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Korean sword
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The history of the sword (Korean geom 검; 劍) in the Korean
Peninsula begins with imports via Bronze Age China in the mid 1st
millennium BCE. Native production of Bronze and Iron swords appears to
pick up beginning in the mid 1st millennium CE. Sword designs continue
to be influenced by Chinese and Mongol contacts.
Korea had its separate sword industry and a native tradition of Korean
swordsmanship during the Joseon Dynasty (15th to 19th centuries). This
tradition was eclipsed by the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910-1945).
Since the later 20th century, there have been efforts towards reviving the
lost arts of Korean sword-making and swordsmanhip.
Elements of the Korean sword include: geomjip or scabbard, most often
of lacquer;hyuljo or fuller (most genuine Korean swords didn't have a
fuller); hwando magi or collar; ho in or collar; kodeungi or hand guard; a
ring-design pommel; tassels; a round and wide designed sword guard, or
a straight lotus design.
[2][dead link]
Contents [hide]
1 History
1.1 Early swords
1.2 Joseon period
1.3 Modern history
2 Types
3 Korean swordsmanship
4 Contemporary swords
4.1 Sword producers
4.2 In Korean popular culture
5 See also
6 References
7 External links
History [edit]
Early swords [edit]
Further information: Hwandudaedo
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5/31/2014 Korean sword - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 2/11
Three Kingdoms era swords generally
have a ring pommel. More elaborate swords
hold images of dragons or phoenixes in the
Silla era sword pommel
There is evidence of early
imports ofChinese Bronze
Age swords to the Korean
peninsula. Evidence of sword
production dates to the
transitional Late Bronze to
Early Iron Age (c. 1st century
BC), with an earthenware
mold for a Bronze Sword
found inSouth Gyeongsang
The earliest Korean sword
type is the so-
called Hwandudaedo or
"ring-pommel sword", prevalent
during the 1st to 6th centuries.
Until the 3rd century, these sword
were very rare and presumably
reserved for royalty. They
became more attainable in the
later 4th and during the 5th
century, and are found in many
higher class tombs of this period.
Their production declined in the
6th century.
By the last third of the Three
Kingdoms period (i.e. 450 AD and
beyond), steel making techniques
had come from China (possibly
during the Southern and Northern Dynasties period in China) and were
also employed in Korean swordmaking by all three Korean kingdoms
(Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla). In 2013, a 5th-century sword was
discovered atGeumgwanchong tomb in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang
Province. The covering of the sword has an inscription read as read
as Yisaji-wang ("king Isaji").
Long swords during the Korean Three Kingdoms period were used
primarily by cavalry and commanders (who were also usually mounted),
not infantry. At this time land warfare consisted mostly of spearmen and
bowmen on foot, mounted archers on horseback using two-handed bows,
and mounted swordsmen with twin blades. Swords were not a primary
weapon for all combat but were instead used mostly for shock attacks,
defensive strokes, and for close-in fighting. Blades were heavy as they
were made mostly of bronze and later iron, and pommels were often
5/31/2014 Korean sword - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 3/11
Painting of a kisaeng performing
a sword dance (Hyewon, 1805)
knobbed and used as balances or for very close-in work. Short swords
may have been used in follow-up attacks, as short sword carriers were
armoured completely.
Records indicate that the art of sword manufacturing, still in a rudimentary
state, may have been transmitted to the Japanese Archipelago from the
Korean Peninsula some time in the Three Kingdoms period, along with
iron smelting and manufacture and later that of steel work; these methods
and techniques, as well as their updates, continued to be transmitted
during the North South States Period to the Japanese Archipelago until
connections with the Asian mainland were largely closed off by Japan in
the early part of the Heian period (794 AD to 1195 AD; the early part is
considered to have ended in 967 AD).
During the Goryeo dynasty, a limited number of Korean swords were
exported for trade missions in Asia. It is likely that Korean swordmaking
was influenced by the various influences present in Mongol and Chinese
weapon manufacture after Goryeo's submission as a Mongol vassal
after 6 Mongol invasions ending in 1259.
