The civilization of ancient China has developed renowned martial arts and battle techniques. A predominant example of such arts is Kung-Fu. The Chinese army was a very successful force commanded by the Chinese emperor in the Asian continent. It checked the power of many other nations in Southeast Asia. The weapons used by the ancient Chinese army were masterpieces of engineering, which evolved throughout the history of China.
The Chinese army predominantly used four classes of weapons, which were the Gun, Dao, Qiang and Jian.
The Gun was basically a simple staff. It was made from bamboo and its usage was accompanied by martial arts. It was a popular weapon of self-defense. The Gun, aided by sophisticated martial arts techniques, often proved to be fatal.
Use by the Chinese Army: The Gun was used by the Chinese army. However, bladed weapons dominated the arsenal. It was often used to train new recruits. Usage on the battlefield was, however, rare.
Dao was one of the most widely used weapons. 'Dao' was a term that referred to any kind of long weapon. As a result, the Dao could be classified into many different weapons. A common Dao appeared like a short spear that was used in hand-to-hand combat and was not thrown at the opponent like a normal spear. Most of them were long weapons that had blades mounted on their long shafts. Sometimes they were similar to long swords as they had blades attached directly to their handles. The Dao was in many ways similar to the 'saber'. The blades of these weapons, even today, are considered as masterpieces by the iron smiths of the Chinese civilization.
Use by the Chinese Army: The Dao was basically used in hand-to-hand combat. The weapon was put to use in combat to cut, slice, chop, and even hack. The evolution of the Dao started in the Bronze age. It was regularly used by the troops until it was replaced, temporarily, by the Jian during the Zhou dynasty (11th century BC - 771 BC). However, the Chinese started realizing the importance of the cavalry during the end of the Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 206 BC) and the Jian did not meet the requirements of the cavalry. The Dao, thus, regained its importance in the beginning of the Western Han Dynasty. The cavalry started using a long Dao, that had a single-sided blade mounted on its long shaft, while the infantry started using the broadsword.
Qiang, which was a type of spear, was another important weapon of the Chinese army. They were believed to have evolved from the prehistoric spear that was known as the 'Mao'. The common Qiang could be described as a spear that had a long staff, and had a steel, iron, or bronze mounted tip.
Usage by the Chinese Army: The 'Mao' was upgraded, according to the need, into many types of Qiang class spears during the Shang Dynasty (17th century BC - 11th century BC). At that time, it had a bronze tip. By the end of the Zhou Dynasty of Eastern China (770 BC - 256 BC), it was replaced with a steel tip. This weapon was so effective, that by the end of the Western Han Dynasty, the Qiang had replaced the Chinese halberd known as the ji. It was used by the Chinese army for long distance combat that involved throwing them, even after firearms were introduced by the Qin Dynasty.
Jian was the king of weapons in ancient China. Not only was this sword used for a very long time, but, it was also one of the greatest masterpieces of Chinese craftsmanship. It was also often known as the 'sovereign of blades'. It was used by all, including the cavalry and the infantry, irrespective of the functions that the regiment performed. It was often considered as the primary weapon of the ancient Chinese civilization.
Use by the Chinese Army: The Jian was popularized during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty that ended in 256 BC. Some of the greatest swords were said to have been crafted during this period. Some of the greatest literature on them, Yue Nu Jian and Jian Dao, were written during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - AD 25). The importance of these swords on the battlefield started declining during the Han Dynasty of Eastern China.
The four basic weapons are no longer used in combat, but some of them, like the Jian, are used for ceremonial purposes. Martial arts institutes across China have re-developed the techniques of using these weapons. Today, there are very few of these weapons in existence. However, once upon a time, these four basic weapons established the supremacy of one of the biggest and most ancient civilizations of Southeast Asia.