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Old 11-09-2019, 07:07 PM   #1
Pragmatic
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Default Swords of Asia (c. 1200-1500 AD)

(I'm asking for "background scenery" for a "head-canon-only" GM-NPC, having a display of swords in their office.)

I know that THE sword for Japan is the Katana. But that's not the only sword out of Asia.

I know that China has Jian (double-edged). There's also the Dao (single-edged). Wiki says that in this period (1200-1500 AD), the Dao seems to have been much more common. China is pretty big, and generally unified; would there be regional differences?

What would India have? And India was mostly fragmented into individual kingdoms, would there be regional differences?

What other common swords were available in the region (say, from China and puppet states, down through SE Asia and into India; not including SW Asia)?
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Old 11-09-2019, 08:20 PM   #2
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Default Re: Swords of Asia (c. 1200-1500 AD)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pragmatic View Post
(I'm asking for "background scenery" for a "head-canon-only" GM-NPC, having a display of swords in their office.)

I know that THE sword for Japan is the Katana. But that's not the only sword out of Asia.

I know that China has Jian (double-edged). There's also the Dao (single-edged). Wiki says that in this period (1200-1500 AD), the Dao seems to have been much more common. China is pretty big, and generally unified; would there be regional differences?

What would India have? And India was mostly fragmented into individual kingdoms, would there be regional differences?

What other common swords were available in the region (say, from China and puppet states, down through SE Asia and into India; not including SW Asia)?
Oh dear, where to start. :)

Anything you would recognize as a "katana" today was not known in Japan in your time period. At the beginning of your period Samurai carried 5 foot long O-datchi and by the end 3 and 1/2 to 3 ft long nodatchi. The katana with short 2 handed grip and 29" blade seen most often today is from the 1800s.

Jian is a single type of sword and little changed over 2000 years but "dao" by itself isn't even a sword. The word means "knife" and is a root word used in the names of any sort of single-edged Chinese blade i.e. changdao. There is a huge variety of Chinese swords of the "dao" family.

India had a lot of different swords. Common names are things like "talwar" (generally a sort of heavy curved broadsword) and similar pronunciations. The shamshir (which may have turned into the Arab scimitar) also started in
India.

Really, your time period and area are too broad for simple characterization but other things a collector might have in a broadly-based collection are a wavy-balded "Kris", a machete-like "parang" and a heavy chopping "bolo". Maybe a Thai "krabi" too.

Start googling with names liek these and you can be busy for a longer period than you probably have available.
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Old 11-09-2019, 08:27 PM   #3
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Default Re: Swords of Asia (c. 1200-1500 AD)

Bugger.

Oh well... I'm thinking of this from a DFRPG (but more generic, so not in the GURPS forum) standpoint, so I guess some wiggle room is available.

As it's my main reference (again, generic...), what swords listed in G:Martial Arts would you suggest for each country? I'm close to settling on Katana and Jian for Wu and Shou (Forgotten Realms' Oriental Adventures), respectively. But there's the Durpari area (pseudo India area) across the sea from Zakhara (pseudo mythic Arabian Adventures area), and I'd like to include it for variety.
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Old 11-09-2019, 08:41 PM   #4
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Default Re: Swords of Asia (c. 1200-1500 AD)

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Bugger.

Oh well... I'm thinking of this from a DFRPG (but more generic, so not in the GURPS forum) standpoint, so I guess some wiggle room is available.

As it's my main reference (again, generic...), what swords listed in G:Martial Arts would you suggest for each country? I'm close to settling on Katana and Jian for Wu and Shou (Forgotten Realms' Oriental Adventures), respectively. But there's the Durpari area (pseudo India area) across the sea from Zakhara (pseudo mythic Arabian Adventures area), and I'd like to include it for variety.
Sorry, but for a DFRPG-like system there are virtually no differences at the applicable level of resolution. Even in Real World terms the difference between the "dao" family swords that translate as "willow-leaf saber" and "goose-quill saber" are extremely fine (mosty about how curved the balde is and where the curve starts). Both are Gurps Cavalry Sabers without the knuckleguard and the same for Indian and Arab swords. Variety lies in names and not game stats.

The Gurps "Katana" from the Basic set is from the end of your period and msot examples on the net would be labelled "tachi" or something similar. Most of the "katanas" you see today are the "Late Katana" from Martial arts.
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Old 11-09-2019, 09:08 PM   #5
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Default Re: Swords of Asia (c. 1200-1500 AD)

There are plenty of sources that would argue that point. With some pointing out that the first use of the term katana (to differentiate newer swords from the tachi) shows up right at the beginning of the listed time period (1170-1190 somewhere in there).