Joseon period [edit]
The Joseon period (15th to 19th
centuries) is the "classical" era of
Korean culture, including the
creation of a national script and the
suppression of Korean Buddhism in
favour of Neo-Confucianism. Korean
swords were in production both for
military and ceremonial use. Several
types of ceremonial swords were
made; among these sword types are
the jingeom (dragon sword) and
ingeom (tiger sword), which by
tradition could be forged only at
certain times. The highest grade of
these, sa-ingeom (four tigers sword)
and possibly the sa-jingeom (four dragons sword - none are extant) were
reserved for the monarch and could only be made during a window of 2
hours every 12 years. The lower-grade swords - i-jingeom, sam-jingeom,
i-ingeom, sam-ingeom (two dragons, three dragons, two tigers, three
tigers) - could be made more frequently.
The swords that Joseon soldiers used were crafted with the greatest care,
using only high quality steel considered for the use of military swords.
Some of the swords that were used uniformly by these soldiers include
the jedok geom andbonguk geom. The three types of blades listed here
5/31/2014 Korean sword - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 4/11
are single edged and usually between 3-4 feet long, although the jedok
geom could reach a length of 6 feet.
It was not uncommon for non-military sword carriers to import swords,
frequently from Japan's renowned swordsmiths, in the event that Korean
sources could not be secured (as they were frequently dedicated to the
production of weapons for military use).
The saingeom is a type of Joseon-era sword from Western Korea fairly
common in the Ai-Ching province. It has a 90 centimeter (35 inch) blade,
produced primarily by molding rather than hammering.
Modern history [edit]
Korean swords are very scarce today, since most surviving examples
were confiscated and destroyed during the colonial
[citation needed]
A systematic attempt was made to collect and
destroy all Korean swords, coats of armour, and all Korean martial arts
[citation needed]
The entire history of Korean swords and
armour was almost lost forever, along with much of Korea's culture and
traditions, because of Japanese colonial
[5][verification needed][6][verification needed]
After the liberation of Korea in 1945, ceremonial swords were once again
manufactured both in southern and northern Korea, and by the 1960s,
sword-making was a vibrant and increasingly secure industry; however,
due to the depredations and systematic destruction by the Japanese
during the Japanese occupation of Korea, many traditions and
techniques lost and were either completely unrecoverable or had yet to
be recovered.
[citation needed]
Types [edit]
This section does
not cite any references or
sources. Please help improve this section
byadding citations to reliable sources.
Unsourced material may be challenged
and removed. (March 2014)
Elements of the Korean sword include: geomjip or scabbard, most often
of lacquer;hyuljo or fuller (most genuine Korean swords didn't have a
fuller); hwando magi or collar; ho in or collar; kodeungi or hand guard; a
ring-design pommel; tassels; a round and wide designed sword guard, or
a straight lotus design.
[7][dead link]
Geom (검 from Chinese 劍 jian) is the Korean word for "sword"; it is
typically used of double edged swords, but is also applied to single edged
swords. Yedo (예도; 銳刀) is the specific term for a single-edged sword.
The Muyesinbo describes asbonguk geom or "national sword" a double-
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Korean Nomenclature of Japanese
[ci tati on needed]
Korean TO (single-handed saber;
approximately 32" in length) displayed
between a "Korean" Japanese Sword
(R) and a Japanese
[ci tati on needed]
edged sword closely resembling theEastern Han period jian. This
contrasted with the jedok geom or "admiral sword", the term for the type
introduced in the 16th century by Li Rusong, usually about 5–6 feet tall
and single edged. The sword was also straight and wielded with one or
two hands.
The Hwandudaedo (환두대도; 環頭大刀) or "ring-pommel sword) is a type
of single edged sword used during the three kingdoms area. It is known
for having a ring pommel and being single or double edged. Most swords
during this time was semi-uniform in nature and many martial arts
practitioners tend to recognize this weapon as a "Genuine Korean
Sword". The Hwandudaedo may have some connection to the Japanese
straight swords (tsurugi) and the Chinese Jian.
