Broadsword Forging Technique of the Baoan Minority
The Baoan broadsword is a traditional handicraft of the Baoan minority. It is mainly produced in Liuji, Dajiahe Township, Jishishan Baoan, Dongxiang and Sala Autonomous County, Gansu Province. For a long time, the Baoan broadsword forging technique has been an important means that the entire Baoan ethnic group makes a living on as well as their economic and cultural lifeblood.
Baoan people have a long history in forging broadswords. The appearance of Baoan broadswords is closely related to military activities of the Yuan Dynasty. In 1227 when Genghis Khan led troops on eastern expeditions, some soldiers and craftsmen from Central Asia were left in Tongren area, Qinghai. These people communicated and mingled with local Mongolian, Han, Hui, Tibetan and Tu minorities, and formed into the Baoan ethnic group. After settlement in Baoan city, many of them were engaged in the artisan business, and blacksmiths, gold-and silver-smiths, carpenters and shoemakers emerge. Blacksmiths at that time mainly produces indigenous guns, bows and arrows. The iron smelting technique they used made them highly capable of forging swords. After the Baoan minority migrated to Dahejia, under specific living conditions, Baoan people not only used for self-defense, but also exchanged them for cattle, sheep and other daily necessities with herdsmen.
Ma Dexiang, a veteran Bao'an broadsword maker, checks the quality of a newly forged broadsword in Jishishan County, northwest China's Gansu Province, Nov. 29, 2012. China's Bao'an ethnic group is famous for their unique broadsword forging technique. The technique is the main income source of Bao'an people, especially after it was listed as China's intangible cultural heritage in 2006.
The Baoan broadsword is extremely sharp. Used to cut iron, the edge will neither be nicked nor curl up. Used to cut hair, the hair over the edge will instantly break at a whiff. The traditional Baoan broadsword forging technique is very complicated. It consists of as many as over 80 procedures, or at least 30-40 procedures. To make a Baoan broadsword, first repeatedly hammer the well-chosen iron, then split it up and add steel, and finally have it quenched. Steel adding and quenching are crucial as right handling can ensure the broadsword both tough and flexible. The hilt alone requires separate processing of different materials, such as latten, red copper wire, white iron wire, horn and plastic, ingenious adhesive riveting, engraving of lifelike patterns, and polishing. All Baoan household have blacksmiths, and each blacksmith has his own front pattern. Some patterns are symbols of certain blacksmiths, and some implicit a beautiful legend or a solemn and stirring story.
Craftsmen of China's Bao'an ethnic group work at a Bao'an broadsword workshop in Jishishan County, northwest China's Gansu Province, Nov. 29, 2012. China's Bao'an ethnic group is famous for their unique broadsword forging technique. The technique is the main income source of Bao'an people, especially after it was listed as China's intangible cultural heritage in 2006.