Episode 35: Swordsmith Family

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Swords in China is probably the most important weapon in the history and when I read Harry Potter the part where each person has their special magic wands based on their personalities it just reminded me the relationship between warriors and swords in Chinese culture. Today we are going to talk about a couple who forged swords and their child’s revenge story.

This famous swordsmith couple are the husband Ganjiang干将 and the wife Moye莫邪 who lived in the Spring and Autumn period, which is around from 771~ 476 BC. According to the book WuYueChunQiu吴越春秋, it says Ganjiang was from the Kingdom Wu吴国, he worked on a project of forging a pair of swords forced by he King of Wu. During the forging, they faced a problem with melting the metal. Based on their experiences the couple decided to cut their hair and nails and cast them into the furnace with 300 children keeping blowing air and putting coals. In some other version of the story, it says Moye herself jumped into the furnace to forge the swords. Anyways, in the end two swords were successfully built. And in Chinese culture, two swords made together can be a pair called the female and male swords 雌雄剑. The male sword was named after the husband Ganjiang while the female swords was called Moye.

In the book SouShenJi 搜神记 from Jin Dynasty晋代, it says the King of Wu was raged even after the swords were forged cause it took them three years which as too long. Moye was pregnant at that time. And before Ganjiang met the king with the words, he talked with his wife Moye that, ”the King of Wu probably would kill me since it took too long. If our child was a boy, tell him that I hid the male sword near a pine tree on the south mountain ” So Ganjiang left with only the female sword. Not surprisingly, the king was raged not only because it took long but also he only got one sword from the pair and killed Ganjiang.There is a famous mountain in Zhejiang浙江province called Mountain MoGan莫干山 named after the couple.

After their son was born, he was named as Chi or MeiJianChi 眉间 尺. He grew to a strong guy and years later he was told his father’s death by his mom. Chi was on his way to revenge with determination. He went to south mountain and found the pine tree and under the rock he got the male sword. At the same time, the king had a nightmare that a man whose eyebrows were one inch apart tried to revenge. Out of fear, the king placed a bounty on the man’s head. Filled with anguish, Chi started to cry on the way to the vengeance. A man saw him and asked him”young man why are you crying? Can I help?” So Chi told the stranger was the son of the famous couple Ganjiang and Moye and his plan was to kill the king. The stranger replied, “Hmmm. I have heard that the king is looking for you. If you trust me by giving me your head and sword I would like to help you get the revenge.” What would you choose? Do you trust this stranger? I mean he might just take your head and get thousands of thousands of dollars without doing anything. Chi heard it and said,”I am honored ” then he committed suicide. The stranger looked at Chi’s body and said, “I won’t let you down” He didn’t try to trick Chi and really wanted to help.

眉间尺2.jpg

The stranger brought Chi’s head and Ganjiang sword to the king who was overjoyed. The stranger suggested, “ this is the head of the brave guy and it should be boiled in water” The king followed however the head didn’t decompose in the water after being boiled for 3 days and the head even jumped out a few times and stared at the king with rage. The stranger suggested to the king again, “the head will decompose if you are willing to put your head in the soup to check on.” So the stranger cut the king’s head off. Everyone trusted this stranger?! He must have some magical power. As soon as the head of the king fell into the water, the two heads started to bite each other. To help Chi with the fight, the stranger cut his own head as well. I don’t know why. He could have helped by using the sword instead of cutting his head off. After 7 days the flesh on the 3 heads were boiled away and nobody could recognize which head belonged to whom. People buried the heads together at Yichun宜春 in Henan河南province and named the grave “Tomb of Three Kings” 三王墓.

It is a cult and weird story. But I do admire the characteristics of Chi and the stranger who sacrificed his own life to help somebody he felt sorry for. That’s why I want to share this story with you.

Mentioned:

吴越春秋 WuYueChunQiu

干将 Ganjiang

莫邪 Moye

搜神记SouShenJi

眉间 尺 MeiJianChi

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