In deference to the Neo-
Confucian state philosophy
during the Joseon period, Korean
swords tended to be somewhat
shorter than their Japanese or
Chinese templates, with a blunted
tip and infrequently having a
groove the length of the blade. In
this way the sword was made to
be represented as being as
singularly "unaggressive" as
Geom is the generic term for
"sword", but more specifically
also refers to a shorter
straight-blade, double-edged
sword with a somewhat
blunted tip distinguishes this
weapon from its Chinese
counterpart, the jian. As a
badge of status rather than a
weapon, the Geom was often
heavily decorated both on its
sheath and grip as well as with
engravings and inscriptions
on its blade.
The To, commonly referred to
as aHwando or "military
sword", was a single-handed,
single-edged sword, in use as
the stated sidearm of the
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Classic Ssangsoodo (2-handed
Sabre; approximately 60" in length)
displayed between the "Korean"
Japanese Sword (R) and a Japanese
Sword (L)
[ci tati on needed]
Korean soldier well into the 19th century. Sometimes referred to as a
"short sword", relative to the out sized two-handed Sangsoodo, its
length of 24 to 34 inches was comparable to that of the two-handed
Japanese Katana which may have been the inspiration for the
Ssangsoodo. Reports found in the "Book of Corrections", a Korean
record of the Imjin Warum (1592–1598) state that Japanese swords
taken in combat were readily pressed into service by simply trimming
the length of the sword grip (Tsuka). Forged of carbon steel the
Korean To has a single edged, curved blade, a sword guard and a
grip, typically of wood. Earlier practice saw the To carried by the
Military, suspended from a cord (Jul) and with a simple metal hanger
which allowed the soldier to speedily discard his sheath. In later
practice, the sword was suspended from a girdle or belt but retained a
simple metal quick-release clip.
The Ssangsudo (쌍수도; 雙手
刀) is a double-handed single-
edged sword in use only
during a limited time, n the
late 16th and early 17th
centuries. Chinese literature
and history both ascribe its
adoption as a weapon on the
Asian mainland to General QI
Ji-guang (1628–1687) who is
said to have taken pirate
prisoners -Wokou- during his
campaigns in Southern China,
wrote about the sword in his
manual - Lian Bing Shi Ji - and
recommended its use as part
of the defense along China's
northern border. Since
General Qi's training manual
Jin Xiao Shin Shu was used in the revamping the Korean Military it
followed that this weapon came highly recommended. Nor did the
Koreans overlook that over sized swords had been used by Japanese
soldiers during the recent conflict as well as during their own
experiences with the Wakou. Intended by General Qi to be carried
into combat on wagons or by individuals who drew each other's
weapon, the Ssangsoodo measured an overall length of 6 feet, two
feet of which were to be the grip and another 2 feet forward of the
handle to be sheathed in brass or copper. Undoubtedly the length
and weight of the sword, and the high level of training necessary to
wield it, made the sword impractical as a common part of the Korean
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Korean Wol-Do
(L) displayed with its
Chinese equivalent
arsenal. It is also useful to note that the Ming Dynasty, which saw this
weapon added to its own military, fell to the Manchu invaders some 50
years later.
The Hyup Do or "spear sword") is found in Book Three, Chapter
seven. Though commonly taken for a polearm after the fashion of the
Japanese Naginata, the text of the Muye Dobo Tong Ji relates that
"the handle is about four feet....weighs about four pounds.....the
illustration in this book is corrected according to the Mubiji and the
Japanese Jang Do. They are the same." It is reasonable to conclude
that the Hyup Do was much closer to the JapaneseNagimaki.
The *Woldo (월도; 月刀) was a bladed
polearm, like its Chinese counterpart
the Yaoyindao commonly decorated with a
tassel or feather affixed to a prominence on
the spine of the bladewhich assisted the
person wielding the weapon with identifying
the blades' center of mass. "the length of the
handle is six feet, four inches; the length of
the blade is two feet eight inches. The weight
is about three pounds, fifteen ounces".