So as with anything heard on the internet, mileage may vary (including with this post). For most game purposes, use the term that would be most appropriate for your game, and players. Don't worry beyond that.
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Old 11-10-2019, 10:23 AM   #6
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Default Re: Swords of Asia (c. 1200-1500 AD)

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There are plenty of sources that would argue that point. With some pointing out that the first use of the term katana (to differentiate newer swords from the tachi) shows up right at the beginning of the listed time period (1170-1190 somewhere in there).
.
I was not actually saying anything about the use of the _word_" "katana". Use of katana v. tachi may indeed go back that far but i believe thye were distinguishing infantry swords from cavalry swords that are otherwise very similar. We can get into how they are worn too if you want.

I was trying to match up game stats with what you'll find most often on the net and look for a miodern replica of a "katana" and you'll almost invariably find a late sword with a 29" blade optimized for iaijutsu. Look for a c.1500 battle sword and it'll usually be called a tachi or a nodachi.
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Old 11-10-2019, 04:30 PM   #7
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Default Re: Swords of Asia (c. 1200-1500 AD)

The Katana was long predated by the Tachi in Feudal Japan. The Ōdachi and Nodachi were period, but were not the main sidearm, nor were they routine carry except on warmarch.

The standard samurai sidearm was the Tachi - which, essentially, is the parent of the Gatana family (including the Wakizashi and Katana) The Gatana family starts becoming present in the 1400's. The largest difference is in how it was rigged to the obi - two separate ties, holding it largely parallel to the ground. The blades tended to be little different in overall shape, but the handle:blade ratio a bit different. Still single edged, still curved, still 2 handed at 2.5 to 3.5 shaku long, and with lengths up to over a meter... the first ōdachi are tachi, and the tachi is documented all the way back to the Kofun period.

Jokoto tachi (pre heian) have sifgnificant differences in hilts and pommels, and not all swords were the gatana-like blades; many were still chokuto (straight swords, often double edged).
THe heian period begins the migration to the beatifully curved, "Traditional" Japanese swords, typically in the 2 to 3 shaku long for the sidearm. (Odachi/nodachi, the larger blades, were specialist weapons - intended for killing horses more than for killing men. Usually by shattering the fetlock and metacarpals when it was charging.)

An interesting (if only partially available online) book:
https://books.google.com/books?id=zP...page&q&f=false

It's worth pointing out that the largest tachi in the 14th C (the early nodachi) tended to be in the 4 to 5 shaku (1 shaku = 30.3 cm) range. The same period tanto was typically 1 shaku long, but up to 1.5 shaku... The fad ended, and most were cut down to katana following.

THe 14th C is also the period of the Nagamaki - a 2.5 to 4 shaku long blade, with a 3-4 shaku handle, and sometimes a full-length tang. Often called a pole sword, it's a hybrid of sword and polearm... and particularly effective against horses' legs.
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Old 11-27-2019, 10:27 AM   #8
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Default Re: Swords of Asia (c. 1200-1500 AD)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Indian_swords

Is Maybe a start, IIRC ive seen talwars with Knuckledusters in Indian Museums, straight bladed one edged Swords not khandas Maybe an european blade on talwar hilt
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Old 11-27-2019, 04:02 PM   #9
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Default Re: Swords of Asia (c. 1200-1500 AD)

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Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post
Really, your time period and area are too broad for simple characterization but other things a collector might have in a broadly-based collection are a wavy-balded "Kris", a machete-like "parang" and a heavy chopping "bolo". Maybe a Thai "krabi" too.
And perhaps a Phillipino kalis, balisiong, kampilan, panabas.
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Old 11-28-2019, 12:19 AM   #10
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Default Re: Swords of Asia (c. 1200-1500 AD)

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Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post
I was not actually saying anything about the use of the _word_" "katana". Use of katana v. tachi may indeed go back that far but i believe thye were distinguishing infantry swords from cavalry swords that are otherwise very similar. We can get into how they are worn too if you want.
In fact, I've heard people claim that one of the key differences between the two was which side of the blade the swordsmith stamped his mark. Tradition dictates the smith's mark should be worn facing out, and cavalry and infantry usually wear swords on opposite sides.
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