Why Chinese swords (Jian) always have tassels

Many western people wonder why there always is a tassel on a Chinese sword. There are actually many reasons and not all tassels have the same function:

What is a tassel?

It is a flexible counterpart which can enhance or display your sword handling at the end of the sword hilt.

We divide tassels into two categories:

  1. Prestige tassel: Mostly made of silk with expensive Jade stones or figures out of prestige wood or marble. Some prestige tassels are still light and they can be used for slow Tai Chi practice. The heavier versions are recommend for decoration and show prestige while transporting the sword. For Wushu performances the prestige tassel is usually removed.
  2. Wushu tassel: Is often made from a material called “ice silk” which is in fact a shiny polyester fabric. Wushu tassels are usually lighter and should be more durable. Don’t buy it too cheap, the handmade versions are usually better than the industrial ones. Wushu tassels should not have a jade stone or any weights on them as they need to be as light as possible for faster movements.

Which tassel do i need?

Is depending on what you want to do with your sword:

4-handmade-sword-tasselTai Chi: Prestige tassel! Usually a sword has the balance point about ~2cm off them the guard. This will support you on slashing and explosive moments and will enhance the power of impact. However for Tai Chi you might consider to take a heavy tassel to put the balance point directly on your guard or even behind it. This will make it feel like the balance point sits directly in your hand and you can focus on very smooth and slow movements. The spinning will also go easier and feels like it will spin by itself. If you want to relax more and use less power for your Tai Chi sword practice a heavy prestige tassel is the right choice – give it a try!

9-chinese-taiji-sword-tasseKung Fu, Tai Yi (Liang Yi): Wushu tassel! For faster and explosive practice a light tassel without any heavy stone is required. Often we like to practice without tassel but on performance days it is nicer to put the tassel on. Wushu tassels can give you the required fanciness on a big performance day. Depending on the form a tassel can also show the transitions of each movement and its smoothness. While for fast spinning forms a tassel is not so recommend, it can greatly enhance your sword handling on explosive movements. You need to watch out to keep your sword spinning small and compact. If you have trouble handling your tassel you need to adjust the length by yourself.

Functions and effects of a tassel:

  • Adjusting weight
  • Can make handling easier
  • Show smoothness of a movement
  • Counterweight your balance

Handle your tassel carefully!

No matter how expensive a tassel was, it was not made to hit with great impact against the sword. Be careful how you control and when you put a tassel on. Sword is the weapon of a gentleman and takes a long time to learn. You can show your handling skill by putting a tassel on. Tassels are like the water part of your hard iron sword – Yin and Yang. While your sword is made to endure a lot the tassel isn’t. When a tassel is handled correctly it is like the water dragon dancing around the mountain (sword).

1 comment

  1. I’m an experienced martial artist from Greece and i practice the sword since the last 30 years. I’m happy to see practical evidence of the tassel which so many people get confused about. I can only agree and recommend this article to anyone. Who says sth else probably never studied Chinese sword seriously.


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