.
An antique plum needle arrow, probably 18th century.
The shaft is signed in Manchu, attributing it to an officer of the Bordered Yellow Banner.
The plum needle arrows were better finished, of more complex shape and therefore more expensive than regular war arrows and were almost exclusively used by the capital Eight Banners. In the second Jinchuan war, some 20.000 plum needle arrows were used, they were shipped directly from the capital to the war zone. In contrast, 478,500 war arrows were used in the same conflict.3
Some of the earliest evidence we have of their use is during the Siege of Albazin of 1685-1686. Archaeologists at the site found a number of plum needle heads that were used by Kangxi's forces during either of the two sieges.4
A grouping of arrowheads found at the site of the siege of Albazin 1686-1687.
Of special note here is the deformation in some of the tangs and even the neck of a head from impact, but generally no damage to the points themselves, attesting to the good quality of their steel.
The name seems to have derived off an acupuncture implement called méizhēn (梅针). The Ming military treatise Wubei Zhi (武備志) or 1628 mentions an "eyebrow neelde arrow", méizhēn (眉针), which sounds exactly the same but uses a different character.
For an elaborate article on Qing dynasty war arrows, see my article "Manchu War Arrows" at www.manchuarchery.org.
1. Yun Lu (允祿), et al, editors; Huangchao liqi tushi (皇朝禮器圖式) or "Illustrated Ceremonial Paraphernalia for our Dynasty", 1766 woodblock print edition, based on a 1759 manuscript. Chapter 14.
2. For a bone example collected in 1920 by German ethnographer Walter Stotzner see: Hing Chao (aka Zhao Shiqing); "The Archery Tradition of China's Boreal Hunters", Journal of Chinese Martial Studies, 2009, 1. Hong Kong. Page 84.
3. Ulrich Theobald, War finance and logistics in late Imperial China, a study of the second Jinchuan campaign (1771–1776), Leiden: Brill, 2013. Page 255.
4. See: A. N. Cherkasov, R.S. Veretyushkin, A. M. Pastukhov; Маньчжурские наконечники стрел из культурного слоя Албазинского острога.