Language: Mandarin Chinese
Source: Classical literature


Zhànjiàn (戰箭) literally means "war arrow". It is the name for the standard military arrow of the Qing dynasty.1

Qing war arrow

A typical example. Sold by Mandarin Mansion in 2018.



Qing war arrows are quite uniform in size, usually almost exactly 105 cm long and 11-13 mm thick. They tend to weigh between 80 and 120 grams, most of them weighing around 100 grams. The nocks are typically wrapped with birch bark, the front end of the shaft is wrapped with black peach bark.

The feathers are usually around 25 cm long and of moderate height. Sometimes the feathers are wound with very thin silk thread. The space between the feathers is often painted vermillion.

The tanged arrowheads have a lock neck leading up to a triangular head. The edges are never sharp, probably as to provide more of a punch upon impact.

Qing war arrow


Zhànjiàn were in common use by the main body of the Qing military. Apart from the zhànjiàn, a more expensive and refined war arrow called méizhēnjiàn (梅針箭) or "plum needle arrow" was used by troops of the 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.2

Due to the quantities that were manufacture and used, it is hardly surprising that the zhànjiàn is now by far the most common arrow found in museums and private collections. Most of them were taken to the Western world as war trophies from battlefields of the 19th and early 20th centuries like the Taiping wars, the Opium Wars and the Boxer Uprising of 1900. One such set is now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of arts. Their donator, George Cameron Stone, describes them:

“The Chinese bows are large and powerful... Bows of 150 pounds are by no means rare in China. The arrows used at the siege of the Legations in 1900 are 3 feet 5.5 inches long and 7/16 inch in diameter with heavy socketed steel heads.* [...] The bows that I saw in Peking that were used with such arrows were huge, about six feet long strung, with a cross section at the handle of nearly two square inches. They were said to pave a pull of about 200 pounds and looked it." 3

Also see Manchu War Arrows

Article: Measurements of a Qing war arrow


1. See: 同文廣彚全書 (Tongwen Guanghui Quanshu) or "Enlarged and complete dictionary", a Qing imperial dictionary in Chinese and Manchu of 1704, each entry double checked and approved by the Kangxi emperor and 五體清文鑑 (Wuti Qingwen Jian) "Five languages compendium", a Qing imperial dictionary in Manchu, Mongolian, Uighur, Tibetan and Chinese of circa 1790. Published under the Qianlong emperor.
2 Both arrows are mentioned side by side in the 欽定軍器則例 (Qinding Junqi Zeli), regulations about the manufacture and maintenance of military equipment for all cities, garrisons and provinces. Compiled under the Jiaqing and Qianlong emperors.
2. Ulrich Theobald; "War finance and logistics in late Imperial China, a study of the second Jinchuan campaign (1771–1776)", Leiden: Brill, 2013. Page 255.
3. George Cameron Stone; "Glossary of the Construction, Decoration, and Use of Arms and Armor in All Countries and in All Times", 1934. Jack Brussel, New York, 1961. (Reprint) Page 134. *3 feet 5.5 inches translates to 105 cm. A 7/16 inch diameter is about 11mm. Due to their shape, the heads look socketed but are actually tanged.

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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


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


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