Ssangdo or Ssanggeom (쌍도; 雙刀; 쌍검: 雙
劍) This literally means "Twin Swords." It can
vary from twin long swords or twin short
swords. These techniques can also be used
on Horseback as 'Masang ssanggeom'. The Korean cavalry was
famous for using Twin Sword techniques on horseback, while
balancing on the horse with grace. Ssangyunggeom are two twin
swords that is held with one sheath. The sheath is twice as wide
because it needs room for the second sword. The sword's length
varies from three to four feet. Usually these swords were double
edged and made entirely of Iron (including the sheath).
Hyeopdo (협도; 俠刀) This is also a large crescent blade that is similar
to the 'Pudao' but wider and thicker. A tassle attached to the end of
the blade.
Janggeom (장검; 長劍): Literally means "long Sword".
Hwando (환도): This is a single edged short sword that was strictly
used with one hand. This was a common side arm for many soldiers
during the Joseon era.
Unggeom (웅검): This is a single edged long sword that was used with
one or two hands. This was another common side arm for many
soldiers during the Joseon era.
Samgakdo (삼각도; 三角刀) The samgakdo, is also a recently used
terminology for swords used for mat cutting. The cross section of the
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sword is triangular in shape; hence the name Samgakdo (which
means 3 sided sword).
For martial arts students learning sword forms
or Geombeop/Geomsul practice wood swords or mokgeom are most
often used; then those made out of carbonized bamboo or Juk-do;
lastly compression sponge, single or double-edged, with or without
blood grooves. Combinations of sword and knife fighting would use
plastic blades.
Chilseonggeom (칠성검; 七星劍) This sword is a single edged or
double sword that Buddhist practitioners used. Many of these swords
had constellation engravings on the blades (usually the Big Dipper).
Sainchamsageom: This sword's name literally means 'Great Four
Tiger Sword'. This is a ceremonial sword that is used for demon
slaying and Shamanistic rituals.
[12][dead link]
The In Geom (Tiger
Swords) were usually of the same designs but of different strengths.
They were all made according to the Year, Month, Week, Day, or
Hour of the Tiger.
[12][dead link]
C.f. Samingeom: 'Three Tiger Sword', I-
ingeom 'Two Tiger Sword'.
[clarification needed]
Samjeongdo (삼정도; 三正刀) the sword given to newly promoted
Korean military generals each year by the Ministry of National
The Seven-Branched Sword is a peculiar specimen forged in Baekjae in
the order of the king. There is a theory that this is a sword that was to be
a gift presented to the emperor of Japan. There was no handle found for
the blade nor was there a swordsheath found for it while it was being
Korean swordsmanship [edit]
Main article: Korean swordsmanship
This section does
not cite any references or
sources. Please help improve this section
byadding citations to reliable sources.
Unsourced material may be challenged
and removed. (March 2014)
During the Joseon period, swords also had ranks depending on who
wielded them and what their purpose was. The highest ranking of these
swords was known as the Byeol-ungeom (별운검: 別雲劍), literally
meaning "cloud-splitting sword." Only two such swords existed and were
wielded by the King's two bodyguards, who always stood on either side of
him and held the nobility title of Un'geom (운검: 雲劍). [2]
Master swordsmen
General Kim Yushin, was said to have been given an engraved sword
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and sacred books by the gods, and helped to unify Korea under Silla.
His most famous son, Kim Wonsul, was a noted swordsman who
fought against the Tang Dynasty armies in the late Three
Kingdoms period.
Baek Dong Soo was a swordsman and martial artist who became a
folk hero when his group protected King Jeongjo from assassination
attempts. His most notable work, Muyedobotongji (illustrated manual
of Korean martial arts).
Contemporary swords [edit]
Only by the mid-1990s did Korean swordmaking come back to expert
levels comparable to the Joseon era.
