Language: Mandarin Chinese
Source: Primary source
Suōbiāo (梭鏢) literally means "shuttle javelin."
A suōbiāo as illustrated in a Ming edition of the
Song dynasty Wujing Zongyao.
William Mesny's account
According to William Mesny, a British adventurer who fought for the Qing imperial army in the late 19th century, it was a formidable weapon used primarily in Yunnan and Guizhou.
"The So-p'iao in Yün-nan and Kuei-chou is an elegant and most formidable weapon. It frequently consists of a foreign, triangular, or sword-like bayonet 15 to 18 in. long with a long socket in direct line with the blade and firmly fitted on to a 6-ft. shaft of the toughest kind of wood, ornamented with inlaid work, representing dragons and phoenixes in tinnum or pewter, melted into an ingraved clesign on the wood, polished and varnished with raw lacquer, jet black with white metallic design. The spear head, pointed as a needle and sharp as a razor, is frequently hidden in a bunch of pheasant's feathers, tied on to the socket of the blade or head, with or without one or more Turkey red calico rosettes.
A Yün-nan warrior, dressed with his copper sheated hat and paper armour, will attack half a dozen men armed with any other kind of weapon. The weapon appears to slip into a man's body with the greatest ease; sometimes through two men, one behind the other. The So-p'iao may also be thrown like a harpoon by Yün-nan warriors through a man fifty feet off.
It was with a suōbiāo that I defended myself at Chien Hsi Chou when attacked by scores of local soldiery armed with all sorts of weapons. I had fired off my revolver with telling effect, but had no time to reload, so availed myself of the So-p'iao of a fallen foe to clear the ground. Both ends answered my purpose on that occasion; the foot of the spear being iron shod with a pikehead and the enemy clad in ordinary garments." 1
1. From "Mesny's Chinese Miscellany", January 16th, 1896. Page 332. Brought to my attention by David Leffman, author of the book about Mesny's exploits: The Mercenary Mandarin: How a British adventurer became a general in Qing-dynasty China.