[citation needed]
Haedong jingeom (해
동진검; 海東劍) This literally means 'East Asian Practical Sword' is the
neologistic term for current-day swords for "revivals" of Korean
Sword ownership in Korea is currently restricted (private weapons
ownership was culturally frowned upon and largely restricted during other
times in Korean history, particularly during the Joseon era and the
Japanese occupation period - albeit for different reasons in either
period), and there are very few traditional sword collectors in Korea
[citation needed]
General/flag-grade officers are given dress swords
upon assuming command in the Republic of Korea (ROK) army. Despite
restrictions on sword ownership and a lingering social preference against
armed martial arts (dating at least to the Joseon era), practical sword
fighting is enjoying a small revival amongst elite military regiments, and
fencing is once again attracting interest in Korean universities.
Sword producers [edit]
Hong Seok-hyeon in Paju, Gyeonggi province, makes swords by
[13][dead link]
Lee Sang Seon in Munkyong City, Kyongsangbukdo Province
Lee Eun-cheul in Yeoju, Kyonggi Province
Kang Cheul Kyu in Pocheon, Kyongki Province[3]
In Korean popular culture [edit]
Korean historical action films have elements of swordsmanship within
them. Important recent films readily available (and subtitle in
Chinese/English) include:
Musa The Warrior, 2001, 130 minutes, joint Korean/Chinese
Chung Doo-Hong martial arts director. Set in the Goryeo dynasty, during
1375 chronicles General Choi Jung's mission to the Ming to make peace
5/31/2014 Korean sword - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 10/11
during their wars against the Yuan.
Sword in the Moon, 2003
A Korean production that is a variant of Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of
War. This is set in the Three Kingdoms of Korea period where there were
various uprisings in the military and many assassination attempts on the
Shadowless Sword, 2005
Duelist, 2005
Blades of Blood, 2010
See also [edit]
Korean swordsmanship
Korean knife
Korean spears
References [edit]
1. ^ Boots, John L. (1934). "Korean Weapons & Armor" . Transactions of
the Korea Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (Royal Asiatic Society
Korea Branch). 23 Part 2: 1–37. (Full text of Microsoft Word format is
available here )
2. ^ 한국환상사전. 무기와 방어구 편
3. ^ Korean National Museum Accession Number Bongwan 14050 [1]
4. ^ Sword sparks debate , The Korean Times, 4 July 2013. Discovery of
the Silla Geumgwanchong Tomb "King Isaji" Sword
Inscription ( 3 July 2013.
5. ^ Hong Wontack 1994 Paekchae of Korea and the origin of Yamato
Japan, Seoul Kadura International
6. ^ Coval, Dr John Carter and Alan, 1984, "Korean impact on Japanese
culture: Japan's hidden History" Hollym International Corp., Elizabeth,
New Jersey
7. ^ 한국환상사전. 무기와 방어구 편
8. ^

Comprehensive Illustrated Manual of Martial Arts; YI Duk-moo1 &
PARK Je-ga (1795); Trans: KIM Sang H; Turtle Press, 2000; Book 2,
Chap 2 pg 141
9. ^ Comprehensive Illustrated Manual of Martial Arts; YI Duk-moo1 &
PARK Je-ga (1795); Trans: KIM Sang H; Turtle Press, 2000; Book 2,
Chap 1, pg 129
10. ^ Comprehensive Illustrated Manual of Martial Arts; YI Duk-moo1 &
PARK Je-ga (1795); Trans: KIM Sang H; Turtle Press, 2000; Book 3,
Chap 7, pg 283
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11. ^ Comprehensive Illustrated Manual of Martial Arts; YI Duk-moo1 &
PARK Je-ga (1795); Trans: KIM Sang H; Turtle Press, 2000; Book 3,
Chap 5, pg260
12. ^

Ancient Art of Korea. Swords in Chosun Kingdom
13. ^ JoongAng Daily. Keeping an ancient craft alive
External links [edit]
Swords of Korea
한국의 칼
Stone Swords (click on
유물보기 for pictures)
Bronze Swords (click on 유물보기 for pictures)
Swords with Ring Pommel (click on 유물보기 for pictures)
Joseon Period Swords (click on 유물보기 for pictures)
Ancient Swords of Korea
한국의 칼 특별전 (includes a video of Korean swords)
Categories: Blade weapons Weapons of Korea Korean art
Korean swords Traditional Korean weapons
Swords of Asia by country